Re: block schedules and concern about clay drying out between classes.
- I have had a 90 minute art period with grades 3-5 for years and love it. Kids love it too. At the beginning of third grade when the kids are experiencing the longer period for the first time it takes some adjustments. In no time, though, they are working through the longer period and doing fine. I have plenty of "what can I do when I am finished" activities set up for them throughout the year. Those centers are modeling clay (which we recycle), mirrors for self-portraits, small sculptures of horses, cows, pigs, etc. that kids can set up for look and draw, pictionary, sewing boxes, pearl cotton skeins that kids can use to make friendship bracelets or play string games, a fashion drawing center, calligraphy, stamping, the scrap cart for collage, etc. etc. Most of our projects take 2-3 weeks to complete, and when they are finished they can work in the centers or draw or paint independently with their own ideas or those from the idea box. I love the continuity that kids latch onto with the longer periods. As for your concern about clay drying out, as long as you have some layers of damp paper towels or damp sponges inside of a sealed up plastic bag, they last a few weeks that way. With some of my younger kids, I have their clay in big plastic bag lined boxes with damp paper towels layered over the top and then the plastic bag sealed up tight inside the box. That way, we could even go through the holidays if I just came in once or twice to check the towels on top and reseal the box. I have a technique I really love for the right amount of dampness in the towels. You don't want the clay to be soggy and slippery, nor to dry out. I take a package of single fold paper towels and soak them (still as a block of towels out of the package) in a bucket to get them thoroughly wet. Then I take out the towels (still as a block shape, just totally wet) and lay them in my sink. I press down hard on them to squeeze out as much water as I can that way. Then, for kids wrapping up individual work in a plastic bag in their bin, I hand each kid a group of stuck together towels about 1/2 inch thick. They stand over the sink with their towels and wring out water from their block of towels until no more water can be squeezed out. Then we take hold of the top towel and pull up. All of the towels stay stuck together as you pull up but they open out into a long strip of damp towels. We just lay the clay in the bottom of the box and drape all of these damp towels over the top of their clay, several layers thick. Then they seal up the bags and put them back in the cabinet. For the younger kids whose clay I collect into big plastic lined boxes, I simply drape the clay over the top of the big box about 4-5 layers thick. The most important part is that the towels start out saturated all the way through, then you wring them out until there are no drips. It provides the perfect amount of dampness to keep the clay just like you want it for a long time.