Winter Greetings from the Valley of the Sun! While December may be a time when most people are wishing for warmer weather, Phoenician students yearn for a “snow day” and all of the wonderful activities that follow. In contrast, we have “heat advisory” days which force us inside, and on one of these particular days, I asked my students what they would do if one day our campus was miraculously blanketed with snow and ice. Their ideas were fantastic and I knew what medium could capture the scene they saw in their minds…Sculpey Polymer Clay!
I teach K-6 general art and 7/8 ceramics and I find Sculpey clay is a vibrant, accessible, safe, and fun option for teaching many of the elements of art and principles of design. The students love the tactile sensation of warming and manipulating the clay with their hands. They also love the visual color choices and how they can blend their own unique colors for their projects. I love that we don’t have to worry about hazardous dust inhalation and students slipping on dusty floors. I also love that I can teach sculpture and clay-building techniques without the expense and risks of kiln firing. The fact that I can weave color theory, science, and engineering into each project is the pink icing on the Sculpey Bake Shop® cupcake!
My K-2 students just finished their study of shapes in art class and the states of matter in their science class so creating snowflakes was a perfect cross-curricular fit. They combined geometric and organic shapes to create sketches of snowflakes they wanted to create and placed their drawings under parchment paper. I then taught them how to make coils with a thumb-sized amount of Original Sculpey® clay in White and they placed their coils over their designs, pinching and smoothing the coils together.
When I released the class, I challenged them to find a straight stick about the length of their forearm to bring to our next class. They left wide-eyed! When they returned, I had their snowflakes baked and we practiced our knot-tying and created beautiful snowflake mobiles!
Students in 3rd through 4th grade are ready for a greater challenge so their task was to group up and create “snow” sculptures of the school staff using sphere construction techniques (and last year’s yearbook for reference) and 2-D Sculpey clay images of our school buildings covered in snow. The students played with tinting and shading to achieve the perfect colors for the hair and buildings. After baking, they created vignettes of the staffers and the school building they worked in to place in the library for all to enjoy. The snow administration welcomes everyone to the library and as students hunt for the perfect book they tour our snowy mini campus.
The real showstopper was created by the 5th and 6th graders. They wanted to create something that would highlight as many elements of art and principles of design as possible and showcase some advanced techniques. The students sketched ice skaters and hockey players in motion and then created armatures using the wire in the Sculpey Ultimate DIY Sculpting Kit. Carefully they molded various Sculpey clays to the forms. Some used extra wire for the skate blades!
Each skater had a different kind of coil line showing their skating pattern. When everything was baked/cured we placed the skaters on two inexpensive door mirrors surrounded with polyester batting.
Our Sculpey snowflake mobiles, snow-covered campus buildings, snow staff, and ice skaters combined to create a winter wonderland that our students are very proud of! Student-driven from the beginning and packed with learning, this school-wide collaborative project is achievable anywhere thanks to the versatility and convenience of the Sculpey family of creative products.
Written by Mary Killebrew – Sculpey Teacher Ambassador