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Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
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Taking the Measure of a Mug

In Jane McGinty’s art class, fifth graders have been working with clay while also putting their math skills to the test! This month, students created mugs out of slabs of clay and pieced them together to create beautiful and functional pieces of pottery. 

At times during this project, Jane’s art studio sounded more like a math classroom as the conversation revolved around circumference, diameter, ratio, cylinders, and the importance of cutting on a 45-degree angle. “As I’m using all these terms, the kids are noticing that there’s actually a lot of math in art!” says Jane. 

Each student began by learning how to measure and cut a 10 x 4-inch piece of clay. Jane talked about how the circumference of the body of the mug is 10 inches while the diameter of the bottom that they need to cut is 4 inches. Students learned how to cut on a 45-degree angle to create a stronger mug that would stand up instead of sink into itself. They explored a variety of handles and discussed how the top has to be perpendicular to the bottom and attached to the mug at another 45-degree angle. As students used slip, the “glue” for the clay, they learned that the ratio of the water to the clay is very important and they slipped and scored their handles to attach them to the mug. Around the top rim of the mug, each student carved a quote from a favorite character in their independent reading book and then smoothed out the rim to ensure that their mug would have a nice lip to drink from. Around the sides, they added textures and patterns of their own choosing and experimented with how many fingers can fit in the negative space of the handle so that it would be comfortable to hold.  

Once the body and design of the mug were complete, students added a foot so that once the mugs are dried and fired they can be held by the foot and dipped into the colorful glaze of their choosing. Jane plans to have the mugs ready before Thanksgiving break so that students can enjoy hot chocolate and whipped cream out of their mugs to celebrate their creativity and hard work!
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