Most of us remember playing with clay as children. We remember creating a variety of objects such as balls, snakes, bowls, and mugs. Clay is a wonderful medium, which allows for exploration that builds over time based on individual needs and interests, which is very supportive of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Clay is an extremely responsive material which makes it even more appealing to young children. It also has countless therapeutic qualities that benefit both children and adults.
Time to Bring Clay Back!
Unfortunately, clay is absent from too many classrooms. Educators often say it is simply their lack of experience and understanding of this particular medium and material that prohibits them from bringing it into everyday instruction. Some may be surprised to know that clay is actually a very simple material to incorporate and can be an essential tool for creativity, imagination, and discovery. In the article, Fostering Experiences Between Young Children and Clay, Cathy Weisman Topal discusses the benefits of using clay, the best practices for working with it, and how it promotes aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.
Lessons with Clay
It is suggested that educators should give children a good introduction to clay by explaining its origin, modeling how to manipulate it, and asking several questions to promote interest and inquiry. A conversation can begin by discussing the idea that clay is a natural material and continue by discussing items that can be made with clay. Children should be guided in their own exploration of clay where their hands are the only essential tools. They can be asked to create various shapes, break the clay up into pieces and then build their own constructions. Educators can read books aloud and have children make clay creations based on aspects of the story or the children can be asked to draw their construction on paper and discuss their ideas. Emphasizing exploration using different approaches is crucial in getting the most benefit out of learning.
Time to Watch Imagination Flourish
The use of clay in the classroom supports the core values and beliefs behind the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. Playing with clay empowers children to think, question, investigate, and explore at their own pace. They can be as creative and imaginative as they want. The lessons and curriculum emerge from each child’s growing interests and ideas and the educator’s role should remain as a partner in the learning process. It’s time to bring clay back into the classroom and watch the powerful learning process take place.