Here at St. John’s it is our mission to introduce the children to a variety of materials. Our intention behind this is twofold. First and foremost we want to offer the children as many mediums for exploration, creativity and communication as possible. The more outlets a child has to express themself, the more frequent and dynamic the communication becomes. Second, we often choose non traditional materials (clay, wire, wood etc) with the intention of drawing the children in for an interesting, more elongated exploration. Of course, before we can really begin to work with any material, we first have to be introduced. This week Brown Room has focused on introducing clay. Clay is a medium used quite frequently at St. Johns. Sometimes the intention is on crafting something in particular (vases, pots, cups etc.), but often the clay is presented as a blank canvas to be shaped by the child’s imagination. On Monday and Wednesday of this week, we presented clay to the children in large, unshaped quantities and observed how they worked, sculpted and shared the material.
Monday, October 4
On Monday, we chose to present the clay in a large, unbroken block in the center of the table in the atelier. The clay was covered in a white cloth to keep it from drying out, and a group of four children accompanied Karen to the atelier and speculated about what the large lump on the table might be.
My hands is dirty.
It’s a ghost.
Andy did Clay at school.
Ramsey: Cooking cookies.
Charlton: Lotsa of pancakes!
The children spent the majority of their time in the atelier ripping off large chunks of the clay and “making pancakes” by flattening the pieces. The children experimented with trying to move the whole block of clay, but finding it too unruly to move, they chose to move it around the table in pieces. Mimi spent time rolling hers into pieces and Cal flattened his out on an available clay board. Ramsey chose to make “big cookies, vanilla cookies” whereas Charlton spent most of his time just pulling big pieces from the central piece.
Wednesday, October 6
Today we opted to present the clay in a slightly different format. Instead of the singular block in the center of the table, we presented four, smaller blocks on individual clay boards. While this facilitated more mobility with the clay, it prompted a little less collaboration than the large block did. Like the first group, today’s group speculated about what the material could be.
Ellie: (who found the clay first announced) Playdough, playdough
Elena: It’s like playdough
Ellie: Like playdough? Why?
Elena: It has the same texture as playdough, but here at school we actually use clay
Fay: It’s clay (squishes the pieces in her hands) Look, look. It has holes
Elena: What does it feel like?
Ellie: Playdough, squishy!
Elena: It is squishy like playdough
Fay: You can put it off and stick it on
Emma: Emma is making holes!
Much like the first group, today’s group delighted in ripping smaller pieces off of the larger clay blocks and flattening them to make cookies or pancakes. However, because the blocks were smaller, the children were able to roll and drop them more easily which led to larger creations.
Ellie: “Making a house”
Fay: “It’s like a slider, an upside down slider. It’s like a train”
Ellie: “Squish, squish, shapes, shapes”
Fay: It’s a chocolate chip, I’m making presents.
Emma: It’s a sailboat!
The clay exploration concluded with Louisa, Emma, Fay and Ellie wedging the clay back together and adding water to ensure it’s soft enough for future use.
In the classroom
While some children explored in the atelier, the other children explored construction, dramatic play and the light-table in the classroom.