search  current discussion  categories  teaching 

children, coping with change and clay

updated sun 20 oct 02


Gretchen Zinkan on sat 19 oct 02

Children, Coping with Change and Clay

Our school district has declining enrolment and as a result, closed 3
elementary schools last year. Two of these schools were in other small
communities, and as a result one of the schools in town received these most
of these children. In addition, our major employer, a mine shut down, and
our hospital closed last spring. In September it was evident that many
children and families were struggling to adapt to these changes, so I
decided to do some work with the oldest children in the school. In
addition, I did a newsletter to send home to families about coping with
change, loss and life transitions.

Initially we divided the class into two groups, the teacher took one group
for a walk and talked about the change occuring around us in the fall and
how things adapt to the change . While the teacher did that, I worked in
the class with clay as a change medium. We talked about changes over a lif=
span, about risk taking, and our strengths and challenges that support
and/or interfere with progress through lifes=B9 journey (later we switched
groups). =20

I wanted the children to come away from this experience with something that
would represent to them what they learned, and what we discussed. We made
little pinch pots, and the children put on symbols that represented their
strengths and challenges. I took these home and bisque fired them. A
couple of weeks later, I returned to the class and the children glazed thei=
pieces keeping in mind how color can also represent things, or remind them
of their strengths and challenges.

The following week the teacher and I had arranged a field trip to my house
where I had a kiln. I loaded the kiln on the Sunday night, so it would be
warm on the Monday morning when the children arrived on the bus. On Monday
morning we again talked about change...and had them imagine what their piec=
might look like before opening the kiln. They were all very delighted with
their pieces. Continuing the theme of change and risk taking a little late=
I did a saagar with seaweed, a horse hair/chemical piece and
feather/chemical piece in the gas kiln I built this summer (with much advis=
from my clayart friends). The children later roasted hot dogs and we put
one last piece in the fire, wrapped in leaves they had collected and tin
foil. =20

Just before the bus arrived to take them home, we had a scavenger hunt
focusing on changes. What a full, fun, experiential day. When I return to
the school, the children are excited and hoping to spend another day talkin=
about risk taking and change. In the class the children are less divided
and more inclusive of each other.

One of the girls in the class asked for some clay to take home to make
something else and she came back with the most incredible profile of a
woman, she glazed it goodness she has more natural talent that I
will ever have. I gave her some more clay, and she made another with the
woman holding her long hair up with her is also amazing. What a
gift she has. =20

Thanks clayart friends for inspiring me to write about this experience.

Gretchen Zinkan=20
South East Corner of British Columbia that has fresh snow on peaks of the
Canadian Rocky Mountains.

P.S. My gas kiln is great...I got a 2nd burner, a venturi this like a charm and gets so hot, fast (a little too fast when
I'm not careful). Got a wonderful reduction glaze with Pete Pinell's
weathered bronze...Thanks again to those that answered my queries...even th=
dumb ones!!