Thursday, February 25, 2016

Clay Crest

Last month Grade 4 constructed the Alberta provincial crest out of clay.

The students did a terrific job and they were quite proud of them.  Great tie in with social studies.

Now you could adapt this to fit whatever province you are in.


- 1 box of low fire clay, buffstone or white for each class
- fabric mats, optional (if you work a lot with clay this are handy to have)
- rolling pin
- wooden skewer, penny nail
- small cup of water
- reference photos of the crest
- glazes or acrylic paint depending on what finish you want


I pre roll all the slabs for the class.
Cut a 1inch thick slice off the clay block, place on your fabric mat and roll to about 3/4's of an inch even thickness.

I will place these on a garbage bag that I have cut open, (down 1 side and across the bottom. I usually have mine on a cart as I'm moving from room to room.  I can get 6 or 8 on the top of the cart.  I then fold over the end of the garbage bag to cover the slabs and put another layer on top.

I will pre roll all I need for a morning or afternoon and the plastic garbage bag keeps the clay soft.

In the classroom each student gets a mat, a wooden skewer, a nail, and they share a small cup of water (every 2 kids).

We look at our reference material, I draw out the shape of the crest on the board and then I get them to first trace the shape using their finger onto the slab.

I like to check them before they cut to ensure the size is large enough and that the shape is good.
If they need to trace it out again just rub a little water on the surface to smooth out the 1st attempt.

Using the nail cut out the shape.

I get them to dip their finger in water and smooth the edges.

Using the skewer we lightly divide our shape into 3 sections.

I stress lightly as we don't want to cut our shape, it's just a line on the surface of the clay.

I asked them to make the middle section the largest as we have a lot to fit in there.

We start at the top of the design and work our way down.

For the cross we cut a long strip. I remind them that we use the nail for cutting and the stick for scratching.

By now they are very used to my 'scratch, scratch, water, water' chant but we say out loud a few times to remind everyone.

To attach the strip we make surface scratches (scoring) both on the crest and the strip. (scratch, scratch)

We then dip our finger in the water and rub a little on the scratches. (water,water)

I tell the kids you then get the scratches to kiss and that is how we glue one piece of clay to another.

The kiss analogy works great, they never forget it.

Cut 2 little strips for the rest of the cross.

Continue working through the sections using the 'scratch, scratch, water, water' method to add your pieces.

With the mountains you can make it all in one piece or indvidual ones.

For the wheat stalks I showed them 2 methods.

- cut a strip and scratch on the kernels or
- form each kernel seperately and add or
do both.

When finished we gently turned over in our hands ( a partner can help) and scratch our name and year onto the bottom.

Set clay crests aside somewhere on paper towels to dry out undisturbed.
I tend to use the tops of the bookcases in the library.
Depending on your climate the clay will dry out in 1-2 weeks.  To check hold it up to your cheek. I find clay is always a bit cold even when dry but if it feels damp give it more time.

Do the bisque fire when dry.  You can then paint using clay glazes (I love Mayco Stroke and Coat) or acrylic paint.

If you choose glaze it will need to be fired a second time.

Great job Grade 4!



  1. These are wonderful!! Is there any way to get this result doing them at home with my homeschoolers? I know they would love it.

    1. Biggest issue at home is probably access to a kiln, you could make them out of air dried clay instead, Crayola has a good product and then paint with acrylic. If you want that shiny finish you could also put a sealer on top of the acrylic when it is dry. I like Duraclear Gloss which you can get at Michaels.
      Hope that helps.