Red Trunk Project

sample Oaxaca trunk

Sample Lessons: POTTERY

Support materials:

Clay for making a pot

Mini Docs:
1) How to prepare clay and make a ceramic container

2) How ceramics are used.

  • By inquiry and questioning, encourage students to determine uses for the ceramics. How does the object’s form follow its function? How are the objects decorative and practical at the same time? Students then create a storyboard or commercial and if this truly ancient object were suddenly the “hot” item to sell at stores. Students who research the object in more depth and then write a persuasive essay on why this is the best tool for the function needed. (NYS Arts 1; Literacy.W.3.1)
  • Compare the three types of pottery for similarities and differences. In what ways are they different?  Even in the relative small area of the Valley of Oaxaca, note the differences among the ceramic forms. Why do students think this occurs? Are there other examples of regional differences on the same objects in the Trunk? e.g. “huipiles” may have the same shape but look at the designs. Can students think of something similar in their own lives?  
    (NYS SS 3.1; 3.3; 3.4; 3.5;3.6; SS Practices A, D)
  • Show students clay before it’s fired.  Where does clay comes from?  Explore a map of Mexico to find river banks that could be the source of clay, especially in Oaxaca. What else could be made of clay?  (NYS SS 3.3; SS Practices A, D)
  • Explore other objects made of clay both from other regions of Mexico and from other parts of the world. What is similar about all of them?  How do they differ?  What does this suggest about different cultures and their uses of clay? (NYS SS 3.5; 3.6)
  • Show students clay before it’s fired, after air-drying and after it is fired in a kiln. How do these three stages of clay differ? What is clay? What’s the advantage of firing clay in a kiln versus letting it air dry? Show photos/video of a kiln and discuss the process of firing a pot. Have students create a pinch pot or other small vessel of clay and explore the firing process with them. If a kiln is available, include glazing the pottery to show the way color and coatings are added. This lesson is more about process than product; allow time for reflection on the process and what it suggests about the culture of people who created the objects they just explored. (NYS Arts 1, 2)

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