Friday, March 19, 2010

Working With Natural Clay in Early Childhood Education

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" 
~Howard Ikemoto

One of my favorite things to do with preschoolers in the classroom is clay. I know, I always say everything is “one of my favorite things”…but it is. Next to art, and everything else…that is. I mean the fresh stuff too, people. Not a bunch of hard crumbly dried up rocks because someone forgot to store it properly, lol.
Proper storage for clay is;
*Air tight container
*Plastic bag covering the clay
*Damp cloth over the top of the clay

I use interlocked pipe cleaners I have twisted together to “cut” it if it is purchased in bulk. I put the wire around the trunk of it as if I was going to tie a bow around it- but instead I simply keep pulling the pipe cleaner toward me and it makes a clean cut through the clay.

Clay, trays, small cups of water for each child, covered tables with news print,small bin of water, towels, and smocks (optional)

The Process:
I give the little ones a tray, a damp sponge, a hunk of clay, damp sponges, small cups of water, and put bins of water under the table with towels to dry off (This way they are not dripping back and forth to the sink)
The first few experiences the clay I don’t give them any tools to work with, just their hands. Sometimes they make a product but that is not the main focus, it is mainly sensorial now, later on I add extensions as they become interested in making something.

Extension ideas:
*Pressing dinosaur feet or skeletons in the clay to make fossil impressions
*Pressing insects in the clay and painting them of fossil impressions
*Hand and footprint impressions
*Pressing sea glass and small beads for art projects

What do you enjoy doing with clay?

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