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Ceramic Art Lesson Plan: Little Monuments
Posted By Craig Hinshaw On March 29, 2010 @ 9:48 am In Education,Lesson Plans K-5 | No Comments
A fourth-grade teacher asked if her students could make small monuments using clay. They were studying the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty and I believed that the Statue of Liberty suggested a wealth of ideas.
Almost half the students at Hiller are of diverse ethnic origins and come from more than twenty different countries. While I doubt few, if any, arrived by boat and were greeted by the Statue of Liberty, as were immigrants from past generations, this icon still represents the ideals of freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world.
Shortly after finishing the Statue of Liberty lesson, I was in New York City attending the National Art Education Association Conference. Before flying back to Michigan, I visited the Statue of Liberty. She was beautiful, standing magnificently against a blue sky and white clouds. I purchased postcards and a small replica for the fourth graders to see and handle back at Hiller.
Perhaps this lesson will do for the students what it did for me—create an interest and an appreciation of the most recognized statue in the world. Perhaps they too will want to make the effort now to see her “in person,” as I did.
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Step 1. The lesson began by asking for a girl to volunteer to become a living sculpture. I draped her in a sheet, somewhat resembling the Statue’s attire. She held a flashlight in her upraised right hand, a book in her left hand, and a crown on her head made from green construction paper and a stapler.
Step 2. Before working with clay, students sketched the clothed model. I provided 6×18 inch drawing paper, emphasizing the statue’s elongated shape. I pointed out the statue’s basic pose—right hand high above the head and left elbow bent cradling a tablet. Each student took a turn posing as the statue, wrapping each other in the sheet, positioning arms and adjusting the size of the crown.
Step 3. I demonstrated how to squeeze a lump of clay to begin forming the torso of the statue, then pressed my finger into it to create a hollow form, to aid drying and prevent breaking during the bisque firing. A coil of clay attached near the top of the torso becomes the extended right arm, a small ball of clay becomes the head and a second coil forms the bent left arm.
Step 4. Wood tools were used to draw folds in the gown and model facial features. Small details were added last—the points on the crown and the torch. Most students attached a clay base, giving more stability to their statue.
Step 5. After bisque firing the pieces, we painted them with an Irish green underglaze. The students knew the statue, which is made of sheets of hammered copper, has oxidized to a green patina. The flame was glazed orange in imitation of the actual flame, which is gold-plated copper lit by reflection, the sculptor’s original intent. Gray underglaze, representing concrete, was used on the base, then we brushed on a clear overglaze and refired the pieces to Cone 04.
Craig Hinshaw is an elementary school art specialist in Michigan. He is the author of Clay Connection: Innovative Ceramics Lessons that Make Connections to the Elementary School Curriculum & Seasonal Calendar available at www.CraigHinshaw.com.
Left and above: The finished pieces were wonderful, each standing erect yet somewhat animated. I lined them up on a display shelf in the school office with a label explaining what the students were studying. The row of 3-inch statues seemed to serve the same function as the original 151-foot statue—greeting all who entered into Hiller School, including many immigrant parents enrolling their children.
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