Ever since I started teaching, I have used canvases to cover my classroom tables. I realize that many here do not like canvases because of the trapped dust, which I fully understand. The main reason I have used them, is because they are a lightweight option, to keep chunks of clay off the tables. A little dust may make it through, but some sponging takes care of that.
But lately, I've been thinking of trying something different. I thought of plywood or cement board, which could be temporarily bolted to the tables, when in use.
I know Pres said he used boards that laid over his tables, in his room. I don't have space to store any rigid covering surface, that is the same size as the tables. My tables are 47" square. I did think however, that I could halve or quarter that size, which would give me the space to store them. This would also allow some versatility, as sometimes the tables aren't full. So one students wouldn't have to get a large board out, when they are only using a quarter of the space.
Also, I am looking for something better than my current sponges to clean the tables. I've tried numerous sponges over the years, and they just break down too fast with our use. I went away from them and started using synthetic chamois. Those work great, and just do not break down at all. However, they are not quite as absorbent as a sponge, which frustrates the students.
Do those thick grouting sponges hold up pretty well? I've seen potters mention them before, but never tried them myself.
Thanks for any suggestions you have.