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Taking Matters into Their Own Hands

High School Students Create Ceramics at Home

Teacher Lorienne Solaski poses next to some of her students' ceramics work.

When Hastings High School teacher Lorienne Solaski saw the COVID-19 pandemic changing how her ceramics class students learn, she took matters into her own hands and put clay into theirs.

Faces Since her ceramics course requires materials that are not readily available at home, Solaski took time during the summer months to create clay-making kits for her students to take home. The kits enabled the students to fully experience the Ceramics I course regardless of whether they were attending class in a hybrid or fully remote environment.

“None of the kids had access to clay or glazing,” she said. “Ceramics is an all hands-on activity and all the materials are in the room.”

Armed with their artisanal take-home kits, students could complete their projects from home. However, Solaski said that distributing the take-home kits was not as simple as it seemed. Given the possibly hazardous nature of clay dust, she had to make sure the students could keep themselves and their homes safe.

“That was a huge endeavor. I had to have certain safety measures that everyone understood before sending the kits home,” she said. “But it was worth it because the only way to learn ceramics is by doing it with your hands.”

So far, Solaski said, the project is going really well. There are even some unexpected benefits.

tile “It’s a nice hands-on activity for the students to do when they are at home and on a screen all day,” she said. “I think that it’s therapeutic for a lot of students.”

Solaski has also noticed a change in the artistic process. Although students have missed the social interaction that comes with always working together in the studio, there are benefits to working on their own.

“I’ve found craftsmanship this year to be really high and I’ve seen more unique projects than years before,” she said. “I think the amount of time they’re taking to refine projects, the work has been more personal and they have added in more of themselves, especially when they are at home and not influenced by people around them."

Solaski said that since she provided the kits, she has found more and more of the students using them after school, working with the extra equipment in their free time.

“What’s great about having clay at home is that they have this material now and they are able to make their own projects after they finish the ones that are for school,” she said. “A couple of them have made their own things that weren't part of the assignment.”

With students now submitting their finished pieces of work, Solaski said the results speak for themselves and the students are speaking up about how ceramics at home gives them the time to unwind from other subjects.

“It is kind of a recharging class for other academic periods because it is an active physical activity working with and manipulating materials,” she said. “There aren’t many classes where they are getting that experience.”

Solaski said she is overjoyed at the success of her kits and also hopes that they have shown her students the option of taking up the clay outside of school to continue their ceramics work long after the class is completed.

“Of course we have kilns in the school but there are also ones in the community,” she said.

“It’s something they can continue to do at home now if they want to.”