Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Grade 5 Mentor Animals in Clay

I wanted to do a clay project with the fifth graders, but we were mighty low on clay the last trimester (for a number of reasons beyond my control). So, I divided up the clay into individual student portions (about the size of a tennis ball or baseball), bagged 'em up in resealable plastic baggies and proposed the following projects:

  • Mentor Animals inspired by Native American animal guides and Totem Pole figures
  • Sole Pendants
The fox: cunning, agile, quick-witted-witted, diplomatic, clever, adaptable

The turtle: Nurturing, shy, protecting, longevity
We started our discussion about symbolism and what a mentor is. Then students did some brainstorming about themselves and their personalities and I had them read about Animal Guides using this worksheet from Education.com. I also read them a portion of "Totem Pole" by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith which describes the animals present on a totem pole being carved by a person in the book. Students looked through science and nature books for animal images they connected with and had them sketch those animals in different poses and from different angles using the books as reference.

Once students had completed a comprehensive sketch of their animal, they could start using clay. I gave them one class period to create their animals and they all were able to do so except one student from each class (they were given additional time the next class). Animals were set aside to dry, were fired, and painted using acrylic paint

Students could use the rest of the clay from their baggies to create sole pendants (students were encouraged to make two--one to keep and one to share).


The fish: Graceful, sly, quick-to-change-one's-mind

The elk: Strength, pride, stamina, friendship, independent, noble
We also had a raven, many bears, a beaver, a couple of narwals, a dolphin, an eagle, an owl, an orca, a dinosaur, a couple of unicorns and more. I made a sloth :-)

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