Thursday, June 28, 2012

5th Grade Food Sculptures

This is the same clay lesson I used with 5th grade last year. (View the original post here). We talk about Pop Art focusing on Claes Oldenburg's food sculptures. The students use handbuilding techniques to make small scale food sculptures- either just the food or food on a plate or in a bowl. 
I did find a new resource this year- the Whitney Museum of American Art has a Whitney for Kids section with a page about Claes Oldenburg.

I won't write too much since it's a repeat lesson, I just thought the students did a really nice job and I wanted to share their fun results!

There were lots of healthy foods this year.

And there are always lots of treats!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

6th Grade Egyptian-Inspired Animal Sculptures

I decided to look for a connection to 6th grade curriculum when planning their clay project. 6th grade studies ancient Egypt in Social Studies and I wanted to try to find some new inspiration- something I hadn't seen before. I came across this beautiful little guy below on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website and fell in love!
PLEASE pin from the original source at the Met Museum instead of from my blog!
"This well-formed statuette of a hippopotamus (popularly called "William") demonstrates the Egyptian artist's appreciation for the natural world. It was molded in faience, a ceramic material made of ground quartz. Beneath the blue-green glaze, the body was painted with the outlines of river plants, symbolizing the marshes in which the animal lived." (

It was so easy to make a connection to the Hippopotamus statue without cloning it. The students used clay handbuilding techniques to sculpt a favorite animal in the first class. In the second class period, they painted their sculptures with tempera cakes then either used a small brush to paint organic forms from the animal's natural habitat or an unwound paper clip to scratch the designs into the surface.

Each student was given a handful of clay (my measurements are sooo precise) with which to sculpt. Some used all of it while others went from "small scale" to "miniature" with teeny tiny sculptures. Animals are always popular and the students really seemed to enjoy the project. I have a big stack of discarded library books with animal pictures that the students could reference if they wanted and they could choose any animal as inspiration. The animals could also be painted any color- hippos are not blue in real life and that was ok with the Egyptians so it's ok with us!

Several students chose to make snakes, because they were "easy". We did talk about how a snake sculpture like the one on the left is much more interesting than the one on the right. If I saw they were making a snake, I tried to show examples of how to give their snakes a more dynamic pose.
We used toothpicks or small pieces of reed for things like antennae that would break if made of clay.
Some students spent all their time painting and didn't get to the plant shapes. It was a little tricky to figure out if they used a domesticated animal.
Here is a close up to show how this student scratched the designs into wet clay then defined with paint.
This panda is holding the bamboo instead of having it scratched into the body. Not a huge deal.
I LOVE this chameleon!
In case you ever wondered what is in a unicorn's natural habitat, the answer is flowers and rainbows.
Teeny tiny pig.
I just told the 6th graders making turtles that they better be more advanced than my 1st grade turtles!
Snake on a rock.
Somehow this student got his dinosaur to balance! We leaned his head against the wall of the shelf for support while it dried.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

4th Grade Butterfly Life Cycle Clay Sculptures

This year I wanted to try something new for my 4th grade clay lesson. I was having a hard time making a decision with lots of possible ideas, so I asked the 4th grade teachers for important topics they cover. The one that caught my eye, was studying the life cycle of butterflies.
The students' assignment was to use slabs and/or coils and attachments to illustrate at least one phase of a butterfly's life cycle. We also talked about 3D vs. 2D and how they should really give their project some form or it might as well just be on paper. Most of the students made a slab that looks like a leaf and attached eggs or a caterpillar to it. The slabs were curved up to make a shallow dish. Some got more sculptural. The students had one class period to build and the next to paint. I did not give any requirements about paint colors since they didn't have to represent a real species.
 I can't wait to try this again next year... because I kind of messed up this year. I thought I had leftover air dry clay from last year, but it was only a box or 2. The rest was accidentally from 2 YEARS AGO! Needless to say, it was very crumbly and the students had to work lots of water back in to it. I did manage to improve some of the clay after I got the tip to wrap it up tight with wet sponges in the bag.
This student made his caterpillar the same color as his leaf on purpose and called it a "Camo-pillar."

 This student tried to show every stage. I think there was a chrysalis on the back side.
Did you know that caterpillars eat their eggs after they hatch? The students taught me that!

Adapted Clay Lesson

I'm getting ready to post about my new clay projects and thought I would share a project I picked up last fall at a workshop offered at KSDE called Adapting the Visual Arts for Special Needs Students.

The process is very simple:
1. Roll clay into balls
2. Line bowl* with plastic, line plastic with clay balls (one layer that fills in all the gaps)
3. Smooth seams between the balls
4. When smooth, let dry
5. Paint!

I used this lesson with several of my primary students this year. I have a lot of students who receive Occupational Therapy services for fine motor skills, visual motor skills, attention, etc. and a this year, a couple students with injuries that prevented them from competing the regular lesson (like a broken arm). I had always been hesitant to adapt lessons to the point that the students made a different product. I was afraid the students would get their feelings hurt because I didn't think they could do it, or that the other students would ask questions or embarrass them. I am really glad that I offered the adapted lesson. The students who had adaptations were just happy that they could be successful and the other students were supportive and encouraging.

*I forgot to take "real" bowls to school so I had my students use small foil bowls. Next year I will remember to take some ceramic bowls for a mold and it will work even better.

I've included a downloadable PDF visual for this project.
Adapted Clay Lesson

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1st-3rd Grade Fish

Here are some of the 1st-3rd grade results from the State Fish Art contest. When I started this lesson with my 4th-6th grade students, I thought they had to use a Channel Catfish since it is the (unofficial) state fish of Kansas. I found out I was just confused from it being my first year trying the program so the younger students had more choices. I chose fish I thought they would be familiar with in addition to catfish- Bluegill and Largemouth Bass. The primary students used a combination of colored pencils and  Crayola Color Sticks. This was awesome in comparison to last year where I spent most of my time sharpening colored pencils or unclogging pencil sharpeners. When color sticks were used most of the time, no sharpening was required! You'll also see below that some of the students created interesting textures in the water by rubbing color sticks on their side.

State-Fish Art logoYou can read more about this lesson here:  and more about the State Fish Art Contest here: