I am the kind of person that will try something until I get it right. Last year I did the clay castle project with my 5th graders. Because of many factors the project had little success. First of all, we made the project too big which made storing it without damage difficult. Second, we had “ice” days and a field trip that prevented work on the clay for a several weeks in a row that extended the overall project to over 6 weeks (originally planned on 3 for construction). For several students the clay began to crack, projects crumbled, and the kids were devastated…art teacher FAIL!
At that point I had two choices: either scrap the project as a dud and remove it from my future lesson plans or evaluate the failure points and redesign the lesson to make it successful. I loved the idea of this project and was determined to make it successful for the kids!
Won’t let that FAIL stop me!
The failure points were the two main factors above: size and duration of project. Fast forward a year to present-PROJECT WIN!
We changed the size of the cylinder from a pint size paint bottle to a 3/4th size cut Paper towel roll.
I made sure that there were going to be no planned interruptions on the school calendar and asked the classroom teacher for 10 extra minutes for the class for 3 weeks in a row.
These factors changed the outcome of this project to a success!
Additional Clay Castle posts that inspired our project:
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Learn how to roll slabs of clay using slats as guides to create even thickness.
Demonstrate proper score and slip techniques to join clay.
Apply various techniques for adding texture to clay.
Delivery/Activity: (3-50 minute classes)
Day 1: Body of Castle & Crenelated Wall
Using 1/4″ slats and a rolling pin, roll the slabs for the cylinder body and the top part of castle (the cutouts are called battlements).
Stuff the paper towel roll with newspaper to help stiffen it.
Roll the body of the castle around the paper towel roll so it overlaps about a 1/4″, trim the excess off with a needle tool. If the excess is large enough, you may be able to use it for the top part of the castle.
Score and slip the edges of the body together. Use a modeling tool with water on it to smooth out the “seam”.
For the top part of the castle, roll out with a rolling pin to make sure it fits around the body of the castle, but be careful to not roll it too thin!
Separately wrap the body & top of the castle in plastic wrap to prevent sticking together and then place in gallon size zip-lock bag with students name on bag. Keep any unused “extra” clay in the bag. Close the bag!
Watch the Video Tutorials of How We Made the Castle Body & Battlement
Day 3: Add Doors & Windows, Attached Castle to Base & Add Drawbridge
Preparation: Roll out slab and pre-cut to approximately 2×4″ (one per student)
Door: we lightly drew the door in (curved top or rectangle) with the needle tool, then added clay around the outside. Various size balls for a stone look and strips of flattened clay to look like a wood frame.Windows: Cut out windows with a needle tool. Either cut it completely out or cut out window panes. Again, to add surrounds around the outside use various size balls for a stone look and strips of flattened clay to look like a wood frame. Use the needle tool to draw in lines for the wood grain. You can also add a window ledge with a small slab of clay.
Score and slip to attach the body of the castle to the moat base. Press down & wiggle down to attach firmly! Smooth out any rough spots around the castle and base.
Drawbridge: give students draw-bridge. If they need to roll it a little to make it fit the space, make sure the press with the rolling pin very lightly!! If they want it to be slightly curved up, they need to gently rub the center of the back of the clay until the desired shape is formed. Score and slip to attach the drawbridge from the door to the top of the moat wall.
Scratch name/year into the side of the wall of the moat.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to start drying; leave loosely wrapped with plastic for 3-4 days. Because of the varied thickness of the clay, the drying time MUST be slowed down to prevent cracking.
Then take off the plastic wrap and allow to finish drying for another 7+ days.
When completely dry and bisque fire (preheat for 24 hours prior). We use earthenware-low fire clay (bisque first to cone 04), then glaze with cone 06 glazes (we use Mayco Stroke & Coat), add glaze to moat as well. Then add glass beads like the one in the floral department! Fire at cone 06 on medium speed. Don’t open kiln until the temperature is at or below 100 degrees!
Glaze (including where you will place the beads), add blue glass beads (don’t add them until the glaze firing-very important!) and fire again at cone 06 (any hotter cone may cause bubbling). The bisque firing is too hot for the glass and will cause bubbles and exploding of the glass inside the kiln. The glaze firing is less hot and for a shorter amount of time and the bubbling/exploding does not happen. Minor internal cracking may occur, but for us it has never chipped or left sharp edges. Always UNDER fill the area where the glass will be! If the glass overflows or leaks out of the clay it will stick to the shelf and it will be disastrous to get the piece off!
Of course, the glass beads are OPTIONAL!If you don’t feel comfortable adding the glass beads, just glaze the water part blue!
Watch the Video Tutorials of How We Made the Door, Windows, Castle Textures, Attached Castle to Base & Added Drawbridge