Working with Clay…No Guarantees
Sandy Nickerson, Head of School
Ok, full disclosure. When I was in college, I took a clay class. I worked very hard in that class. I just knew I could impress myself and my professor while I was at it. I wedged, slabbed, coiled, pinched, threw, and created all kinds of glaze concoctions. I spent hours perfecting each technique. And no matter what I did, how I did it, or how long I did it, the results were always the same oddly familiar shapes. Dare I call them vessels? I guess they were vessels, each with a unique likeness to my childhood mud pies. Needless to say, I achieved a ‘C’ in that course. I considered myself lucky…considering the hauntingly nostalgic repeated forms.
About 25 years later, as an Art teacher at Bridgeview Montessori School, I very much wanted our school to have a kiln. I knew our art curriculum would not be complete without our students experiencing the process of bringing a clay piece to its completed glazed finish. The Bridgeview Parent Association jumped aboard and raised money to pay for a new kiln and the kiln shed. The goal was reached, and the kiln and shed were installed. At last, there I stood, a ‘C’ clay student in charge of the new clay curriculum. I took a deep breath and contacted Kim, a local potter, and a parent at our school and pleaded for her guidance. As a parent volunteer, she helped me choose the most appropriate clay and glaze to use with children. She reminded me of all the steps involved in bringing a clay piece to its finish. We started by offering an After School Clay Class that Kim helped me teach. At home, I studied my clay vocabulary words.
Our clay adventure was underway, our students and their ‘C’ clay teacher were ready to explore, make mistakes, discover, make mistakes, and create three dimensional art pieces, some beautiful, some not. Each step in the process provided opportunity for great success and undeniable failure. Working hard did not factor into guaranteed successful outcomes. As the teacher, I could only guarantee the full process… celebrate the student successes and help students endure the failures, and continue on to the next work.
Here’s the full process. Wedge your clay to make sure there are no air pockets. Build your piece and make sure all added pieces are scratched and slipped, being sure not to create any air pockets. Allow piece to dry until leather hard with no moisture left. Bisque fire. Glaze piece making sure to layer every glaze color at least three times. Glaze fire. Bring completed pieces home without breaking them.
Air pockets will cause your piece, no matter how beautifully built, to explode in the kiln. Not scratching and slipping properly will cause your piece to break during the leather-drying phase. Little bits and pieces that managed to stay connected in drying may still fall off during the bisque firing. Failure to layer the glaze at least three times will lead to a “watery” layer of color that is bound to disappoint. I am sure we all understand the consequences of breaking clay pieces on the way home.
As a teacher, the stressful part of teaching clay is that I cannot assure my hard working students that they will not make a fatal mistake along the way. I can’t see air pockets or incorrect scratching and slipping technique or that a leather hard piece won’t slip out of my hands and fall crashing to the floor. All I can do is be a good role model for picking myself up, dusting off, and trying again when something disastrous happens to my demonstration pieces. My students and I have worked and grown together. They have encouraged me through my trials, as I have encouraged them through theirs. I start each clay lesson with the words, “There are no guarantees.”
Why all this trouble anyway? First of all, everyone should experience working three dimensionally. Most importantly, all learners need to experience the excitement of working hard even though they know from the start there will be no guaranteed success. Yet my belief is that the lesson is not as important as the attribute that can be gained… that attribute is true grit. Handling success is wonderful, but the real challenge is handling it when the going gets tough. I am proud that this ‘C’ clay student did not use her ‘C’ as an excuse to never teach clay. I am very proud of our clay students who continue to exclaim, ”Yeah, its clay time!” even though each of them has experienced disappointment while working with clay. I am equally proud of our cumulative successes and disappointments. Together, they have led to growth and grit.
Oh, and those annoying mud pie forms previously mentioned, they are fewer and farther between. Phew!
Bridgeview Montessori School
885 Sandwich Road
P.O. Box 270
Sagamore, MA 02561
Director of Admission: Suzanne Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Serving ages 2.9 to 12 years, Bridgeview Montessori School, guided by the educational philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, provides a child-centered learning environment in which students develop a love of learning that will sustain them throughout their lives. Our goals include: the development of the whole child, emotionally, physically and intellectually; academic excellence gained through independent and critical thinking; inspired learning through creativity, courage, passion, personal responsibility and respect for self, others, and the world in which we live. We encourage our students to approach their work and their world with a sense of wonder, curiosity and the excitement of discovery. We value diversity and, above all, we value a compassionate and peaceful community. Bridgeview Montessori School awards upwards of $70,000 in need-based financial aid annually! Our school is allergen free. A wonderful small school for all kinds of learners.
Please join us in welcoming our newest Cape Cod Level Sponsor, Cape Cod Academy!
How Things Get Done in the Real World
Resourcefulness. Being able to make a case. Aligning peoples’ interests. Sustaining a commitment. Persevering in the face of challenges. Recognizing a need. Making disciplined choices. These are the skills and habits of people who make a difference in the world, people who get things done.
When CCA or another school refers to its “service learning” curriculum or program, we indicate that we teach students not just the importance of volunteering, or even considering and serving the needs of others, but also reflecting on what is important to a person, who one is in relationship to the world around him, and strengths and opportunities he or she has. We also teach students to think critically about problems, what they stem from, and how different approaches might change the situation.
I am proud of this program and the forms of all its activities, including:
This winter, CCA students are hosting Coffee Houses to raise money for local not-for-profits and preparing for the annual Shelter from the Storm benefit concert.
These are multiple-year, sustained commitments that now raise over $20,000 a year (and over $84,000 in the last eight years.) One of the things I appreciate about the Coffee House effort is that students bring local agencies to campus to deliver their pitch for why that organization should be the recipient of the benefit fundraising. During this process, students refine their ability to discern value, purpose, and efficiency just as much as they learn about local issues affecting health, the economy, society, and our environment. They learn to make tough decisions among compelling options.
CCA actively inspires students to consider others--to listen for their voices, to see their experiences--to respect others and the complexity of a world that resists simple solutions. We teach students that learning is edifying in itself but also prepares them to do and act, to lead and rally others, and find a better way. We are teaching them how to get things done...better.
--Tom Trigg, Cape Cod Academy
Please join me in welcoming our newest sponsor:
Cape Cod Academy!
Cape Cod Academy began in 1976 and offers a college preparatory curriculum for students in Pre-K thru 12th grade on a 46 acres campus. The mission statement really says it all because it is the type of educational mission we all want for our children:
"The pursuit of academic excellence and development of life skills in a safe, values-centered community."
All graduates are accepted to college with the majority attending highly competitive colleges. They boast a low student to teacher ratio of 7:1 with a class size of fifteen!
Cape Cod Academy is also a Member of National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and a Member of Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE). They are accredited by New England
Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Cape Cod Academy also runs the Seahawk Summer Camp And it isn't to late to register! Their goal is to create the best possible camp environment in which children can thrive. They believe camp is a place where children have the opportunity to try new activities, take on new challenges, increase their self esteem and grow in a safe, nurturing, fun environment. They accomplish this through a dynamic and creative program organized by their warm and caring professional staff.
This staff is what makes Seahawk truly unique. All staff members are carefully selected and trained as they set a very high standard for staff involvement with the campers. One of the most important aspects of each child’s summer is the special relationship that will blossom with his/her counselors.
We welcome you to take a look through our information and enroll today. If you have any further questions after learning more about us, please contact Director Jenn Peterson in the Seahawk Summer Camp office at Cape Cod Academy at 508-428-5400.
By Judy Langelier
Make sure you know what you are giving your child. As parents we try so hard to keep our children safe and healthy. We ask the advice of our elders and professionals, and hope we are doing the best we can. Then you find an article that says something you have been giving your child for months, maybe even years
could be harmful to them and could even do permanent damage.
This is what happened to a number of parents at our center with an article about MiraLAX. MiraLAX is a gentle laxative typically prescribed to adults for use up to a week. MiraLAX contains Polyethylene Glycol 3350, which works to replenish water in the digestive system to relieve constipation. But MiraLAX was never meant to be prescribed for children, and now has become a household staple for infant parents. So as parents, what do we do? Do we believe it? Do we stop giving it? What do you think?
Here are some more discussions on the use of MiraLAX for infants:
NY Times Article on MiraLAX May, 2012
TheBump.com community forum on MiraLAX
Judy Langelieris the Lead InfantTeacher at The Children’s Workshop in South Dennis, MA. A loving Mother and Grandmother, Judy has over 20 years of experience in the early education and child care industry. Judy has been with The Children’s Workshop since the South Dennis location opened in 2008. Every day she shares her knowledge, wisdom and nurturing experience with the teachers, students and families that frequent her center. For this reason, she was granted the 2012 Star Educator Award, which recognizes the top educator out of The Children’s Workshop’s 19 early learning centers.
By Robin Friedlaender
As a teacher we have always had “classroom rules.” However, last year I tried something new...I presented “classroom expectations”the first day of school and what a difference I’ve noticed.
The majority of my students have been in our center for a
few years, so they know our “rules” which are your basic: use gentle hands and feet, indoor voices, being a good friend, raising your hand, using your manners, etc. Well, the first day of kindergarten during our morning meeting I sit my new friends down and we talk about rules...I then tell them that there aren’t any rules in kindergarten. The looks I get are priceless! I see some very excited faces...until...I tell them I have “classroom expectations” instead of rules. Now I have a lot of blank faces. I go on to tell them that I “expect” they already know how to behave while at school and I have some new expectations” I want them to follow:
• We Are A Team
• We Try Our Best
• We Create
• We Respect Each Other
• We Celebrate Other’s Successes
• We Learn From Our Mistakes
These expectations are an extension of The Workshop Ways, which were developed by The Children’s Workshop. The Workshop Ways are a set of Positive Behavior Institutions and Support that we call PBIS.
The new expectations were met with enthusiasm, and the class goes over them every morning. I also add “how” we are going to meet these expectations. As they meet an expectation I remind them what expectation they met and how it was met. After a few weeks, I hear the kids telling one another when they realize an expectation has been met. As a parent I want my own children to realize that we all have “rules” in life, but we should also set “expectations” for ourselves in life. I started to look at what I was doing in my classroom and how it can be applied in my own home with my children. Basically, I started rethinking how I set home “rules” and turned them into“expectations.”
I want my students and my children to be independent thinkers and feel confident in themselves. I want them to be the best they can be. My children like this way of thinking because they are able to take ownership in our household and how it is run. I find myself looking for the positive rather than the negative in both my students and my children. I find myself more relaxed and not constantly harping on what they aren’t doing right.
I celebrate more in their accomplishments, because I see more effort going into tasks. I will continue to encourage them and remind them that respecting others is something they should always do. I will celebrate their successes and help them learn from their mistakes...it’s a part of life.
Robin Friedlaender is a KindergartenTeacher and Lead Administrator at TheChildren’s Workshop in Bourne, MA. She joined The Children’s Workshop family in 2008. She holds a BS in Early childhood Education from Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Before joining The Children’s Workshop, she taught 5th grade inclusion, 2nd grade, and Pre Kindergarten at Jefferson Parish Public School System in Louisiana. Robin is a working mom of three amazing children ages 8, 11, and 14. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, traveling, journaling, shopping, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.
The Children's Workshop is a family owned, quality child care provider that was founded in Lincoln, RI in 1990 by working father of three, Dave MacDonald. 22 years later, the company is still owned by the MacDonald family and has grown to include 19 different locations in RI and MA. The Children’s Workshop uses the Children’s Workshop Curriculum, a research based framework developed by the company’s top teachers that is aligned with the RI Early Learning Standards and focuses on learning through play. The Children's Workshop provides early education programs for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years. To learn more about The Children's Workshop family, go to www.childrensworkshop.com.
Join us in welcoming Cape Cod Mommies newest sponsor: The Children's Workshop! The Children's Workshop has 16 different locations in MA and RI. One of their locations is conveniently located on Rte. 28 in Bourne and is run by director Bailey Kent. Bailey has over 10 years of combined teaching experience and is a mother to a baby boy as well! Bailey will be joining us as a guest blogger once a month-we are excited to read about her adventures!
They offer high quality child care and learning for preschool, pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and school age children! Their full-day Kindergarten offers a classroom size which is limited to 12-15 students, which provides a much better child-to-teacher ratio than the public schools, allowing for more individual attention. The center is located on Route 28 and this new building includes bright, developmentally appropriate classrooms, an indoor gross motor room and large outdoor playgrounds.
Their programs offer affordable rates, convenient hours and a great location. In addition, they utilize a nationally recognized curriculum and approach to education that you will see in action in all our centers. Their developmentally appropriate classrooms are warm and inviting and are designed with young children in mind. The curriculum provides a strong foundation for children's academic success and the teachers provide a warm, nurturing environment in which every child can be successful. Children retain more when they're having fun so their programs emphasize learning through play.
Take a moment and visit their website or give them a call and arrange a tour! I know we have some mom's already who use The Children's Workshop, we would love to hear what you have to say!
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