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By Jane Bower — is a consultant to primary schools in art, drama, dance and literacy

Get your hands dirty with some clay – and try building your own sawdust kiln

Before children pick up a piece of clay, it is important for them to recognise what it is they’re working with. Emphasise to them that clay is earth, and not Plasticine, play-dough or air-drying ‘clay’, as these behave very differently (and comparing them makes a valuable science topic). You don’t need an electric kiln to turn it into pot (see opposite), and it is also wonderfully cheap!

Working with clay

To present children with a neat, ready-rolled ball of clay when they first meet it is to omit giving them a vital basic understanding of the material. I prefer to introduce clay by heaving the bag on to the table (buy 12.5kg bags – anything bigger is not heavable!). This action alone provides two teaching points: first, what makes the clay so heavy (it is composed of soil and water); and secondly, why is it stored in a sealed plastic bag (because air causes it to dry out).

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