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ideas for middle school

updated thu 17 jan 02


Carol Baker on tue 15 jan 02

Hi Craig-

I'll rattle off a few suggestions, and if anything looks interesting get back
to me. I spent most of my teaching career with 7,8,and 9th graders, but I
have taught all grades and ages.

I'm going to assume you have little or no experience in teaching middle
school. If I'm wrong, then ignore the following. I loved them, but they are
a challenge!

If you have 6th and 7th grades, remember that they still like to take things
home to their mommies. They still are children. They also like something
"cool" to show their friends. They can do pinch and coil building with clear
and patient directions. Can also do it in or over margarine tubs. For slabs
you can use PVC pipe, newspaper, and slats. Remember that some will still
not have the motor skills needed and may be frustrated to the point of tears.
They love to help each other so that can save you. Eighth graders are
sometimes bored with everything. Don't take it personally. By the 9th grade
they become wonderful ladies and gentlemen.

Check out your classroom teacher's experience with clay. Some teachers hate
clay and the mess. That may be why he/she is asking you to do it. Be sure
your handling and cleanup directions are simple but firm. They may try to
throw clay on the ceiling and at each other, and try to steal it and then
throw it in math class. Algebra teachers do not love clay. My rule: You
throw clay you sit out and learn about clay by writing about it. Stick to
it. I had hundreds of jr. high kids through the clay room for months at a
time. Works. I rarely had clay anywhere but on the art work. Nobody ever
wrote about clay for more than 1 or 2 days. They love it too much. Make
sure all the kids have a job for cleanup no matter how small. No one leaves
class until all jobs are done. Make a chart.

They love sculpture. With the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring movies
running now you could get some terrific creatures. Should be great with the
raku and primitive fire. Check to see how conservative your school district
is. Some don't like creatures. Also check the fire department and the city.

We also did masks, Pop art sculpture and food (a winner), create your own
sandwich, wind chimes and bird houses for the younger ones, gargoyles (a
winner), theme boxes 8/9, bowls with woven coil patterns, slab fish, scarabs,
facial sculptures of their favorite teacher (get permission first from the
teacher), graffiti bowls (carve names, pictures, song titles), sculptures of
cartoon characters or animals, story tellers, fantasy shoes, a relief plaque,
texture tile, clay rattles, dragons...that's all my memory can do tonight.

You may want to tie the project in with a unit that the teacher has done
with them and then connect that with design elements. This will give the
kids a motivation. Give them a problem to solve: a 4''coil pot with texture
and repeat patterns.
Then give them a theme and as much creative freedom as you can within those
parameters. You will get more creative work. Forces them to think and you
don't get ashtrays. In the long run it is easier on them even if they whine.
Some parents don't teach thinking.

I've probably used up my Clayart quota of lines, but it was good to be able
to contribute. I've asked all of you for so much help in the past. Hope this
is helpful.

Good luck,
Carol Baker, Scottsdale, AZ