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fixing kids' projects

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I am giving ceramics classes in a summer camp for kids ages 5-13. I mostly do simple projects with them as I only see each group once a week for 45 minutes. My problem is that even simple projects tend to be complicated for some of the kids, and no matter how clearly I give (and repeat) directions -"remember to score and slip"," make sure the walls aren't too thin or they will break", etc. - there will be some kids who forget or don't get it. At the end of the day I find myself with more then 100 little projects, many of which will definitely break in the kiln (or before) unless I "fix" them. Now I know in an ideal world, it would be a good learning experience for kids to see that if they don't follow directions they will not be successful, but summer camp isn't an ideal world. It's all about kids' parents paying a fortune to keep their kids busy and happy. If I don't fix them the majority of the kids will go home with nothing- and be unhappy. Big no- no in the camping world.But if I fix them I am literally spending hours fixing- and sometimes redoing projects. This is crazy! I was wondering if anyone out there has had this problem and has come up with some viable solution.

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Aside from taking time to fix what is fixable . . . I don't know of any other solutions. Over the past couple years, I was a visiting potter and did a clay mask project for classes of 6th grade boys at a nearby school. Some followed directions well; others did not. At the end of the class periods, I would go back over each project and fix what is fixable. I sometimes spent the whole following class period doing touch up work. At that age, fixing may encourage a youngster to pursue clay; success (even if it needed a helping hand) breeds interest and curiosity to try it again.

 

For good ideas on simple projects, check out John Posts website . . . he is an elementary art teacher who teaches ceramics to youngsters. http://www.johnpost.us/

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Aside from taking time to fix what is fixable . . . I don't know of any other solutions. Over the past couple years, I was a visiting potter and did a clay mask project for classes of 6th grade boys at a nearby school. Some followed directions well; others did not. At the end of the class periods, I would go back over each project and fix what is fixable. I sometimes spent the whole following class period doing touch up work. At that age, fixing may encourage a youngster to pursue clay; success (even if it needed a helping hand) breeds interest and curiosity to try it again.

 

For good ideas on simple projects, check out John Posts website . . . he is an elementary art teacher who teaches ceramics to youngsters. http://www.johnpost.us/

 

 

I have been there. It is a fantastic website for elementary school art teachers. I wish there were other web sites like it.

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Because your sessions are only 45 minutes keep the projects simple.

To help the students remember the construction method, just as an example-

 

While you are doing your demos say things like, “…before you connect the coil you must score this area."

 

Then as you demonstrate the scoring say, "score, score, score, score all around, score, score, scoreâ€. Then as you demonstrate, “be sure to wiggle and press the coil in place, wiggle and press, wiggle and press." "So what do we need to do?" Have them repeat, "Score, Score, Score, Wiggle and press, wiggle and press".

As you walk around watching the children work repeat "score, score, score" "wiggle and press, wiggle and press."

 

 

 

One of my students said, “That’s a lot of scoringâ€, but they didn’t forget to do it.

 

 

 

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Because your sessions are only 45 minutes keep the projects simple.

To help the students remember the construction method, just as an example-

 

While you are doing your demos say things like, “…before you connect the coil you must score this area."

 

Then as you demonstrate the scoring say, "score, score, score, score all around, score, score, scoreâ€. Then as you demonstrate, “be sure to wiggle and press the coil in place, wiggle and press, wiggle and press." "So what do we need to do?" Have them repeat, "Score, Score, Score, Wiggle and press, wiggle and press".

As you walk around watching the children work repeat "score, score, score" "wiggle and press, wiggle and press."

 

 

 

One of my students said, “That’s a lot of scoringâ€, but they didn’t forget to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

That's cute. I like the idea of having them repeat the instructions back to you. But does that mean that you don't have to fix their projects?

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I never fix children’s work. I spend the time to teach them the process, give them the terminology, I walk around the room and see who is getting it and help those who are not.

 

But never, will I ever, do it for them; it defeats the purpose of learning how to do it. If they want their work to look better it is up to them to make better.

 

 

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I never fix children’s work. I spend the time to teach them the process, give them the terminology, I walk around the room and see who is getting it and help those who are not.

 

But never, will I ever, do it for them; it defeats the purpose of learning how to do it. If they want their work to look better it is up to them to make better.

 

 

 

I definitely hear what you are saying about not fixing children's projects to make them look better. I have no problem letting things go into the kiln that have uneven sides, or misplaced limbs, or even that are completely unidentifiable. If this is the children's work, if this is their vision, and this is what they have created, of course this is what the completed project should look like. What I am referring to is fixing children's projects so that the children will have something whole to take home instead of a handful of shards. I am talking about the projects that are so poorly attached that they break apart as soon as they dry, or the ones that are so thin that they crack into pieces, or the ones that are not hollow and have no air holes so not only will they explode, but they will also ruin any other projects in the kiln. What do you do in situations like that if have 20 or more children in the room at once, and it is physically impossible to catch all of these mistakes while the children are present? Would you still not fix them?

 

 

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If you find the students are having difficulty with the construction of the project, look at the project. It may be too complicated for them.

 

 

That is a possibility. Can you give me examples of projects you have done with children these ages that have worked (grades 1-8.) Maybe I am just expecting too much from them. Thanks

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Boy, oh boy. I am so much with Lucille on this. The work the children do should reflect their endeavors, not the teacher's.

 

As to projects, a lot depends on the age group. Under six keep it really simple. Maybe clay slapped or rolled flat and draped over/into medium size balls, rocks, bisqued bowls. A coil firmly attached gives it a foot, and the kids have learned to roll a coil, score, score, score and wiggle and press.

 

Older kids can try dowel forming for vases or mugs. It teaches another skill, and when the bottom is applied, it reinforces the score, wiggle and press.

 

Pinch pots can be used to form animals as well as pots. An elephant is something all children are familiar with and will use hollow forms, coils, and slabs.

 

If you are afraid of blow-ups, just make sure you check everything out that needs air holes. A needle tool will be your favorite friend. Poke holes from the bottom on any thick item and disguise holes on animal forms by poking through eyes, noses, ears to make sure steam can escape. You probably will still have some blow-ups, but as the kids are working on any project explain how they happen, what damage can be done to other students work and how they themselves would feel if their work came out in pieces. Gluing anything back together should be done by the students, not you.

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Boy, oh boy. I am so much with Lucille on this. The work the children do should reflect their endeavors, not the teacher's.

 

As to projects, a lot depends on the age group. Under six keep it really simple. Maybe clay slapped or rolled flat and draped over/into medium size balls, rocks, bisqued bowls. A coil firmly attached gives it a foot, and the kids have learned to roll a coil, score, score, score and wiggle and press.

 

Older kids can try dowel forming for vases or mugs. It teaches another skill, and when the bottom is applied, it reinforces the score, wiggle and press.

 

Pinch pots can be used to form animals as well as pots. An elephant is something all children are familiar with and will use hollow forms, coils, and slabs.

 

If you are afraid of blow-ups, just make sure you check everything out that needs air holes. A needle tool will be your favorite friend. Poke holes from the bottom on any thick item and disguise holes on animal forms by poking through eyes, noses, ears to make sure steam can escape. You probably will still have some blow-ups, but as the kids are working on any project explain how they happen, what damage can be done to other students work and how they themselves would feel if their work came out in pieces. Gluing anything back together should be done by the students, not you.

 

 

Thanks so much for the great suggestions. I have 2 questions. First of all, I never heard the term "dowel forming". Is that the same thing as coil building or is it something else? Secondly, what would you suggest that children use to glue things back together- do you use some specific compound or just clear glaze, and at what point in the process- after bisquing, after glazing, etc.

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Idaho gave you some good descriptive projects.

Pendants or small wall hangings can be made from rolled out slabs and small cut outs or small cookie cutters. When complete they can be strung on leather cording for necklaces or on jute for the wall hangings.

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Well Bciskepottery answered your questions well. Mitch Lyons is one of the best when it comes to using dowels/tubes. Take a look at the supply behind him on the left.

 

The idea of medallions that Lucille mentioned are a good idea for kids. When doing the glaze firing, however, make very sure no glaze is on the sides or backs. I was careless one time and had "help" loading the kiln. Ended up with a half-shelf suitable for framing as everything fired on that shelf stuck to it.

 

If you can get your hands on something that has exploded in a kiln--bring it to show what happens. Make sure to reinforce what constitutes good handling of clay so they have something to take home and show with pride.

 

I just Googled "Ceramic clay projects for young children" and am astounded by how many YouTube videos there are. Help yourself.

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Well Bciskepottery answered your questions well. Mitch Lyons is one of the best when it comes to using dowels/tubes. Take a look at the supply behind him on the left.

 

The idea of medallions that Lucille mentioned are a good idea for kids. When doing the glaze firing, however, make very sure no glaze is on the sides or backs. I was careless one time and had "help" loading the kiln. Ended up with a half-shelf suitable for framing as everything fired on that shelf stuck to it.

 

If you can get your hands on something that has exploded in a kiln--bring it to show what happens. Make sure to reinforce what constitutes good handling of clay so they have something to take home and show with pride.

 

I just Googled "Ceramic clay projects for young children" and am astounded by how many YouTube videos there are. Help yourself.

 

You guys are great! I really appreciate the time and thought you have put into your posts. I really found the Mitch Lyons video to be very clear and informative. It did lead me to question though, that one of you can probably answer. If I don't have a clay extruder or any type of professional tool that makes those perfect cylinders he had in the video can I still do the dowel method, especially with children? I am imagining that the "snakes" children tend to make are way too skinny and uneven to work with this method. Or am I wrong? Is there some other way to make this work? By the way- I appreciate the google search suggestion. I've tried other ones like "ceramics for kids" or "teaching ceramics to young children" with much less success. Thanks again!

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I've never used an extruder for a kids summer class. Just start by cutting a 4" thick chunk off bagged clay. Then cut that into 4, 6, or 8 equal pieces (each 4" long) hand them out and the kids will catch on fast that all they have to do is round off the corners. You can also take one of the heftier versions, put a dowel through it and gently squeeze the clay to elongate it while on the dowel.

 

Main suggestion, try out all these methods BEFORE class starts so you are teaching from a secure position of authority. Don't want to fumble in front of your students. It will also give you examples of what can be accomplished.

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I've never used an extruder for a kids summer class. Just start by cutting a 4" thick chunk off bagged clay. Then cut that into 4, 6, or 8 equal pieces (each 4" long) hand them out and the kids will catch on fast that all they have to do is round off the corners. You can also take one of the heftier versions, put a dowel through it and gently squeeze the clay to elongate it while on the dowel.

 

Main suggestion, try out all these methods BEFORE class starts so you are teaching from a secure position of authority. Don't want to fumble in front of your students. It will also give you examples of what can be accomplished.

 

 

Thanks. I actually tried it today and I did it somewhat the way you suggested, but then I discovered that all my dowels had already been packed up and sealed. So, I made a pretty short cylinder and then stuck a pencil through and rolled it. When the hole was a bit bigger I stuck my fattest round paint brush through and rolled it again. My half packed up art room was pretty bare and I couldn't find anything round of the correct diameter, so I tried a cardboard paper towel roll after that, but then the clay started to crack- maybe because it was going from a relatively thin paint brush to a much fatter cardboard tube. The cardboard also got pretty soggy and quickly flattened out (it was new, wet clay) which didn't happen in the video!

I'm assuming you only use a few different thicknesses of dowels- how many and how quickly can you move to fatter ones without the cylinder cracking? And do you use cardboard tubes for this or is cardboard just too flexible and frustrating for kids?

In any case, when I did it without the cardboard tube (only the pencil and the paintbrush) it made a really cool seamless cylinder which could be a great pencil cup or bud vase. Thanks again for the great suggestion

(and of course, I agree- you've got to try everything first when you are teaching children- it's the only way to get the kinks out. Though I still fumble sometimes and I think it's a great way to teach children that it's OK to make mistakes and it's really healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves).

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Morah, Yes, making mistakes in front of kids is not a bad thing, because you are able to show them how to correct the problem.

 

If you are going to be using carboard tubes, try spraying them with fixitive or an acrylic sealer. Make them waterproof so they don't get soggy. I bought dowels from 1/8" to shovel handle size (they are usually in 3 to 4 foot sections) and cut them into 12" pieces. Keep spray bottles handy to stop the cracking. Hopefully you'll be rolling these out on canvas or something that you can spray so it keeps the clay supple not sticky wet. If you have time, go to your nearest beauty supply shop and get atomizer spray bottles. You pump them and the water is very fine spray which moistens the clay without running all over.

 

You'll have to let me know how the classes turned out. Good luck!

 

Shirley

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Morah, Yes, making mistakes in front of kids is not a bad thing, because you are able to show them how to correct the problem.

 

If you are going to be using carboard tubes, try spraying them with fixitive or an acrylic sealer. Make them waterproof so they don't get soggy. I bought dowels from 1/8" to shovel handle size (they are usually in 3 to 4 foot sections) and cut them into 12" pieces. Keep spray bottles handy to stop the cracking. Hopefully you'll be rolling these out on canvas or something that you can spray so it keeps the clay supple not sticky wet. If you have time, go to your nearest beauty supply shop and get atomizer spray bottles. You pump them and the water is very fine spray which moistens the clay without running all over.

 

You'll have to let me know how the classes turned out. Good luck!

 

Shirley

 

 

If I am understanding correctly, you use dowels between 1/8" to shovel handle size. How many sizes do you use between these two sizes? I am trying to understand how quickly you can move up in diameter without ruining the project. And how big is the hole in your finished piece when you finish with the shovel sized dowel?

I think I would rather skip the cardboard all together, if the end result will be wide enough without it.

Thanks so much for sharing.

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Hello morah,

 

I think your situation is not so very simple, having children from 5-13 years, only 45 minutes a day and around 20 children at once! My great respect to you!

 

I´ve experience with classes of 18 children, who not really wanted to do clay projects but had to attend them because of the schools afternoon schedule.

It was really a horrible situation for me, (2010) teaching simple projects nearly prohibited by those children who tend to use clay, paper and water to create throwable little bombs.. ;-)

 

I claimed at the school to change their system to only maximum 10 kids (13-14years) (1,5 hours) and to give the children a possibility to choose the clay work freely.

Now the situation is much better and I can really give children a chance to learn something and get projects done.

 

But simple projects are not possible for all children, some tend to destroy their work while doing it (especially boys) and so they have to start again from zero or let it be and do something really simple like a little snake or something else.

 

I keep projects simple so they have the possibility to learn by doing, plate technics, stamping/rollng on structure etc. some mold technics.

But if they don't listen and don't follow intructions, hey, it's not me who have to do the work again!

 

Poking in holes in some too thick projects from the bottom or through the eyes is one possibility to help keeping things not blown up in the kiln.

It is rather easy to do this "fixing" during the lessons or after the lesson. Explaining it during the lesson helps to give children a chance to learn and avoid mistakes.

 

I stress from the first lesson, that they shouldn't work in air bubbles (e.g. by destroying a project, putting it again in a poorly slapped pack and rolling out again).

I give some too massive things back to them after drying without kiln firing (not possible) to get it home if they wanted.

 

At least, my aim is that by trying easy clay concepts, they get things to bring them home. But I have once a week, half a schoolyear as time for this.

 

In a summer camp, of course you have different conditions. Making medaillons to get home is a brilliant idea, I think. snakes are always great for boys. And fishes are really a good thing ,easy to do.

Maybe think about acrylic decoration instead of glaze. its fast and children love it (what you see is what you get) . smaller children may do it with water colors.

 

If they are modelled massive and not bigger than 10-12 cm, its a good idea to open the mouth and poke in a nice hole (together with the child, not after the class). It normally won't blow up.

 

Nice snails are also easily done projects, as well as mushrooms done from a ball without "scoring"..

post-7018-134760731274_thumb.jpg

 

This picture is from a birthday party, 10 years old. I did first snails (to coils, one to get the house, the other will be the snails body, just a little "scoring and smoothing" to get them together. Decoration was fun for the kids. ) Poke in one hole from the bottom.

then as second project (1,5 hours) they tried plate technics, and other easy things.

post-7018-134760749998_thumb.jpg

 

Here another party with children 12/13 years old.

post-7018-134760785133_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760787222_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760731274_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760749998_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760785133_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760787222_thumb.jpg

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I have attempted clay but it's been the self drying kind which also requires score and slip. I have about 25 students in a 50 minute period. So it's a bit of running around the room checking each project in progress spending a minute or two with each student and a little hands on demo. "look you didn't do this here." "Do you remember what I said about...." I check in all the time so by the time the 50 minutes are over only the very obstinate :-) or those who have serious motor issues may have products that are a bit more fragile. I generally don't put my hands on students art work but carry clay or paper with me to demo what I meant. Another thought.... sit an older couple students with some of the younger ones. Pair them up so they don't feel alone and ask your olders to assist anyone that might need it. Depends of course on how focused they are on their own work and if they can handle that added responsibility. Some thrive on that and some don't want to be bothered. So essentially I fix on the run as they are working. Of course I don't have any idea how many kids you have at one time. I think 25 is about the limit with what you can do during class time. Also keep your options limited. Offer only three choices of what they can do. A pinch pot, tile, or small animal for instance. Hope this offers a little help.

 

I am giving ceramics classes in a summer camp for kids ages 5-13. I mostly do simple projects with them as I only see each group once a week for 45 minutes. My problem is that even simple projects tend to be complicated for some of the kids, and no matter how clearly I give (and repeat) directions -"remember to score and slip"," make sure the walls aren't too thin or they will break", etc. - there will be some kids who forget or don't get it. At the end of the day I find myself with more then 100 little projects, many of which will definitely break in the kiln (or before) unless I "fix" them. Now I know in an ideal world, it would be a good learning experience for kids to see that if they don't follow directions they will not be successful, but summer camp isn't an ideal world. It's all about kids' parents paying a fortune to keep their kids busy and happy. If I don't fix them the majority of the kids will go home with nothing- and be unhappy. Big no- no in the camping world.But if I fix them I am literally spending hours fixing- and sometimes redoing projects. This is crazy! I was wondering if anyone out there has had this problem and has come up with some viable solution.

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Aside from taking time to fix what is fixable . . . I don't know of any other solutions. Over the past couple years, I was a visiting potter and did a clay mask project for classes of 6th grade boys at a nearby school. Some followed directions well; others did not. At the end of the class periods, I would go back over each project and fix what is fixable. I sometimes spent the whole following class period doing touch up work. At that age, fixing may encourage a youngster to pursue clay; success (even if it needed a helping hand) breeds interest and curiosity to try it again.

 

For good ideas on simple projects, check out John Posts website . . . he is an elementary art teacher who teaches ceramics to youngsters. http://www.johnpost.us/

 

I went to Mr. Posts web-site in the summer when I was holding some small kids classes. It is excellent. He understands how kids think in relation to what they are doing. He has some good advice about the fixing issue. He said once they learn to ensure good adhesion or they get something out of the kiln that doesn't hold they learn quickly and take the time to ensure it is secure. He has some fun little jingles he used about slipping and scoring. Great site.

 

Nelly

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Hello morah,

 

I think your situation is not so very simple, having children from 5-13 years, only 45 minutes a day and around 20 children at once! My great respect to you!

 

I´ve experience with classes of 18 children, who not really wanted to do clay projects but had to attend them because of the schools afternoon schedule.

It was really a horrible situation for me, (2010) teaching simple projects nearly prohibited by those children who tend to use clay, paper and water to create throwable little bombs.. ;-)

 

I claimed at the school to change their system to only maximum 10 kids (13-14years) (1,5 hours) and to give the children a possibility to choose the clay work freely.

Now the situation is much better and I can really give children a chance to learn something and get projects done.

 

But simple projects are not possible for all children, some tend to destroy their work while doing it (especially boys) and so they have to start again from zero or let it be and do something really simple like a little snake or something else.

 

I keep projects simple so they have the possibility to learn by doing, plate technics, stamping/rollng on structure etc. some mold technics.

But if they don't listen and don't follow intructions, hey, it's not me who have to do the work again!

 

Poking in holes in some too thick projects from the bottom or through the eyes is one possibility to help keeping things not blown up in the kiln.

It is rather easy to do this "fixing" during the lessons or after the lesson. Explaining it during the lesson helps to give children a chance to learn and avoid mistakes.

 

I stress from the first lesson, that they shouldn't work in air bubbles (e.g. by destroying a project, putting it again in a poorly slapped pack and rolling out again).

I give some too massive things back to them after drying without kiln firing (not possible) to get it home if they wanted.

 

At least, my aim is that by trying easy clay concepts, they get things to bring them home. But I have once a week, half a schoolyear as time for this.

 

In a summer camp, of course you have different conditions. Making medaillons to get home is a brilliant idea, I think. snakes are always great for boys. And fishes are really a good thing ,easy to do.

Maybe think about acrylic decoration instead of glaze. its fast and children love it (what you see is what you get) . smaller children may do it with water colors.

 

If they are modelled massive and not bigger than 10-12 cm, its a good idea to open the mouth and poke in a nice hole (together with the child, not after the class). It normally won't blow up.

 

Nice snails are also easily done projects, as well as mushrooms done from a ball without "scoring"..

post-7018-134760731274_thumb.jpg

 

This picture is from a birthday party, 10 years old. I did first snails (to coils, one to get the house, the other will be the snails body, just a little "scoring and smoothing" to get them together. Decoration was fun for the kids. ) Poke in one hole from the bottom.

then as second project (1,5 hours) they tried plate technics, and other easy things.

post-7018-134760749998_thumb.jpg

 

Here another party with children 12/13 years old.

post-7018-134760785133_thumb.jpg

post-7018-134760787222_thumb.jpg

 

 

Thanks Gabi- I really love the pics. I think that all that extra time you have (1.5 hours) as opposed to my 45 min. makes a big difference. My kid's projects never look quite that smooth, because there just isn't enough time. I think the kids would love the snails. I'm assuming you showed them how to make them the way you would make a coil pot (scoring and slipping as they wind) and then attach the coil for the body on the bottom.

Great idea!

Morah

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I never fix children’s work. I spend the time to teach them the process, give them the terminology, I walk around the room and see who is getting it and help those who are not.

 

But never, will I ever, do it for them; it defeats the purpose of learning how to do it. If they want their work to look better it is up to them to make better.

 

 

 

I definitely hear what you are saying about not fixing children's projects to make them look better. I have no problem letting things go into the kiln that have uneven sides, or misplaced limbs, or even that are completely unidentifiable. If this is the children's work, if this is their vision, and this is what they have created, of course this is what the completed project should look like. What I am referring to is fixing children's projects so that the children will have something whole to take home instead of a handful of shards. I am talking about the projects that are so poorly attached that they break apart as soon as they dry, or the ones that are so thin that they crack into pieces, or the ones that are not hollow and have no air holes so not only will they explode, but they will also ruin any other projects in the kiln. What do you do in situations like that if have 20 or more children in the room at once, and it is physically impossible to catch all of these mistakes while the children are present? Would you still not fix them?

 

 

 

 

I did a five day 2hr summer camp thing for a local college while working for the district. We did 5 projects completed and glazed in 4 days-potters wheel experience 5th day, and discussion of work fresh from the kiln. During this time I did slab candle houses, slump mold platters, coil bottles, pinch pot bowls, poison goblets(standing slab forms) and some other projects over the years. Each was completed in nearly one day, each finished well before going into drying on the downdraft table-my secret weapon. Class sizes were usually 15. I had some early problems with joins, but after changing to magic water most of those disappeared. I only would repair a student project if it was obvious it would not survive as was. Most of the time I never had to repair as I would have caught the problem in class and made certain it was taken care of even if I had to help. Working with younger kids is great, they are not so sophisticated that enthusiasm is uncool! You miss that sort of enthusiasm in HS, but get more understanding and patience from them in return.

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I can't speak much on fixing younger children's or student's projects, as I have not worked much with that age, since student teaching.

 

But I can say that, for me, the fixing of a student's project, should be dependent on what led to the damage? If the project broke, or fell apart because of their own neglect or lack of proper technique, process, then I put the burden of the repair on them. If the project is damaged, due to the actions of another, i.e. someone bumped it, moved it improperly, etc. then I'm much more inclined to help them.

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