I have been teaching art for 3 years and I do think clay is important.
Some children express themselves better in a 3D form; for those who don't
they need to have the experience. It works and uses different muscles. In my
experience, working with clay also seems to calm angry/stressed and ADHD
Last year I did Mexican clay suns out of terracotta with first grade.
This year first graders did beautiful clay leaves. I try to hit third and
fifth every year as well. Last year third made white clay pinch pots with
black Freemont designs. Fifth made Japanese tea bowls and had a tea ceremony.
This year fourth will make red clay cave paintings on a slab. Fifth will
make handbuilt autobiographical boxes. I haven't figured third out for this
year yet. Before Christmas, I let kindergartners press their hands into a slab
and cut it in a circle. We paint and glaze and date them. Oh, we also make
funny little faces for third and fifth before the State Exams - CSAP. We
call them CSAP buddies. The teachers let them sit on their desks during the
Umm, so lets see... clay management. For kindies, I work with them
three or four at a time while the rest of the class works on an independent
lesson. For First grade, I ask for three or four parent volunteers per class.
It helps the kiddos who need someone on one attention and to get names on
pieces. After that, it's just me and them. They do really well. I use a power
point demo too.
Hope this helps,
Jill in Colorado