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Decorate Plastic Cup Flowers with Different Materials, Then Test for Opacity, Aesthetic Value and Durability


Art, Science  


5, 6, 7, 8  

By – Roger Whiting
Primary Subject – Art
Secondary Subjects – Science
Grade Level – 5-8

Essential Question:

How does an artist decide which art material to use for his/her project?


  • Collect and analyze data
  • Use a variety of different art materials and compare their visual and physical properties
  • Understand opacity in terms of opaque, translucent, and clear (transparent)
  • View examples of how light is used as a contributing element to works of art
  • Create a hypothesis and compare results to the hypothesis (optional – see below)
  • Evaluate data and make conclusions based on data (optional – see below)

Materials Needed:

(Plus at least 4 of the following):

  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Fingerpaints
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Tempera paint
  • Watercolor paint
  • Acrylic paint


  • Show the Incredible Art Factory Episode 2: Light video found on YouTube or on the Incredible Art Factory site (June 20, 2011) (or another video or slide show about opacity if these become unavailable).
    • After the clip explaining the difference between opaque, translucent, and transparent opacities , pause the video and ask the students to name different objects or materials that fit each of those categories (i.e. steel is opaque, tree sap is translucent, glass is clear [but sometimes translucent or opaque]).
    • Resume the video and pause during the interview with Amber DeBirk to identify to which category/categories of opacity each of her works of art can be classified. If the video is unavailable, maybe you could invite a local glass artist or someone from a stained glass studio to share their creations in these categories with the class.
  • Demonstrate to the students how to create a plastic flower .
    • Glue or tape craft sticks together for the stem. Let glue dry.
    • Cut curves, triangles, or other shapes from the cup to make the petals of the flower.
    • Glue or tape the craft sticks to the bottom of the cup.
    • Then create a second plastic flower and let the students create theirs at the same time.
  • Explain that different art materials have different physical and visual properties that make them unique from each other.
    • Explain that artists choose their art materials based on where and when their art will be displayed.
    • At times if they are not sure what will work best, they experiment with different art materials, much like scientists, in order to determine what will work best for a given situation.
  • Explain to the students that they will be decorating their cups with different art materials, and then performing tests to find out the opacity, the aesthetic value (or beauty), and the durability of different materials.
    • Model this process by using a quick-drying art material (i.e. markers).
    • Decorate the cup with the art material and then use the experiment worksheet to rate the art material based on opacity and aesthetic beauty.
    • When rating opacity, hold the cup up to the light to get the maximum light effect.
    • Have the students rate the art material on their worksheets as well.
Experiment   Art Material 

[no light];

Aesthetic Beauty  
(1=Looks Horrible;
10=Looks Amazing)
Durability Test 1  
(1=Paint Disappears;
10=Paint Not Effected)
Durability Test 2  
(1=Paint Disappears;
10=Paint Not Effected)
Durability Test 3  
(1=Paint Disappears;
10=Paint Not Effected)
  • Explain how art, especially outdoor art, is sometimes subjected to different elements or situations that may damage the art.
    • Have the students brainstorm what some of these elements or situations are, and what effects those elements can have on the art (i.e. sun=fading and melting, rain=bleeding, wind=knocking down art, people brushing against art=art scuffed, worn, etc).
    • Next, brainstorm how those situations and/or elements can be simulated in the classroom.
    • Explain that the experiment is limited to the effects that the elements have on the art materials, and not on the artwork as a whole. Therefore, the experiments should not damage the cups or the sticks, only the materials on the surface.
    • Explain that before performing any tests they should wait for the art materials to dry (this may work best as a 2-day project).
  • Demonstrate the durability tests , and have the students fill out the results on their worksheets.
    • Drip water onto the cup.
    • Use a dry paintbrush and lightly brush at the surface
    • Roll cup on sand and/or gravel
    • Etc.

Individual / Group Practice:

  • Students can work as individuals or groups (at teacher’s preference) to complete the rest of the experiment worksheet and then complete the evaluation worksheet (optional for grades K-3).


Post Experiment Evaluation Questions

Experiment 1: Art Material Used : ___________________________

In what type of environment would flowers made with this type of material work best?


Experiment 2: Art Material Used: ___________________________

In what type of environment would flowers made with this type of material work best?


Experiment 3: Art Material Used: ___________________________

In what type of environment would flowers made with this type of material work best?


Experiment 4: Art Material Used: ___________________________

In what type of environment would flowers made with this type of material work best?


Conclusion Questions:

Which of the art materials did you think was most beautiful?


In your opinion, which is more beautiful, opaque objects, translucent objects, or clear objects?

Why do you think so?


Hypothesis (optional):

  • If wishing to teach about how to make a hypothesis, give the students a second worksheet labeled “Hypotheses” at the top and have them make guesses as to the results of their experiments before performing each experiment.
  • Model this process with the first art material during the modeling stage of instruction.


  • Students will turn in both the plastic flowers and the worksheets.
  • Grade students according to the following rubric.
  4 3 2 1
Artistic Quality of Plastic Flowers Flowers are well built and are decorated with a high level of creative detail Flowers are built well and have some creative detail Flowers not quite built well and/or show minimal effort Flowers are sloppy and/or falling apart
Experiment Worksheet Experiment Worksheet is complete with logical answers Worksheet is complete, but answers do not make sense based on materials used Experiment worksheet is incomplete (at least 3 experiments shown)  
Evaluation Worksheet (Optional) Worksheet is complete with an idea of appropriate environment for art materials and logical explanations of why materials are appropriate Worksheet is complete, but answers do not make sense based on materials used Worksheet is incomplete (conclusions from at least 3 experiments detailed) Worksheet is very incomplete (conclusions from less than 3 experiments detailed)
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