Pinch Pots: An Upper Elementary Lesson

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Working with clay is an immensely satisfying endeavor; aside from the actual resulting work, the process is enjoyable and relaxing, and a good example of hand work done in the Elementary classrooms. Here, an Upper Elementary student gives a lesson on how to make pinch pots to a group of her peers on a beautiful sunny afternoon, making use of their lovely outdoor work space. 

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One of the most striking things about an Upper Elementary classroom is the fluidity of knowledge being passed from one person to another. There are many ways to teach a lesson; and here, the crucial role of peers is recognized and respected. Once an Upper Elementary student (here, a sixth year) receives a lesson, the Guide may call upon her to then give that lesson to her peers. And in teaching it, she solidifies her own knowledge in that area. It is good for everyone!

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In working with clay, the student relays many necessary facts: that there are two “enemies” of clay. She calls upon her peers to guess what they are: water and air. They are captivated and want to know more.

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Step by step, the student takes her peers through the process of making a pinch pot: first making a ball, then pushing their thumbs down into the center, and finally pinching in a spiral motion until a round pot form emerges.

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Next, she demonstrates how to rough up a small section of clay by scoring the clay with a knife, then adding slip (a bit of water) before attaching the eyes. She even discusses the molecular structure of clay here, and why it sticks!

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Here is one finished pinch pot: a tadpole. Historically, pinch pots were made for function, as in a cup or small vessel, or for ornamental reasons, such as decoration or to ward off evil spirits. We think that these pinch pots turned out awesome!

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Thank you, Lia, for letting us in on the lesson!

“If we try to think back to the dim and distant past… what is it that helps us reconstruct those times, and to picture the lives of those who lived in them? It is their art… It is thanks to the hand, the companion of the mind, that civilization has arisen.”  – Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind