Sunday, July 24, 2016

How We Use Clay

When we approach a new art medium the very best way to get to know it is to feel it.  By putting our hands, and sometimes elbows and feet, on the material, we learn about it's qualities, which later we will refine through new technique, tools and practice.  This week we had a brand new, 25 pound block of clay!  It is real clay like an artist might use.  This is an important fact that we talk about as I introduce this new art medium.  Most preschoolers view themselves as real artists, and we talk about how artists take great care in every step of their creative process.  They prepare their space, work with their materials, take care of their tools and clean up when they are finished.  This is the thread we will be following as we get to know the qualities of clay.
We began with large sheets on the floor and the block of clay set up in the middle, wrapped in plastic.  Near by I arranged a clean-up station of a shallow tub of water and towels for clean up after.  Finally a spray bottle of water was near by for me to use to dampen the clay as we worked.  Everyone who was interested came and gathered around and talked about what they thought.  We felt the block through the plastic, then worked as a team to pull off the plastic.

"Why is there plastic?"
"Oh!  It's so cold!"
"It's so slimy!"
"What can we do?"
"Where are the tools?"
I then explained that today we were going to get to know the clay: feel it with our bodies, see what happens, explore and learn from the clay.  This idea seemed to feel very exciting to everyone as they worked very closely together with the clay.
The children worked for a long time with the clay, some staying for just a short time, others using the entire 45 minutes to get to know the clay.  We talked about how it was similar to playdough, but different, more difficult to manipulate and squeeze.

"I'm making a road!  A long long road.  It's really hard work!"
"We can poke it too!
"I'm breaking off a huge piece.  Look how much I've collected!"
"We need to lift it up.  C'mon and help me!"
"Yeah!  It needs to be taller then we can push on it."
"I'm stompin' it!  Can you see me!"
"I might even try my elbow.  Whoa.  It works!"

As children worked I offered water with the spray bottle.  This changed the consistency from stretchy and sticky, to cool and slimy.  Some children wanted just to be sprayed with the water, while others wanted no spray at all.  We talked about how close we were all working together, yet still watching out for the comfort for our friends. 

Soon it was time to clean up.   We rinsed hands and feet with the spray bottle and the tub, then worked as a team to clean up.  Everyone agreed, "We can't wait to squish the clay again!"

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