Clay Turtles


Clay projects are awesome for many reasons… That instant squeal of excitement, “We’re doing clay!? Yayy!” Every kid walking through my classroom door is instantly thrilled on clay day. I try to do at least two clay projects per class, every year. With all the classes I teach, I feel like my kiln always has a waiting line. When deciding on the perfect clay project I try to consider a few variables: What do my kids enjoy making? What is appropriate for their grade’s skill level? What cultural, moral lesson can I incorporate?

Having just watched “Before the Flood”, Leonardo Dicaprio’s latest environmental documentary (which is incredible by the way!), I decided to go with an environmental lesson. We look at Nat Geo’s Leatherback Turtle page. I read off some interesting information about their incredible size, and some fun facts that I know my third graders will enjoy. Then we read about why they are threatened… We discuss what we could do to limit our plastic use and get to work!

I really try to get clay projects with my younger grades finished in one, hour long, class period, otherwise we take the risk of things drying out and cracking.

What you need:

Let’s get started!

Step One:

Start by rolling a fist full of clay into a smooth ball. I tell my kids to hold their piece of clay in one cupped-hand and smack the corners with the other cupped hand, passing it back and forth until it’s round.

Step Two: 

Pat the ball into a pancake, about the width of a finger.

Step Three:

Hold the pancaked-clay gently in a cupped hand and use your thumb to mold it to your hand. We’re looking for a shallow, bowl shape.

Step Four: 

Roll four legs, a tail and a head between your hands using the rule of thumb; don’t make anything skinnier than your thumb! Using a toothpick or a needle tool, scratch up the spot where you will be attaching and the piece you are attaching like velcro. Use a dab of water for glue then squish the piece on.

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Step Five:

Smooth the whole turtle with a wet finger then decorate by drawing designs and details onto the turtle.

Now fire, glaze and enjoy your cute little turtle!


Student Examples: