I was so excited when the kindergarten team approached me to collaborate on a lesson. They were about to embark on a PBL unit all about animals and the product was going to be a diorama. So they asked me to make clay animals with the students. 🙂
Initially I was a bit apprehensive about the process. Kindergarteners have the least experience with fine motor skills when it comes to using clay and the project would require each student to have a different animal. There would be a lot of logistics going into the planning and management of teaching each student the skills to build a different animal. I was up for the challenge though because I am starting to step into the arena of more choice and voice type projects (the importance of which I have talked about here) and I knew that if I gave students the chance to explore the material they would be successful. This project ended up being incredibly authentic.
The kids had studied their animals for a couple of weeks prior to the start of this lesson. Their research included technology components and even drawing their animals which was great because they were prepared with knowledge about the body parts. So I began the demo showing them how to create a coil for the body by squeezing the clay into a hot dog.
I showed how to add legs, heads, wings, beaks, tails, fins, eyes, and all of the details they would need to build their animal. Each class had a different habitat they studied and students were in groups based on their animals. I printed off photographs of their animals as well as pictures of what that animal looks like out of clay so they could reference while they worked.
We kept the tools simple, each student got a chunk of clay, a burlap mat, and a mini popsicle stick. We also used slip or “clay glue” to stick the pieces together. It was amazing to see the kids working together and sharing ideas for how to create and build their animals. They were tremendously proud, engaged, and motivated to participate in this cross-curricular experience.
After getting bisque fired, students used tempera paints to paint their animals.
They came out better than I could have ever imagined – I am so proud of the hard work the students put into this project and so thankful that I got to be a part of it!
A sea turtle and a shark: