Stephani Stephenson on tue 14 oct 03
Thanks to all who sent me suggestions
today was the final day of after school clay class
this time I had a rambunctious group of mostly kindergarten
and first graders
the last day is tough because, anything we make won't get
often I have them paint a pieces made in prior weeks with
paints but this time I decided to have
Event 1: 4 teams (3- 4 kids on each team.)
gave each team 2 pounds of moist clay
Goal: make a single coil stretching from one end of the
table to the other end, (about 10 feet). OK to make small
coils and combine them end to end, etc.
Team one: One person hogged the clay and only gave the
others one little bit at a time, so they had trouble getting
started Team two: team two seemed to prefer smashing the
clay and tearing it to bits , then wrestling, so they also
had trouble getting started. Team three: divided up clay
quickly and started rolling individual coils.
Team four divided clay and started rolling coils quite
vigorously and outpaced everyone
a very interesting situation developed on team 2, which
consisted of 2 boys and one girl.
The boys kept 95% of the clay. The little girl , with just a
small amount of clay started rolling out tiny 1/8"-1/4"
thin coils and putting them end to end. Meanwhile the two
boys split the lion's share of the clay and kept trying to
roll out a single coil with their big gobs of clay. The
boys weren't doing too well. and each had a 'coil'
approximately 3 1/2 inches thick and 4 inches long! The
little girl, meanwhile , had managed to line up her teeny
coils to cover about two feet in length. So what happened
The two boys got frustrated with their short but fat coils
and tried to pressure the little girl into giving them her
coils so they could smash them up and add them to their own
They said they ran out of clay and needed more and, yes,
their need for " more clay" completely prevented them from
seeing that the little girl was making far better
progress for their team! The girl was standing her ground,
but , OK , OK I had to intervene ... what do you see here,
boys...... and here????
Meanwhile team four reached the end of table and erupted
into shouts of glee....
But all the teams seemed to enjoy this activity ....
Next the kids made clay hoops or rings and we tried to do a
ring toss and loop the rings over an inverted transmission
fluid funnel taped to the end of a low wall....... Nobody
actually was able to do it, but a couple of kids did HIT the
target... and some of them did put some thought into
designing a 'better' ring. each child made three
rings....one boy tried making rings with pinched out 'wings'
or 'rudders' or something.... like dimples in a golf ball or
something... make it fly 'truer', and all experimented with
different tosses..... This event was OK but not great.
Then we got into 4 teams again and each team got 5 pounds of
clay and the goal was to build the tallest clay 'thing'. The
kids really got involved with this one. Some teams
innovated, other teams 'emulated'...... some teams divided
up the clay and individuals built structures separately ,
then added them together toward the end of the time
period...., other teams just piled in and started doing a
many hands 'squeeze the clay' upward into a tower shape.
10 minutes for this event, which gave them time to think
and adapt. O yes , discover that duality of stretching tall
and stability.....Of course the 'thing' had to stand on it's
own...all but one toppled at some time during the process,
one came crashing down at the end, but the other three
stood, so that was fun.
And of course the interesting thing was how they decided to
approach the problem....One team sort of broke into
'holders' and 'rollers, so I noticed a division of labor
the team which worked as 'individuals' actually did pretty
good, One boy seemed to be the 'guardian of the tower' while
the others made quite interesting appendages for it.
The winning team, as with the first event, seemed to be the
team which had a very fluid process, whereby ideas were
exchanged freely, verbally, and the input seemed to work
toward the good. Also this team was the only one which
figured out that the base needs to be a bit wider and form
tapered up....they seemed to have the clearest sense of
design and purpose from the beginning.....it looked like a
big tall termite hill.
Next event : rolled clay balls and we went 'bowling'...
actually seeing which ball could roll the farthest down the
sidewalk... tried little ones, big ones.....This was
finally we played another game more like 'marbles' where
the goal was to roll a clay ball and have it come to rest
closest to a target, so this involved a bit of finesse.
inevitably we had a breakout spontaneous event where
someone discovered that if you throw a clay ball at a brick
wall the clay will stick.....(.forgive me Sister George
Michael of Saint Pius elementary school.... , you would have
rapped knuckles for this one). So four or five of em
planted a good solid wad up against the brick . The clay
stuck and hung there, impressing everyone . then I reined
everyone in before it became total chaos and passed out
the prizes.... and ... everyone got a prize....
and all this in only one hour
then moms , dads, grandparents and baby-sitters started
showing up and we wrapped up all the stuff to take home
(all the projects from prior weeks)
One little girl was weeping because she was sure another
girl had taken her ceramic turtle, even after I showed it
to her and it wasn't a turtle but a stegosaurus, and also
with the other girl's initials on it.....
I looked over and another little boy, who had really become
very interested in making all kinds of things in clay
was also crying. At the beginning of class he came up to me
very seriously and asked if I could show him how to make an
airplane....So so I sat down and made a quick one with him
and showed him the basic shapes and a way to do it, but time
was short today.
So here at the end of class he was just beside himself,
crying streams of tears, he had wanted to make that
airplane sooooooo baaaaaad...and I think the stress of
trying to remember it all by himself and class ending and
and and ....oh it was just tooooo much! ..then mom showed up
and consoled him, ... and I sent him home with a little bag
of clay and words of encouragement. I just know you can do
this seemed kind of fun...and let the kids interact in
different ways. It also allowed me to see different aspects
of each child's personality. Some who I thought might be shy
in group or competitive situations, actually came to life
and participated with zest. and another who was quite adept
at handling clay when making thinks, fell apart at the idea
of making a solid ball, because he couldn't make it
perfectly round enough. but it was OK, he lived through it
and his little clay ball rolled as well as any. O goodness .
Clayarters, for good ideas for activities also for next
time, also some ideas for older kids....