Lesson Plan: Film Canister Kaleidoscope

Film Canister Kaleidoscope

Submitted by: Sandy Bacon (lesson from Jan Federenko)
Unit: Reflection/Balance/Symmetry -Math Integration - Science Integration
Lesson: Making a Simple Film Canister Kaleidoscope



This is a lesson plan that Sandy got when she attended a workshop at The Columbus Museum of Art organized by Jan Federenko. Her resource was Family Crafts.

Alternate Kaleidoscope Lesson Ideas - Try this online Kaleidoscope Painter - Lots of fun!



  • Clear 35mm film. container with lid. (An empty pill bottle might be a good substitute)

  • Mirrored paper board. (sheet Mylar can be purchased and bent as well)

  • Stiff clear plastic disk or plastic wrap

  • Flower shaped cake sprinkles or anything that would make an interesting (assortment of sequins might be nice)

  • Design for the kaleidoscopekaleidoscope

  • Tape

  • Art materials to decorate the outside of the container.


See alternate lessons - tie in with math and science


  1. Using a clear film container, drill a hole about a ΒΌ" (6.4 mm) in diameter in the bottom. This is the eye hole. (do this ahead of time)

  2. Cut a piece of mirror board 1 3/4" by 3" (19 x 76 mm) and fold it to make a triangle with the mirror side to the inside. (Silver Mylar works too)

  3. Tape it to hold the triangle shape.

  4. Insert triangle inside the film container.

  5. Next, put about 6 -7 sprinkles in the indention of the inside of the lid and cover it with a piece of stiff plastic the size of a quarter or plastic wrap will also work.

  6. Place on the lid of the container.

  7. Point it up into the light and turn. You may need to adjust the amount of sprinkles if they do not move or if there is not enough to make a good design inside the kaleidoscope like confetti, small beads and colorful pieces of paper or crayon shavings.

  8. Have students decorate the outside of their mini-kaleidoscopes.

  9. The possibilities are endless. Maybe have student draw the designs they see.

Incredible Art Department is interested in seeing a decorated student kaleidoscope and a project that you do using the Kaleidoscope. Submit it using the "Submit a lesson" link above left.



You can pass a real Kaleidoscope. around for students to check out prior to the lesson.



The Kaleidoscope Book: A Spectrum of Spectacular Scopes to Make. - Create a fascinating kaleidoscope with one of these fine projects, or gain an insight into how kaleidoscopes work. There are 10 projects to choose from, plus a thorough discussion of how the different image results are made.

Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscope Quilts: An Artist's Journey Continues. - Career retrospective of Paula Nadelstern's amazing work is packed with photos, design insights, and gallery of 19 quilts.

Alternate Kaleidoscope Lesson Ideas

From Susan Holland:

I went to a workshop once on how to make kaleidoscopes with black film canisters (2) and microscope slides (3). Three slides arranged in a triangle will fit long ways inside the two canisters- this forms the reflective surface inside. The slides can just be wedged in there and the two canisters can be taped together with black electrical tape. That much of the idea worked really well. The really tricky part was getting the eye hole in the bottom of one film canister and the large hole in the bottom of the other. Then they used a clear plastic yogurt lid and glued on small tissue paper shapes. This was to make a wheel to turn- as I recall, a straight pin was pushed through the center of the lid and then the pin was taped to the side if the canister with more black tape. This part of the mechanism was less than satisfactory.


Does anyone have any ideas on how to make cutting film canisters easier and on how to better resolve the "turning colored shapes" part?


Sue found a better version of this on-line at Kids Domain Crafts. This version uses one black and one clear canister, and although the construction works better, they missed the tip about using microscope slides, which are the perfect size for the reflectors. And no discussion of kaleidoscopes is complete without a link to http://www.permadi.com/java/spaint/spaint.html the on-line kaleidoscope painter.


Advice from Judy: Pre-drill all of the holes. Drill bits are available in all sorts of sizes. The things that are hard for you will be even harder for the kids. Again... drill a small hole ahead of time through the Yogurt lid to ease turning. Use one of the pins with a round head so it won't pull through the hole. (One of these links is for the Kaleidoscope She described).



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