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Activity: Create a Colorful Kaleidoscope

This activity is inspired by Jen Stark’s Kaleidoscopic (2011). Learn more about this artwork and make your own colorful kaleidoscope!


Look Closer:

Jen Stark, Kaleidoscopic, 2011, wood, acrylic paint, archival paper, mirrors, motor, and light, 12 x 24 x 24 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2011.57.
  • Take a look at this work Kaleidoscopic by Jen Stark. What do you first notice?
  • Look at the side view of the sculpture and imagine the experience of walking around it. You will see the layers of colorfully painted wood projecting from the wall. In the middle of the work is a small opening. You can peer inside to see a dazzling kaleidoscope!
  • A kaleidoscope is a toy that produces different colored patterns when you look through it. Kaleidoscopes are usually made out of a tube, with the inside covered in mirrors that reflect a changing pattern.
  • This pattern is always symmetrical, meaning if you were to draw a line through the middle of the image, the pattern would be the same on both sides! This is because the image has been reflected through the mirrors.
  • What colors would you like to use to create a kaleidoscope? Are there colors you think go together best?
  • Think about what patterns and shapes you want to be reflected? Can you get inspired by any patterns or shapes in nature?


Activity: Create a colorful kaleidoscope!


Materials Needed:


  • Mailing tube
  • Scissors
  • Mirror board
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Plastic straw
  • Sharpies
  • Tape


Step 1: On the outside edge of the tube, measure, and mark three dots of equal distance around the circle. After, measure with your ruler to find the length of each section.

Step 2: Use the measurement from one length of your three sections. Make three strips of mirror board using the measurement as the width.

Step 3: After cutting the mirror board, tape the three pieces together facing up. Begin to fold the three pieces into a triangle shape, then tape to hold shut.

Step 4: Push the triangle mirror board piece into the mailing tube.

Step 5: Draw a circle slightly larger than the opening of the mailing tube and divide it into sections. Use the sharpies to add bright colors and patterns to each section. This will make your kaleidoscope have different reflections.

Step 6: Cut the straw to a smaller size. Then you will use the straw to punch a hole in the center of the circle drawing.

Step 7: Tape the straw to the side of your mailing tube, leaving room for the paper to be able to spin. Use the sharpies to add more decoration on the outside of the tube.

Have fun creating!


Written by Marlie Allgood, studio educator, Crystal Bridges.