Integrating Clay into the classroom- Part 2

The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences is working to Integrate Ceramic Arts into the Math, Earth Science, and Humanities classes. This work is made possible by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission and is a collaboration of the educators on staff and me, Malley Weber, a ceramic artist and instructor specializing in sustainable ceramic art practices.

This week in Earth Science class we headed out into the field. Emily Gribbs, the Earth Science instructor, has been working with the class on geological formations.  After learning how glaciers helped form our soilclaysamplingmwebergwhenvironment and create clay we looked at the campus with an eye for finding clay deposits. We noticed the sways and dips in the landscape and imagined how clay might settle into low sections. We thought about ponds and what holds the water in a pond.  After locating our first dig sight we found clay about 2 feet beneath the layer of topsoil. We measured out a small section and began mapping the depth of clay for about 20 different locations. We took turns recording information, digging and bagging clay samples which we will test over the next weeks for plasticity, shrinkage, and absorption.

In Humanities with instructor Ana Rothschild, we collectively created large coil vessels MeANSgroupcoilingNativepotsusing age old techniques and a community minded approach. We will continue our exploration of Native American life pushing westward and incorporating slip decorating techniques on our coiled vessels and will be firing our work in a primitive kiln.

In Math class with Brenda Poulin, we focused in on our design as well as measured out MeANSmathprojectsection of our board. We discussed the area of the square and how to fit our design into a tessellating tile pattern while maintaining our borders.  Accurate measuring, shrinkage calculation, and artistic design are woven into this challenging project. Students are learning the importance of good craftsmanship and why math matters.

During activity period some volunteer students helped harvest clays to be dried, sieved, and processed by hand. The hope is that we

can find enough usable clay on campus to make the rest of our ceramic art projects

Crushing the dry clay and picking out any rocks or twigs

Crushing the dry clay and picking out any rocks or twigs

over the winter. We are working on not taking more than we need and respecting our environment in the process while learning how art, science, math, and humans intersect.

If you’d like more information about this project you can contact me at For more information about MeANS check out their website at 

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