I was thrilled to have the opportunity to repeat my 3rd grade residency in clay from last spring (which you can look at here), and used the opportunity to make some adjustments to the pacing of the lesson. Clay residencies have some unique challenges: they have more intensive set-up and clean-up than some other media, and they also require careful planning to allow for enough drying time prior to firing the students’ work in the kiln.
(For non-ceramicists: firing the clay makes it permanent and strong, and involves heating it to over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Firing damp clay can cause it to explode because the water molecules inside the clay will turn to steam and break through the dry outer layers, and nobody wants their project to explode.)
This time around during the fall 2014 semester at Hannah Gibbons STEM School, I re-scheduled the project to include a mix of long and short sessions. The longer sessions enabled us to limit our time working with wet clay to one period, which saved on both time and materials by eliminating the need to store damp projects wrapped in plastic from one session to the next. The shorter sessions allowed us to accomplish simple tasks like glazing our pieces while giving damp clay more time to dry before firing. It also allowed us more time to add details to our pinch pots using coils and spheres than when those had been made in a single session. Overall, I felt this version of the lesson was more streamlined and polished than when I had taught it previously.
I also discovered one additional lesson about chemical changes in ceramic art. One of the glazes we used had a different color where it was blocked from oxygen by the melted glass. It was really fun to see this hands-on example of how the presence of oxygen in the kiln during cooling affects glazes’ color development.