Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Whoville" Trees with Creative PaperClay!  designed by Linda Hess

This year I began teaching art at St. Francis of Assisi, a local Catholic school in Triangle, VA.  Every week I get to work with students grades K-8th, watching their creative spirit emerge.  I must say I have the BEST job on this Earth! 

For Christmas, I wanted to use clay with my kindergarteners to create a keepsake art piece for their parents.  I immediately thought of Creative PaperClay for its easy of use.  I knew the students could create trees that would dry by the following week when we could paint them!  PERFECT!

To prepare for class I cut each block of Creative PaperClay into 4 equal pieces, placing each piece into a separate Ziploc baggie to await class time.  I placed little cups of water on each table and prepared damp paper towels for the students.
When the kindergarteners came in we talked about the Grinch and Whoville and the look of the trees.   I introduced the materials that we would be using and explained the water on the table (dip in one finger ONLY) and the damp paper towels (for wrapping extra air dry clay).  I let them know that they were getting to use a special kind of clay, an Air Dry clay rather than clay that I had to bake in the oven or kiln.  They were very excited to be using a material that "no one else" was will be our little secret that Mrs. Hess chose it specifically for them to keep the mess of earthen clay and the conditioning of polymer clay at bay (shhhhh, don't tell!)

Together we removed our Creative PaperClay from the baggie and broke off a small amount (to be used for decorations and garland on our trees).  This bit was wrapped in the damp paper towel for later use.  The rest was rolled into a ball before forming it into a tree.  I wanted the trees to be basically hollow to ease the drying process, so I demonstrated how to create a pinch pot and then pull up the top to create the tree shape.  Out of 23 kindergarteners only 1 had difficulty with the pinching and pulling!  Thankfully I had a back-up plan for that child...a flat tree rather than a stand-up version.
  She was happy, I was happy and no tears were shed in the process :-D

After the basic shape was created, I showed how to apply the extra bits.  Roll a tiny ball for lights or Christmas balls, roll a snake for garland, use tools and stamps for details, etc.  We talked about using one finger dipped into the water and then applied to the tree or decoration to act as a glue...not too much or the clay would get mushy!  Stars added to the top were stabilized by using a half toothpick pushed inside (part in the treetop and part in the star).  To my amazement ALL of them listened to the directions and we lost no trees to puddles of water (whew).  As they were completed I set them on the windowsill to dry until next class.  [NOTE: I thought I had a picture of the drying trees on my camera, but musty have forgotten to take on in the excitement of the project...sorry.  I will attempt a re-enactment for this tutorial]

By next class all of the trees were dry.  During the week I turned them occasionally to allow hidden areas time to dry.  I also repaired lights, balls, and garland that fell off in the process with Elmer's glue (kindergarteners are great at designing, but not as careful about "connections"...thankfully they have a little "elf" that works undercover). 

I debated about the type of paint to use with the trees.  I finally decided to use a variety of shimmery acrylics that I discovered in the classroom (I found many treasures when I organized the classroom!).  Each child's tree was placed on a paper plate with his/her name for ease of identification after painting...of course, some of my friends decided that the plate needed to be painted as well ("It's the tree skirt Mrs. Hess").  I have discovered never to predict what will come from a kindergarten me, it keeps me on my toes!


I hope you have enjoyed this peek into a kindergarten classroom and see how easy it is to incorporate this medium into projects with your own class or with your own children.  Mess-free crafting for some really amazing keepsakes!

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