Clay arrives in a large, rectangular, cardboard box. I carefully pull it out and place sliced small slabs on the large canvas that covers half of the classroom. A group of curious children gather around the clay. Clay is quickly transformed. Rolled into various sized balls. Carried in tiny hands. Flung and thrown onto the canvas. Rolled, pinched and stretched. Jumped on. Foreheads and footprints are pressed into it.
Forms emerge: long and thin snakes, baskets that transform into nests. Eggs, large and minuscule. Lots of stories that invite the children to share ideas, to become more and more engaged with the specificities of clay.
‘We need more nests!’, two children exclaim. With more nests on the canvas, eggs become hatching birds, snakes become worms, worms become food for baby eggs. Birds hatch. We wonder with the children if the classroom will become a space for caring for the baby birds.
New and related stories continue to emerge: Bunnies hatch from the carefully moulded eggs. Educators ponder. We stay with the trouble that this chunk of clay brought to us.
Clay forces us to think. Children become, as philosopher Donna Haraway would say, “writers/thinkers/makers” who “remake worlds” through their clay stories. We are reminded that clay is a new participant in the classroom.
As air and clay interact, some children notice that clay becomes harder and harder to work with. Water makes clay soft and squishy again. Have the children notice this change? How might we invite the children to attend to these subtle transformations?
Clay is able to slow things down in the classroom. It invites the children to follow its unexpected movements as it interacts with hands and feet, with canvas, with floor, with air. In this ‘clay ecology’, the production that is going on has a life of its own.
What does this clay ecology demand from us?