Here are some ideas for clay projects/management.
This is what I do with the middle school
level/elementary level, but I bet it would help with
the high school level too.
A great book with lots of beautiful clay examples is:
"Handbuilt Ceramics" by Kathy Triplett. Looking
through this book gives me and my students ideas for
projects. If I was teaching a clay class, I would also
subscribe to Ceramics monthly (I think that's the
name) magazine for student reference. I'm a collector
and like to have as many images and books available
for kids to look at so they always have inspiration.
Also, I would purchase some ceramics videos to show
the kids on substitute teacher days.
Protecting the tables: I use either canvas sheets or
newspapers. Sometimes the clay sticks to the
newspapers, so be sure to use a small stack (not
unfolded).. this will lessen the sticking.
Tools: with my kids, they were always breaking, losing
or accidently throwing away the plastic clay tools.
For handbuilding, all I think the kids need are the
plastic picnic silverware: spoon (for smoothing),
knife (for cutting) and fork (for scoring). That's
all I let the kids use. I have a fettling knife or
two around that I will let the kids use for really
intricate cutting. This has worked perfect for me.
We wash them every so often and throw them away if
they break or get really gunky.
Slip: I don't know if everyone uses slip or not, but
I stopped using it after it got really messy. It
caused more problems than it's worth. I was skeptical
about not using slip, until the teacher before me told
me what she did. I just plastic butter containers with
water. The kids use the water as slip. Slip is just
clay and water mixed together. When you put the water
on the clay project, it makes it's own slip. I
generally do not have problems with pieces falling
Storage: plastic grocery bags tied up tight. Masking
tape labels for names. I have wooden boards where I
just put all the projects for each one class. Then, I
bring the entire board to the storage closet/shelf.
Clean up: I assign jobs.. like tool collector,
newspaper tosser, water cup collector, etc. People
who don't have a job wipe the tables.
Fixing bone dry projects: Let's say that a piece
breaks off and the project has already dried (but not
been fired). Use a mixture of vinegar and slip to
attach the piece. Be sure to score really well and
use a lot of the mixture. For some reason, the
vinegar is like magic and it will generally stick back
One project I did in college that I really liked was
to research a culture (throughout history) and write a
short description of characteristics of the ceramics
in their culture during that time period. What are
some recurring themes, design elements? Attach
pictures to the statement. Then, we created our own
clay project incorporating elements of our chosen
Hope some of these ideas helped. There is so much you
could do with clay. I would love to teach a clay
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