Get creative: explore concentric circles and circle properties while creating a fun and low-prep concentric circle math art project using onions!
I often feel like math gets a bad rap, and people feel like there’s no room there for creativity. Like you are either a “math minded” person, or a creative person. Not both. But to tell someone (especially kids!) that you can only be one or the other seems stifling and unfair, and certainly not the way to develop a growth mindset. To that end, why not combine math and art to use BOTH sides of the brain. Apply and explore mathematical ideas while creatively designing a unique piece of art.
This onion print project provides opportunity to explore concentric circles and circle properties. But it is simple enough that young kids can enjoy it and learn basic facts about circles, but older kids can dive more deeply into the math behind this shape.
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This project was originally included in my Math in Nature Enrichment Curriculum. But whether or not you have that resource, you can still easily do this project and look for other examples of concentric circles together with your kids.
Materials Needed for the Onion Art Project:
- Red onions (other onions will work, but in my experience, red onions will give more pronounced rings in the final print)
- Paper for painting on (we used construction paper)
- Paper plates
- Paint brushes (optional)
How to Create Your Concentric Circle Onion Art Print:
As I mentioned, this project is super easy. To begin, squirt different colors of paint on paper plates (one color per plate).
Cut several onions in half, so the layers are visible. Give each student a piece of paper and paint brush and they are ready to begin!
Note: We used a wide paint brush from IKEA to paint a thin layer onto the onion. If you don’t have brushes, you could have kids simply dip their onion into the paint on the plate.
Once all the materials are ready, kids add a layer of paint to each onion and “stamp” it onto their paper to create designs.
I suggest using a different onion for each color. Then kids can add different colors onto their piece of art if they like. This will also give them different onions with slightly different prints to include in their artwork.
Depending on the paint and paper you use, you will need to let the pages sit for awhile to dry before making observations or exploring math with them. I suggest waiting overnight.
Exploring Circles with Onion Prints:
Here are some things your students can do after their art work is dry.
- Label the parts of a circle on onion prints to work on vocabulary
- Count and label the number of circles in each onion print. How many layers are in each onion?
- Measure the diameter of the outer most circle and inner most circle and find the difference. Do the same with circumference.
- Find the area of one of the circle prints. How might this compare to the volume of the actual onion?
- Calculate an approximation of pi using several of the circle prints (pi = circumference/diameter)
- Find and measure more concentric circles in real life!
If your kids are young, and all these circle measurements are too advanced, look for other shapes they can add on top of the circles. Once the circles are dry, maybe they find squares to dip in the paint and add a layer of squares. What about some triangles?
Let your kids get creative and discover shapes in the world around them to add to their shape art print!
Looking for more simple, yet engaging math art projects? Try one of these below:
- Explore circles with bubble prints
- Creating symme-trees at Christmas time
- Explore symmetry with crayon melts
- Pi Day Art with sidewalk chalk
And if you’re looking for the ultimate collection of math art project ideas (including edible math art!) be sure to check out my friend Karyn’s new book: Math Art & Drawing Games for Kids
Have fun combining math and art!
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