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Professions in clay.

When studying careers with my fourth-graders, I found a way to get them completely enthused about beginning our study. We had several people come to our school to give brief presentations on their professions. Many of them brought "props" with them such as stethoscopes, different kinds of fishing poles and bait, samples of x-rays and so on. This piqued the students' curiosity and primed them for my introduction into the plasticine clay sculpture, and research of a profession, which would follow.

After the presentations, each student chose a profession he or she would like to model from plasticine clay. I stressed that the profession could be an unusual one, such as a rock star or cartoonist. I didn't want them to limit their choices to the few they had seen presentations about.

Clay is ideal for a first sculpture project. It requires very few tools--we used only scissors and pencils--and is forgiving if a mistake is made. It also is one of the direct methods where the material is molded primarily by hand.

Our clay career sculptures are freestanding sculptures--surrounded on all sides by space. They have three dimensions: Height, width and depth. The free-standing sculpture of a career or professional person was modeled from the plasticine clay, and features were added, such as eyes, textured hair and accessories to portray the chosen profession.

I demonstrated using plasticine clay. We used only red, blue, yellow and green clay to form our sculptures. The clays could be combined to form any colors the students wished to make. This way, the students also reinforced what they knew about color mixing. My demonstration involved showing the students how to use the scissors to cut lengths of clay for hair or to make slits for clothing. I also showed how the clay could easily be smoothed with the point of a pencil or textured by dragging the point of the pencil along the clay to rough it up. Multiple colors of clay were also rolled into one to make marbleized clay that gave a unique look to many of the sculptures.

The students had a great time modeling with this clay, which is pliable and never dries out. It can be used from day to day without covering and can be re-used. The students used ingenuity to form props such as stylized shopping bags to bug exterminators' hooks used to perform their jobs.

After the sculptures were completed, the students got on the Internet and looked up information on their chosen profession, which they shared with the class. Pertinent information and interesting facts about each profession were put on 3" x 5" cards. These were shared with the class when we had a sculptural viewing in our "class gallery."

Even though students change their minds many times about careers throughout the years, I feel it is beneficial for the students to explore careers throughout their years of schooling, so they are aware of what jobs are actually waiting for them! By combining research, art and a type of show and share, we learned about careers in a new and exciting way.


Elementary students will ...

* recognize clay as a pliable medium.

* explore the qualities of plasticine clay.

* use texture to give harmony to the sculpture.

* explain careers as they were presented to the class by community members.

* develop a spatial organization.

* increase their powers of perception and develop a rich visual dimension.

* explain whether they feel the work is successful.


* Plasticine clay in red, yellow, blue and green

* Scissors and pencil

* 3" x 5" cards


* Understand and apply media, techniques and processes.

* Use knowledge of structures and functions.

* Choose and evaluate a range of subject matter, symbols and ideas.

* Reflect upon and assess the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.

Karen Skophammer is an art instructor for Manson Northwest Webster School in Barnum and Manson, Iowa.
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Author:Skophammer, Karen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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