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A messy business

Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010

When the Glacier Valley Elementary School wanted to enhance and expand their Art is Elementary program (www.jsd.k12.ak.us/~heagyl/ArtIsElementary/Art_is_Elementary.html), specifically the after-school clay studio program, they turned to the Canvas. They wanted to bring private lessons to children who might not be able to afford it and get a fire kiln. Thus began a collaboration between the Glacier Valley Clay Club and The Canvas.

Courtesy Of Glenda Lindley
Courtesy Of Glenda Lindley

The idea of partnering with the Canvas was sparked when Susan Sielbach, librarian and art teacher of Glacier Valley Elementary, contacted Canvas program developer MK MacNaughton to ask her a few questions about the school's recently installed kiln. Sielbach asked what type of clay and what tools they would need once the kiln was installed.

"The kiln itself was funded through Glacier Valley's Capital Improvement Project and was installed in the summer of 2009 during the renovation," said Sielbach.

This got the two talking about a partnership, and they were able to get funded through a grant.

Sielbach and Glenda Lindley of Glacier Valley Elementary partnered weekly with The Canvas and local clay artists who provided professional development. MacNaughton made sure Glacier Valley had potters and teaching assistants every week.

"During this time the Canvas artists Saran Arnston, Dana White and Gina Frickey, modeled lessons for the students and provided training in the operation of the kiln for the staff," said Sielbach, who, along with Lindley and the students, learned the proper techniques in hand-building with clay. The adults also learned procedures needed in preparing clay, glazing, loading and firing the kiln, and proper technique for teaching students this art form.

The Clay Club had 47 students ages 6 through 11. Students in other Glacier Valley classes gave-week unit on hand-building with clay.

This collaboration was beneficial for both the Canvas and the Clay Club, MacNaughton said.

"The Glacier Valley after-school Clay Club offered a unique opportunity to offer training to the Glacier Valley staff from an experienced pottery teacher from The Canvas, as well as an opportunity for an adult artist who experiences a developmental disability to gain experience as a teaching assistant. The model worked well to support everyone involved, and most importantly, the students had the opportunity to enjoy learning about clay. It was a wonderful collaboration!" she said.

The Clay Club was supported by a grant from the Arts and Education Initiative, sponsored by the Rasmuson Foundation and administered by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

"The students got messy, playing in the clay," Seilbach said. "Many wonderful clay pieces were created and everyone involved learned something new." "Seilbach said she hopes to continue the partnership during the 2010-2011 school year.



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