Make a Pinwheel Galaxy pinwheel

an animated gif of a pinwheel galaxy pinwheel spinning

The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral-shaped galaxy about 21 million light years away from Earth. Scientists call this swirling galaxy M101.


You can find it in the constellation Ursa Major, or the "Big Dipper," in the Northern Hemisphere. With a nice, dark sky, you can see it with binoculars or a small telescope.


For those of us who can't see it in the night sky, we can have the next best thing: a Pinwheel Galaxy pinwheel!


What you need:

a photo of the supplies needed for this activity: the pinwheel galaxy printout, scissors, single hole puncher, a pipecleaner, and chopsticks.



What to do:

  1. Cut out the hexagonal shape for your galaxy pinwheel.

  2. The cut out hexagonal shape of the pinwheel galaxy printout

  3. Cut along the white lines.

  4. The cut out hexagonal shape of the pinwheel galaxy printout with one cut down the side along the line.

  5. Punch holes in the white dots: six around the edges and one in the center. You may have to fold the hexagon over to reach the center.

  6. The hexagonal shape of the pinwheel galaxy printout folded in half with the hole puncher centered on it about to punch a hole.

  7. Turn the paper so it’s face-down and thread the pipe cleaner through the center hole.

  8. The hexagonal shape of the pinwheel galaxy printout turned on the opposite side so the white face is up, and the pipecleaner is threaded through the hole in the middle.

  9. Going around the circle, fold each flap so the pipe cleaner goes through the hole.

  10. One flap is folded so the hole goes over the pipecleaner. All the flaps are folded so the holes go over the pipecleaner.

  11. Tie a knot in the pipe cleaner to secure the front of the pinwheel.

  12. The front of the pinwheel with a bend in the pipecleaner.

  13. Wrap the other side of the pipe cleaner around a popsicle stick. Don't make it too tight, or it won't be able to move.

  14. The pipcleaner is being wound around the chopsticks. The pipecleaner has been wrapped around the chopsticks 3 times. The pipecleaner has been wound around and secured so there is no excess hanging off.

  15. Blow on it and watch the galaxy spin!

an animated gif of a pinwheel galaxy pinwheel spinning

Download a PDF of this activity.

Pinwheel not spinning?

Make sure the pipe cleaner isn't secured so tightly that it doesn't let the paper move. If the paper flaps are hitting the stick, flatten out the pinwheel on a table. Then carefully open each point from the front. This will let air in to move the pinwheel.

page published on August 24, 2015
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