Clay For All | Arts in Education

Over the last year Clay Art Center has provided outreach arts education for more than 300 Port Chester elementary students under the Clay For All programming, supported with the help of a $10,000 Arts in Education grant from NYSCA and matching funds from the Carver Center, a local community center and provider of need-based after-school programming at several Port Chester elementary schools. The Port Chester School District is among the most overcrowded and underfunded in NY State, lacking visual arts education in schools grades K-5. The Clay for All programming was designed to help fill that gap and to provide enriching curriculum reinforcement for students, using the arts. Instructors focused on Language Arts, Social Studies and Science units delineated by the NY State Core Curriculum for each grade and created a specialized ceramic arts project,  providing a new forum for the children to consider, interpret and digest the information from their day-time classes.

We began our year working with the John F. Kennedy Early Learning Center, which houses an overflow of 100 Kindergarten and First grade students. Instructors utilized educational children's books written in both English and Spanish and integrated them into the three month curriculum. These young students worked on recalling key aspects of the story, interpreting the meanings and lessons in each story and relating the content to their own lives, as they created sculptures of main characters and their environments. Students celebrated with an end of the year exhibition and a showcase of artworks by students at the school.

As 2017 is reaching its end, our instructors are concluding the Clay for All programming at Thomas Edison Elementary School, where we have been working with approximately 225 students in the extended-day program, for an overall 12 week period. Instructors have integrated the classroom curriculum into each ceramic project in an effort to enhance learning through the arts. We have had a fantastic experience working with Carver Center's Thomas Edison Site Coordinator, Matt Casey, the Thomas Edison After-School staff, our own paid interns from Port Chester High School and of course the eager students who we worked with each week.

Our Second Grade students have been using clay to explore topics such as Early Asian Civilizations, Fairy Tales, Life Cycles and Insects. Students were introduced to Mandalas and body decoration and in response they created their own Mandala Hands. While focusing on Fairy Tales the students discussed Medieval architecture and subsequently created their own castles! Combining the topic of Life Cycles and Insects students created Ladybug Rattles, enclosing small balls of clay within the ladybug to represent eggs, from which new insects will hatch. Third grade students focused on Geometry and created abstract sculptures using shapes. Fourth grade students drew largely from Social Studies with a focus on Native American cultures, tribes, lifestyles and folklore. Our Fifth grade students had a long-term focus on symbolism, exploring symbols from their parent's and often their own native countries in Central and South America, as well as U.S Symbolism. In their latest unit, the 5th grade students at created ceramic artwork inspired by the work of Keith Haring, an iconic artist and human rights activist who’s optimistic and vibrant work celebrates the power love, and promotes freedom, equality, and diversity. The children were given the choice of developing their own ideas and creating individual art pieces, using the cumulative skills gained from the weeks prior. This project provided a safe and creative platform to discuss  the children’s understanding of some of the human rights concepts they have studied in their day-time classrooms, while providing the students with decision making opportunities and promoting self- expression.

The opportunity to touch the lives of so many students in our own backyard is invaluable, providing a lasting impact on the community that we continually strive to nurture. As we look forward to the New Year, we take with us the inspiration gained from these young minds, over the course of the Clay for All programming! Please take a look at the Photo Gallery for a glimpse into this transformative Community Arts Program.

Kelly O'SullivanComment