Mentor Artist Angela Baker facilitated a clay residency with 1st graders at San Ramon Elementary in Novato. The teachers suggested a theme of animals and habitats to connect with grade level curriculum and link to a field trip to the California Academy of Sciences.
Students first explored various clay techniques such as squeezing, rolling, pinching, and smoothing with an air dry clay. Students could create anything they wanted but were encourage to pay close attention to how to make their piece strong. What happens if pieces are too thin? Some solutions for strengthening pieces were demonstrated.
After practicing with the air dry clay, students created animals in a beautiful terra cotta kiln fire clay. For these pieces students also learned how to use clay tools such as a wooden pencil and a metal scratching tool. They practiced the “scratch and attach” technique; a method for attaching two pieces of clay together.
While the clay was in the kiln for the glaze fire students were shown some paper folding techniques and made mini collages. These were great practice for creating a 3-dimensional structure and helped with the construction of the final dioramas of animal habitats.
At the end of the last class together, the animals were placed in their dioramas and the class did a gallery walk. Many students had created habitats so rich in color and detail that the animals were camouflaged.
Angela asked “What do you see?” One girl answered, “Details.” She then asked if they thought details were important in art and if so, why. Here are some answers: “Details make it look more like the real world.” “Details make it beautiful.” “Details give you more information.”