I was working with a group of K-2nd graders, mostly kindergartners. In the past hands-on help was often needed when working with clay, but no one was available to help on that day. I read “The Mixed up Chameleon” by Eric Carle, a story about a lizard who wishes to be like other animals. His wishes come true and he becomes “mixed up” and unable to catch a fly. In the end he wishes to be himself again and when this wish is granted he is able catch the fly. I asked the class if they could guess why it’s a favorite story and they had many insightful reasons to like the book. Finally one student astutely said, “It works best to be you.”
We talked about some basic ideas for creating with clay. My goal was to let them create whatever they wanted. This open-ended option had the potential to be chaotic with kids using different techniques all at the same time. We agreed to use one or two pinch pots to create the body of the animal. We sat around the table and went through the steps together. Everyone was absorbed and enjoying rolling, squeezing, and forming the clay into shapes. I taught the scoring method to attach one piece of clay to another. When I reminded one child of this technique, he said, “It is O.K. with me, (if the eye falls off) then I’ll have an angry bird with an eye popped out.” He knows that his artwork does not need to be influenced by an expectation. He reminds me to let go and let students learn from their unique process. A harmonious class gives me a sense of peace in my work, of peace with my place in the world.