We investigated the purpose of buildings and questioned what made a city. We discussed the type of buildings we lived in, visited, and used in our daily lives. The students also viewed and shared opinions of the work of two sculptors, Peter Root and Liz Hickok, who made cities of staples and jello. Throughout this unit students thought about how buildings are designed and helped establish a relationship between students and their urban environment.
We began drawing our own buildings by layering geometric shapes. The students would be using their drawings as reference for creating their cityscape in clay. We had a “experience clay” day so that the students could get used to the material and try different techniques without the stress of trying to build an object. It was also a chance to learn the rules, test out how well the students could control themselves, and how long we needed to clean up in the following classes. Students learned how to pinch, roll, flatten, cut (with Popsicle sticks), and shape the clay.
We did not have and operable kiln and I was teaching on the cart so the students had to work with the clay at their desks and we had minimal storage space. When they completed a building we stored them on a paper slip with their name to dry. This allowed us to stack them in boxes. We ended the project with reviewing paint techniques the students had the chance to paint their buildings and arrange the city scene. Using concepts of spatial positioning the students helped glue the city scene in place on colorful poster paper.
This project was also adjusted and formatted for a 2nd grade Exceptional Education class. Many of them had sensory concerns and refused to work with clay because it was “ too sticky” for their fingers and desks. Their room was also carpeted and the teacher asked that I not bring liquid paint in the room. I adjusted the project to work with colorful play dough which was much more familiar and non-sticky. The students worked on building making for two class periods after having a sensory “experience clay” lesson. Then, they “glazed” them with a clear glue-based coat.