New kiln lets Year 4 students try ceramics at Gaylord School

GAYLORD — Students in Lori Thompson’s fourth grade class at Gaylord Middle School are creating lifelong memories right now thanks to a grant and generous parents.

Thompson’s class is introduced to ceramics using a new kiln that was purchased with an $8,000 grant from the Otsego Community Foundation and $5,000 from the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) from school.

Students are currently making animal sculptures using clay.

“You put the clay in the kiln and it heats it up to 2,000 degrees,” Thompson said.

Many families tend to keep arts and crafts projects at school long after students have graduated.

“They’ll probably have this forever. You can ask adults if they’ve done this before and many will say they still have their plans from their class,” Thompson said.

Ceramic objects are made by combining natural raw materials, such as clay, earth minerals and water, and shaping them into shapes. Once shaped, the object is fired in a high temperature oven. Kilns have been used for many years to transform clay objects into pottery, tiles and bricks.

An $8,000 grant from the Otsego Community Foundation and $5,000 raised by the Gaylord Middle School parent-teacher organization helped purchase this kiln for a ceramics class.

Thompson said the students formed the clay animals using their hands, not a mold.

“They learn techniques like coiling (forming the clay) and slab making to create their sculpture,” she said.

Thompson encourages students to make their sculptures from a single piece of clay, as additional pieces may fall out in the process. However, some add parts using techniques such as notation, which involves adding hatch marks to attach a part.

After the sculpture has been heated in the kiln, the students put a glaze on it and it returns to the kiln for further firing and comes out as a ceramic.

“For most students, this is their first time using real clay,” Thompson said. “It can be soothing to a lot of people because clay comes from the earth.”

Typically, Thompson said, sixth graders make ceramics, but fourth graders were introduced to it this year to demonstrate the new kiln that replaced an old one that was broken.

“The students really got that and it inspired them to be creative,” Thompson said. “They have a base and the students can put in any animal they want. They can add all the details they want. Sometimes it’s very quiet (in class) because they focus so much on the project.”

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