Ceramics at Disney Elementary

Walt Disney Elementary School | Funded Spring 2018

To diversify the visual arts curriculum at Walt Disney Elementary, teachers, parent volunteers, and teaching artists worked together to begin a ceramics program in the 2018-19 school year. During the program’s first year, teachers at each grade level choose a ceramic project to make that was unique to their grade. The teaching artist then went into every classroom to instruct students on how to make their clay creation, and every student at the school fully completed one ceramics project. Both classroom teachers and parent volunteers had training sessions with the teaching artists to provide them with the skills to continue the program for years to come.

An unexpected outcome of the ceramics program was found in a newly-formed relationship with the Burbank Creative Arts Center, located across the street from Disney Elementary. Parent volunteer and Clay Coordinator, Jennie Ford, reached out to the center for guidance and help with fixing broken clay pieces and tips for kiln operation. According to Jennie, “We have since developed a relationship with the lady who runs the ceramics program for Burbank, and she is willing to help us any time we needed it. She lent me materials to fix projects, introduced me to other helpful tips to make our program more successful, put me in contact with a possible teaching artist for the future, and came over to see our kiln while observing a glazing session. She gave us some glazes they weren’t used, and she educated the kids on the art exhibits she runs next door. Some classes actually did a walking field trip over there to see the art exhibits!”

Throughout the project, several awesome challenges were also encountered. Changes in teaching artists, delays in supply ordering, weather preventing projects from drying, kiln issues, and scheduling all caused changes to the program’s timeline and scope. By the school year’s end, however, these obstacles had been overcome and the program was a success that the teachers and parents at Disney Elementary look forward to building upon in the future.

“Kids love to create, and they love to get messy. This project offered a unique outlet where process and product could be a harmonious experience. Students used practical problem-solving skills, like math and physics, to create a functional and beautiful piece of art they were proud of. Seeing the joy on the students’ faces when they created something was an overwhelmingly heartwarming feeling. I had some easily distracted students completely engage and remain excited to participate. It allowed those who may struggle with focus a tactile way to problem solve, I loved the program and have yet to meet a child who would disagree.” – Jen Klein, Teaching Artist

4th Grade Disney Elementary Teacher, Hilde Garcia, describes why this project was important for students (click the image to enlarge):

“The impact of the program was beneficial for all students and teachers. It was something new and felt very creative. Even though one project was assigned to each grade level, every student put their own creative touch on it and our projects showed the diversity that we celebrate at our school. A specific story about the impact on one student is about a boy who would be classified as very high needs in 2nd grade, who came in to glaze his cupcake project for his mom. He was very focused for 30 minutes and very particular about what he wanted to paint. He wanted to paint the heart ‘just right’ and kept saying how much he loved doing this. It was surprising to hear from a boy who has trouble concentrating and controlling himself.” -Jennie Ford, Disney Elementary Parent & 2019 Clay Coordinator

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