Denita’s First Clay Adventure
I chose a gorgeous, windy summer day to plop a chunk of natural clay for the first
time. I prepared silently for the new experience and had an instant following of cu-
rious I-want-to-helpers. It took a lot of muscle for the kids to carry out 25 pounds
of clay. I carried out the purple hand-washing bucket, which was half-full of warm,
soapy water. One child carried the sensory bin. A few others carried the tools. Anoth-
er got the hose.
We plopped the clay into the tote with a splash, and I took a 3-foot piece of plastic
lacing out of my pocket, held it like dental floss, and proceeded to cut the clay into
chunks. It was at this moment that the first question came, quickly followed by a
chorus of more: “What is this?” “Can we touch it?” “What’s it feel like?” “What can we
do with it?” “Can we throw it?” “Can we eat it?” “Have you ever seen anything like this
before?” We discussed what this enticing gray blob was, and then I stepped out of the way. A
Denita too close to the action tends to be a Denita offering ideas and making sug-
gestions. I wanted the children to completely own the discoveries I was certain they
Turns were taken, tools were shared, holes were drilled, volcanoes were built, islands
were constructed, discoveries were made, and learning happened.
By stepping back, observing, and not offering my own ideas, I handed ownership of
the clay experience to the children. They were overjoyed with their creations, and the
play continued the entire morning.
to make beads. You can roll small pieces of clay into balls and pierce them with
a large needle, or you can roll the clay into a long snake, cut it into slices, and
pierce the slices with a large needle. Once you’ve made your beads, follow the
baking instructions that come with the clay.
• Fire natural clay. Natural clay must be fired at high temperatures to maintain
its shape and not melt when it gets wet. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can
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