Monday, June 25, 2012

Kids & Clay

By Linda Kline

Kids. . . Frankly, the little tykes make me nervous; probably because I’ve never had any of my own.  I’m just not sure how to interact with them.  I’m an aunt and a great-aunt and when I’m with them, I love spoiling them rotten.  But the beauty of being an auntie is that I get to send them back home to let their parents deal with the consequences of my spoiling. 

So when the Vero Beach Museum of Art asked me to take on some summer art camps, I freaked.  I had two groups -- one “young adults,” ages 14-16, and the other, ages 8-10. So how hard could this be?  I was the adult, they were the kids.  I was large and in-charge and I had two additional adults who had volunteered to help me.  No sweat!  Right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!  Those little squirts drove me to drink!!!  

If you plan to teach kids and it’s your first time, get ready to be put through the wringer…..challenged, tested, chewed up and spit out!  This is not for wussies!  

If you have a class plan that should fill three hours, double it.  Kids have no artistic intimidation or limitation.  No one has told them they “can’t” do something so they enthusiastically want to do it all.  They speed through their project and start looking for more to fill their time and stimulate their overactive little brains. It’s refreshing because it’s the kind of voracious creative appetite and artistic abandon we try so hard to awaken in adults. But you must be prepared for how it will dramatically alter your normal lesson plan.

Teens, on the other hand, generally act like they’re too cool for this stupid class and they appear bored, bored, bored.   Most of them are in the class because their moms thought it would be a good idea – and their mom’s are generally right.    Most of them are really great kids and appreciate that their brains and creative juices are getting a boost. Anticipate and work past that attitude and you’ll find creative kids who will astound you with answers to creative problems you rarely encounter in a room full of adults.

Words of wisdom

  • Over-anticipate.  Plan additional activities to fill down time when pieces are in the kiln or tumbler.  Have students make a braided leather bracelet or beaded necklace to complete their metal clay creation.
  • Don’t take attitude from teenagers personally. It has nothing to do with you. Engage them and - most of the time - the attitude will evaporate (eventually.)
  • Show samples but expect students to go off in their own direction.
  • Control costs.  Kids have no clue about the value of money.  Allocate clay for each student and be sure they understand what they have to work with. For older students, base metal clays are a good option. Be sure you stress hand-washing and other safety precautions to prevent accidental ingestion or skin irritation.

Cheers and creative blessings,


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