John Post on sat 22 jan 11
It seems like about once a week I get a new student. This week it was
Fahad. Many of the new students I get don't speak any English so I
pair them up with a kid who speaks their language. Unfortunately
there were no kids in Fahad's class who spoke his language. Fahad
probably came from someplace in the Middle East.
Fahad's second grade class comes to art at the end of the school day.
Once all the kids were in their seats, I assigned him a seat next to a
couple of nice kids. Then I demonstrated to the class how to make
clay portraits of kids dressed in winter clothing. We had just
finished paintings of kids dressed to go out in the snow the week
before and so our clay lesson for the day connected to that idea. I
showed the kids how to add texture to spheres for earmuffs and how to
roll cylinders if they were making a scarf.
Then I passed out the clay to the class and they started making
things. I had kind of forgotten about Fahad when 10 minutes later he
was up at my desk smiling holding his sculpture. It looked pretty
good and we still had plenty of class time left, so I gave him another
chunk of clay and let him go back to work. Another 10 minutes went by
and he finished a second sculpture. This time when he turned it in to
me, he put his arms into the air and jumped upward, kind of the way
you see someone celebrate after scoring a goal in soccer. Naturally I
gave him a third chunk of clay and off he went again to make more stuff.
One of my other students said, "Hey, why do you keep giving Fahad more
clay and letting him make all those things?" I told her "Imagine you
had to go sit in a school for 7 hours where no one speaks your
language and all day long nothing seems to make sense. Then you get
to a place where you can watch what someone is doing, try it yourself
and then have success at it. Wouldn't you want to have more success
that day if you could?" Whenever I looked over at Fahad, he would be
smiling from ear to ear and I'd give him a little wink like I
understood that he was having fun.
It's not just the kids who don't speak English who find success in
hands-on classes. It's the kids who like to do things.
My son made this little "cricket" in electronics class. It's a
circuit board that he soldered that has some resistors and capacitors
on it and when it senses a light source, it chirps. He told me that
it was the best thing he's done in school all year. He's proud of how
well he soldered all of the connections and then to top it off, he got
to teach a freshman kid how to solder his board together. The
freshman was a little afraid of the process and didn't want to screw
it up, but then after my son taught him the basics he was totally
absorbed by the soldering process too.
I have finally found a solution for my studio reclaim that I like. I
work with a few different color clay bodies during the summer. This
year at the end of summer I ran them all through my pugmill at the
same time creating a blend. I then bagged this clay up in 1-2 pound
chunks. I have been selling Ziploc bags of it to my elementary
students for a buck a piece.
The kids bring whatever they make back to school and I fire it for
them. What's fun about this project is that the kids make whatever
they want without adult direction. This week for example I got back a
cute puppy, a deer, a cupcake, an i-pod and two slump molded bowls.
The bowls were slumped into glossy wax covered paper bowls so only one
released. Kids have no trouble when things screw up so after I talked
with the girl who made the bowls about how to get them to come out
better the next time, she bought another lump of clay to take home and
try it again.
My principal likes the idea of kids paying a buck because then you
don't get the kids who want to take some clay just to toss it around
on the bus. I like it because it gives the kids a sense of ownership,
and I use the money to buy the few little odds and ends that we need
for the art room. This week it's some more low-fire glazes for
Sterling Heights, Michigan
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