The Birthday Committee Interviews Ford
The birthday committee began by interviewing Ford during morning meeting to learn a bit more about him.
Ford’s favorite things
Color: Dark Blue
Food: Chicken Adobe
Thing to play with: Transformers
Place to Go: The smoothie place by Volta Park for strawberry banana smoothies
The First Day of Birthday Committee Work
Prepared with this knowledge, the birthday committee sat down to a table of clay and decided to make one of Ford's favorite things for his birthday gift. Thus began our online research into Transformers by googling images to inform our work. There was debate between Win and Cal about which transformer to make, but the ultimate decision was one that Ford had mentioned may times before as his favorite, Optimus Prime.
Cal: We have to make it big. We have to make big clay. We make it big, big, big, We have to make his stomach first and we have to cut it (the clay) a little bit.
Cal and Win set about forming the parts of Optimus Prime by cutting small pieces of clay using the wire and then rolling them into coils to make his appendages.
Cal: It’s another leg. I'm just going to go get more here (pulling a small piece of clay from a larger chunk). Here’s his stomach.
Win rolled a coil of clay and then cut it in half lengthwise using the wire, "I cut it like this."
Cal: We need a bigger leg.
Win: There his legs.
Cal: Okay, I make 2 arms.
As Cal rolled clay into a ball, he described it, "That’s a boulder."
Win cut small pieces of clay and pressed them onto the front of the “Transformer.”
Cal looked at the photograph of Optimus Prime and then back to the clay transformer: “He still not make yet. We need 2 belts and 2 exhaust.”
The Second Day of Birthday Committee Work
On the second day, we applied underglaze to the creation in its "greenware" phase before it had been fired in the kiln. Cal and Win looked at the photo of Optimus Prime and decided which colors they would use. Cal got to work with the blue and Win worked with the red.
Cal: We have to put that (the glaze) on there. It's going to make colors and then it is going to dry.
Win pointed to the transformer photograph and then to the clay sculpture that she had help create and proudly declared, "I made that!"
Cal used the turquoise blue underglaze and described his process, "Up there, there, there. Okay, I get some blue in my jar. Yeah, now we can paint blue."
As Win glazed the “transformer” with dark red, she carefully looked for spots that had not yet been glazed and made sure that she hadn't missed any. When she was satisfied that she had glazed the clay creation entirely, she proudly declared “All the spaces."
Celebrating Ford with his Friends and Family
We celebrated Ford in the classroom with a birthday treat of cupcakes and clementines. Then Ford's mom and dad, Jess and Wes joined us for a celebration in Blake Hall. They shared three of Ford's favorite stories. The first, Go, Wahoo, Go was about the University of Virginia where Wes went to school. Wes sang the school's fight song for us as part of the story. They also shared Field Trip to the Moon and Birthday Monsters. The celebration concluded with Ford's friends singing "If It's Your Birthday and You Know It," and Ford circling the birthday candle table 4 times to celebrate his 4 turns around the sun.
Throughout the year, the children have explored the language of clay. Ford’s birthday gift is an example of a material (clay) becoming a language. The birthday committee learned about their friend and created a gift using the material to express their thoughts and feelings for their friend. Clay however is a delicate material. The process requires multiple steps. The clay was prepared for use. The gift was made using a variety of techniques, including pinching and coiling. Underglaze was used to color the "transformer." Clear glaze was applied. When these steps were completed, "Optimus Prime" was ready to be fired in the kiln. The children have learned that the kiln is not a forgiving tool. Sometimes, creations go in and they don’t come out as anticipated. Things may crack or even explode! Unfortunately this was the case with Ford's gift. When we opened the kiln, we found that his gift had not survived. Ford was presented with his gift, a framed photograph of the clay creation (pre-kiln) and when Ford opened it, he gleefully shouted, "Optimus (Prime)!"