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5 Great Clay Projects for Children & Junior High!

Today's another teaching day for us so I thought I'd share a little about what we teach.

My Teaching History:

For the past 6 years, I've had the incredible pleasure of teaching ceramics to kids from kindergarten through junior high in an after school program and in weeklong summer art camps. I actually began teaching only about a year after I began studying ceramics myself. Such a great learning experience for me as a teacher and as a student myself, while pursuing my college degree in ceramics.

There have been such delightful talents and personalities come through my classes through these few years. If I've learned anything, it's that kids are clever and capable. Some of the children are self- critical and when things go downhill with their projects, they roll them up (of their own will) and start over. I thought I'd share some photos of some of my projects that have been continuously most appropriate and successful for the wide age range.

1. Slab built Tumblers

Young kids were able to do slab built tumblers all the way down to kindergarten age.

+ We rolled out clay

+ They traced rectangular templates I made for them and circle templates for the bottom. and t

+ I gave them stamps to create decoration on the rectangle.

+ Then together, they followed along as I explained where to score and slip and formed the cylinder.

I had to reinforce attachements some to make sure there were no cracks. After bisque firing, I have them rub underglaze into the stamped areas and sponge the excess from the surface. They are allowed to paint the inside however they want.

2. Slab built Lidded Jars

For my junior high art camp one year, we made slab built tumblers for practice on the first day, then spent the other 4 days making these. They did great and got really into it.

+ They had to draw the type of jar they wanted to make and show me that they understood what shapes their pieces needed to be to achieve the design and create templates with paper.

+ Then they rolled out large slabs with rolling pins. We always sandwich clay between two pieces of cloth when rolling pins are used to avoid sticking to the tables and to the rolling pins.

+ Then they used their templates to trace and cut out their slabs. They were to leave their slabs to dry that day and I covered them with a light layer of plastic before leaving.

+ The next day when they came in, they could begin scoring and slipping if walls were sturdy enough and I, or a student next to them, would help them hold the slabs up to create their form.

+ They spend the next few days smoothing, shaping, and creating lids. In one case a student was very adament about making hers into a pitcher. So I reminded her how to roll coils, which she did for the neck and spout, foot, and then she pulled a handle. They painted slips and underglaze onto the greenware and I'm sure were delightfully surprised when their work was returned to them the next week.

3. Pinch Pot Dinnerware

This one is the simplest of all. I had k- 5 do this project. No tools required. And my students loved making woven placemats with paper to finish the look. My classes use a cone 05 clay from Amaco.

+ Students start with a ball that fits easily in his or her hand and create a pinch pot from it. Pinching walls to equal thickness.

+ Students are given a piece of clay about 1.5 times the size of the first for pressing out their plate. They should try to create a ridge, but I let them do what they want with this project to figure out how the clay feels and moves and can be manipulated.

+ Finally they roll a coil and create a slightly thicker end, then press their thumb or finger into that end as if to make a tiny pinch pot at the end of the coil.

+ I chose tertiary colors, orange, purple, and green and put them out on the tables. Students were directed to paint each piece of one set with a different color of the 3.

+ Then they made a second set and I let them use a combination of the 3 to add patterns or designs of their choise.

+ These were fired in the kiln with a coat of clear glaze after bisque firing the underglaze.

+Placemats were so simple. I cut strips of colored and patterned paper, then let them choose the base color and cut slits into it, to weave the precut strips through and tape to secure when finished.

4. Funky Face Jugs

This project is probably one of my all time favorites. I always love the creative results. I like using red clay for this. We use a self-hardening clay from Amaco

+ Students create 2 pinch pots of equal rim size and give them some time to stiffen up some.

+ I show them the steps to score and slip the rims of the two bowls.

+ They carefully line up the rims of the bowls facing one another and press them together. I usually go around to check and secure this connection and to make sure no rims are collapsing inward.

+ Then students smooth out the seam some and cut a hole from the top a little bigger than a quarter.

+ Students roll a coil and score and slip to attach it around the cut hole, creating a small neck to the vessel.

+ Then they roll another coil to attach for a handle.

+ When the basic shape of the jug is complete and smooth and they are satisfied, they are free to add coils for facial features.

+ We use acrylic paint to paint ONLY the facial features leaving the red of the clay on the rest of the jug.

5. Red Clay Houses

For a little more thinking from my Junior high students, I have done clay houses, requiring them to draw a house and create the templates and slabs in order to make a house in the shape they draw.

I give some examples of a few house shapes and draw the slab shapes I would need to make each. Then I give them rulers, paper, and pencils and they start designing.

+ When the house is drawn and I approved, the first thing they do is cut templates from paper in the shapes that will make up the walls and roof of the house.

+ Then they roll clay out into large slabs with rolling pins on canvas or cloth and let the slabs dry some to stiffen up.

+ I, or another student, usually has to help hold pieces up while each student connects the walls of his or her house.

+ Then they attach the roof and draw or carve out windows and doors.

Here are some of the results, unpainted.

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