Monday, May 20, 2013

Clay Castles with Coat of Arms by 4th Grade

Every art teacher has projects that are yearly favorites. Students would go absolutely nuts if they didn't get to do "that project." This is one of those projects for me; kids start talking about wanting to make castles in 1st grade. I actually wrote this lesson way back when I was student teaching and have continued using it for 4th grade every year since. 

Castles are a topic that kids always seem to be interested in. I show my students examples from all over the world as inspiration, then let them loose with sketch paper. I have them each draw at least a front and top view of their castle. I found that the top view really helps them understand how they will actually make it out of clay. 

After that, it's just basic slab building. This project takes about 4 days of working with wet clay. I know some people have problems with projects drying out, so I'll share my method of keeping ceramic work wet. 

Mr. Stoller's Tried and True Method for Keeping Clay Moist
  • I use old cafeteria trays for storage. Most classes use 3-4 trays.
  • Place the work on the trays at the end of class. I do this because I was good at Tetris and can fit more castles per tray than my kids can.
  • Cover the entire tray with damp paper towels. I assign this job to a couple of responsible students per class.
  • Place the entire tray into a large trash bag. Push out as much air as possible and fold the open end under the tray.
  • I write the teacher's name on a piece of masking tape and put the tape on the bag so I don't mix up the work.
  • I just open up the bags the next time that group has art, and the clay is still perfectly moist. Use new paper towels when putting the clay away at the end of class.
  • If a class misses or there is an extended break, I will open up the bags and squirt a little water into them.
Hopefully those tips are helpful. I have my students create a coat of arms in between when they finish their castle and when they glaze it. I always give clay projects a couple of weeks to dry out before the bisque fire. It is longer than they really need, but I've never had a clay project explode!

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