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What Are We Building?

February 1, 2022 | Clara Buckley

Clay is excellent for building. Not only for building sculptures, also for building…

Language skills. We love to talk about our art. We describe what we’re doing with our hands. We make a plan for what we’d like to build. We explain what we have sculpted. We learn the names of the three dimensional forms we build.

Gross motor skills. Children stand at the clay table, using their full body weight to press down when making a slab of clay. It takes strenuous effort and stamina. 

Social skills. As students build, they admire the work of their friends and gain inspiration from other’s ideas. Children demonstrate clay skills to their friends and learn from each other. When we experience frustration and the clay doesn’t do what we want, we learn to persevere.

Fine motor skills. Strong hands grab and tear off chunks of clay from the block. Children control the firmness of their hands and fingers to roll coils and balls without squashing them flat. Fingers poke and pinch the resistant clay.

Sculpting skills. As the students explore the clay, sculpting skills are introduced as they are needed. Students learn how to make the basic forms for three dimensional building, ball, slab, coil.

Imaginative play. We explored the clay with no dictated theme. Inspired by the forms we make, ball, coil, and slab, students created snowmen, pancakes, pizzas, plates, letters of their name, even spiral snail shells. 

Memory skills. There are routines to remember for preparing to use the clay and clean up afterwards. We hand sanitize and push up our sleeves to start. When we’re finished, we push the clay back together, wipe then wash our hands. Students learn how to safely use the material. 

Clara Buckley

Preschool Art Specialist; Middle School Art

Clara Buckley’s teaching spans the ages of Mustard Seed School, from the youngest students in the preschool to students in the graduating class. She’s found many similarities between teaching three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds!

As an art teacher who never enjoyed drawing, Ms Buckley’s hope is that each child she teaches discovers a way to create art that they enjoy, whether it be sculpture, printing, textiles, architectural drawing, or collage.

Ms. Buckley loves living in Jersey City, a place whose diversity and welcome for immigrants reflects her own family experience. When planning future travel destinations, art, food, and time with family are featured items on her list.

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