For Harrison Park, Coit Creative Arts Academy and Ottawa Hills High School, March 17 was more than St. Patrick’s Day –it was the day their schools each received a new school kiln.
“Every single learner loves clay,” said art teacher Karen Brady. “Clay is absolutely one of students’ favorite things to do. Working with clay, they are super engaged.”
Best of all, Mrs. Brady says clay projects are ideal for all kinds of learners.
“I’ve never had a student who didn’t enjoy working with clay,” she said. “Many of our students with special needs don’t like certain textures, but that’s never a problem working with clay. It helps develop motor skills and encourages discovery—it opens up a whole different world for kids.”
Because it’s right in her classroom, Mrs. Brady can show the kiln to students and demystify the process for them. The kiln also provides opportunities to explore other content areas beyond art. The chemical process that occurs in the kiln can fit into a science lesson. Delving into social studies and history, she can describe how Native Americans would get clay from the earth and the many ways they would use it in daily life. But Mrs. Brady’s favorite thing about the new kiln is that her students get a chance to make something meaningful—a lasting piece of art that their families can save and treasure.
In fact, studying visual arts in school is critical to helping all children learn, and arts education is one of only six factors proven to support child brain development. When visual arts experiences move from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, however, learning reaches a new level. Students learn spatial reasoning and proportionality. Projects become multi-step, from the initial envisioning of an idea all the way through implementation. And for our youngest students, working in clay and other three-dimensional media promotes hand strength, eye/hand coordination and dexterity.
For the high school students at Ottawa Hills, the kiln is an essential tool to meet educational standards for high school arts education. At this level, students gain advanced technical knowledge in working with different art media. In addition, students are expected to create and analyze art critically within social, historical and cultural contexts and make connections between their work and everyday life.
GRPS has a goal to ensure that every art classroom has access to a working kiln. These three kilns, as well as updates and repairs to two others, were the result of an ArtPrize-inspired fundraising event for the Student Advancement Foundation, held last October by XS Energy and Amway.
“Amway wholeheartedly supports the arts, as evidenced by our leadership commitment to ArtPrize, but we also support arts education for students,” said David Madiol, Amway’s manager of community relations. “We felt holding a fundraiser during ArtPrize for the Student Advancement Foundation’s arts education programming in Grand Rapids Public Schools would be the perfect fit.”