I was working with a group of K-2nd graders, mostly kindergartners. In the past hands-on help
was often needed when working with clay, but no one was available to help on that day. I read “The Mixed up Chameleon” by Eric Carle, a story about a lizard who wishes to be like
other animals. His wishes come true and he becomes “mixed up” and unable to catch a fly. In the end he wishes to be himself again and when this wish is granted he is able catch the fly. I asked the class if they could guess why it’s a favorite story and they had many insightful reasons to like the book. Finally one student astutely said, “It works best to be you.” “That’s it,” I said and asked
“How does it feel to try and be like someone else?” “And how does it feel to be yourself?” Then
we talked about some basic ideas for creating with clay. My goal was to let them create whatever
they wanted out of clay. This open-ended option had the potential to be chaotic with kids using different techniques all at the same time and no helper. Fortunately each child chose a project that would utilize the same technique of sticking two pinch pots together to create a body for the base of an animal. We sat around the table and went through the steps together. Everyone was absorbed and enjoying rolling, squeezing, and forming the clay into shapes. I taught the scoring method to attach one piece of clay to another. When I reminded one child of this technique, he said, “It is O.K. with me, then I’ll have an angry bird with an eye popped out.” He knows that artwork does not need to live up to an expectation to be valuable. Being ourselves lets each unique individual part fall into place in art and life. A harmonious class gives me a sense of peace in my work, of peace with my place in the world.