Tuesday, September 4, 2012

4th Grade Insect Key Chains

My 4th graders recently got to use shrink film, the kind of plastic that Shrinky Dinks are made out of. Of course coloring the pre-cut designs of Shrinky Dinks is more of a craft than an art, so my students drew their own designs :).

I began by telling the students that for the next art project, we would be drawing something that many of them might think is a little gross, slimy, creepy, and crawly. Naturally the boys erupted with excitement, and the girls complained briefly, until I mentioned that some insects are actually quite beautiful, and that when we see a butterfly or dragonfly, most people say, "oh, how pretty!", not, "ew, an insect!" 

After discussing the variety of pretty and scary insects, all of the students seemed content.

Next, we discussed ways to draw insects realistically. While many students were in favor of me bringing in live insects for them to observe, we settled on drawing from photographs.

Lastly, we discussed difficulties with drawing insects. One main difficulty would be the size; how can you draw something so small? That's when I introduced the shrink film to them, and told them we'd be drawing larger-than-life, and then shrinking it down to size.

After I had explained the project, the students began working. They each got to select one photograph of an insect (I was sure to have a variety of pretty and creepy ones available!), and they drew it on plain white paper in a box. I had them trace little cardboard squares I'd cut to draw their insect in,  because I had cut the shrink film to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2", and their insect needed to fit on that size.

Once the students had a good insect drawing (many students drew multiple insects until they got one they really liked), they put a piece of shrink film over their drawing, and traced the whole design very carefully with Sharpie (I have sets with 32 different colors). If they had accidentally not centered their insect in the 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" box they drew on their paper, they could move the shrink film over so the insect was in the middle of that.

Once the students were done tracing their designs with Sharpie, I punched a hole in the shrink film, and the students would take turns getting to watch them shrink in my toaster oven. The kids love watching because they bubble up, and then they start to shrink and flatten out. The finished pieces were about 1" x 1", and much thicker.

After they were all shrunk, We added key chains to make them functional pieces of art. Below are pictures of the whole process, with the finished key chains at the end:


  1. What a great activity - appeals to both boys and girls (always a bit of a challenge)..

  2. I love Shrinky Dinks! The kids think they are magical. I think they are really underused in the art room. Your insect art is beautiful and functional. Thanks for posting.