Investigating clay with Year 4 class at a Redditch First School….

Last week I visited a First School in Redditch (Worcestershire) that I may do some work with this Autumn – linking work with clay as a material to themes in sustainability as they work towards their Eco Schools Green Flag Award. The children (8-9 year olds), were fascinated by the stuff I brought in…. “Is this the clay part?” (referring to the coarse base of a bowl), “What’s this shiny stuff?” (wondering about the glaze…)… They were intrigued to think that the material the bowls were made of, might be similar to clay under their school (a quick reference to the UK Soil Observatory website had confirmed before my visit that then geology beneath the school was mudstone / claystone – which was promising). Whilst the class did PE, I dug a couple of trial pits in an area of rough grass in their school grounds, and having gone through a shallow topsoil and stony layer, found the profile change to one with a higher clay content. The ring test didn’t work out in the field – by this time the children were over with me and quizzing me on what I had found. They were full of questions about treasure (had I found any?) and the soil itself. Having taken a couple of small samples in sample bags, we retired to the classroom to add a little water – and things looked more promising still, as the samples became stickier and more plastic. Having returned to my studio, I sieved the sample first through a kitchen sieve (to remove grit / stones), and then through a 60 sieve (to remove the larger sand / silt particles), and the result, dried on a plaster slab, was a wonderful plastic material – with a successful ring test. I’m hoping the school may want to take this investigation further, but that’s entirely up to them. It was however, great to see the children’s fascination….

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