Author Archives: anavapanich

No Kiln, No Problem


I love doing clay projects with my students. We have never had a kiln at one of my schools and I was told it is not possible because of fire insurance.

Because we have over 1,000 students, I use a clay from Laguna Clay called Mexal or Mexico White. It is an air dry clay that has a similar texture and hardness of kiln fired. I get it from Freeform Clay in National City. It can be delivered to your site or you can order it and then pick it up from their warehouse.

Once it dries, we use Jazz Gloss Tempera to paint them because that paint has a similar look to kiln fired glaze. To seal them you can use an acrylic spray.

Kindergarten necklaces are here.

Grade one plant plaques are here.

Grade two suns are here.

Grade three pinch pots are here

Grade four wall pockets are here

Grade five colonial houses are here

In my after school classes which are small, I have done some DIY Cold Porcelain. Those sculptures are always done on a small scale. Here is a unicorn on a marbled paper backdrop and some lovely mermaids.

I just did some bread dough lids with a few after school students. I have been making these since I was a child. I think my mom got the idea from Dough it Yourself the Morton Salt recipe book from the 70’s.

These sculptures are done on the tops of metal lidded glass jars. A great way to re-purpose an old jam or pickle jar! The lids must be metal so they can be baked in the oven at a low temp.

Here are the recipes I have used for different clay projects:

Cold Porcelain (The mermaid and unicorn are from this clay)

1 cup of cornstarch, 1 cup of white glue, 2 Tbsp of baby oil, and 2 Tbsp of lemon juice.

Cook on stove until until it holds together and pulls away from pan sides or microwave  at 15-second intervals, stirring between each one. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes until it cools. Wrap it tightly and let it rest for 24 hours.


Bread Dough-(Jar lids were done with this)

1 cup flour, 1 cup salt,  1 cup water. Mix well. Create items, air dry over several days or bake at 250 degrees F until dough is hard.


White Baking Soda Dough: (Not pictured but makes great cut out ornaments)

1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 cup baking soda, 3/4 cup water

Pour all ingredients into a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring consistently. When mixture has thickened and looks like mashed potatoes, remove from saucepan. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp towel.  Let rest 30 minutes, until dough is cool enough to work with. Knead dough thoroughly to get out any air bubbles.  Roll out dough 1/4″ thick.

Cut out your shapes and or stamp with an image. If dough begins to crack and dry, wrap in a damp towel and microwave 10- 15 seconds.  This should make the dough moist and make it workable again.

When complete, bake at 175 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.  Then flip over and bake an additional 45-60 minutes, or until all ornaments are hard.  Cool completely and spray with a clear protective coating.

Apple Cinnamon Dough (Love to make this as package ties for gifts. They smell so good)

2 cups of unsweetened applesauce, 2 cups of cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon White Glue

Mix well. Sprinkle counter top with cinnamon, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters, and place ornaments on a baking sheet. Can air dry over several days or oven dry in a 200° F oven for about 2-2.5 hours. Can also sand rough edges after they dry.


Kool-Aid Playdough (A fun dough to make for young children. Smells great and the colors don’t come off on your hands)

1 Cup Flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 Envelope Unsweetened  Kool-Aid, 2 tsp. cream of tartar, 1 cup water, 1 Tbsp. oil

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium saucepan until blended. Stir in water and oil. Cook on medium heat 5 min. or until mixture forms ball, stirring frequently. Cool before using.



Creativity at the Core Summer Institute Days 2 and 3



Day 2 of Creativity at the Core started out with Intensive Workshops most of which were off site at local museums, theaters, or dance studios. I chose the Museum of Photographic Arts: Visual Literacy Workshop. We started with an overview of the history and purpose  of the museum and then did a docent led tour of the exhibitions. We looked at several images from the Moment in Time Exhibition. At each stop, the docent led us in an inquiry based discussion and we talked about ways to use these strategies in the classroom.

We also looked at works by Erica Deeman, George Hurrell, and then into their interactive gallery.  Once the tour was complete, we went to the library to create a curated exhibit of our own using pre-printed images from the collection, foam core, tape, and markers. Each group was told to pretend they were curating an exhibition and could choose the theme and the display. This lesson could be replicated easily in the classroom and gives a great deal of latitude to be able to curate an exhibition of anything from art to animals to rocks. They gave each of us a thumb drive with the images so that we can create our own.

Our lunch Speaker was Dr. Ivonne Chand O’Neal, Muse Research. She talked about the creative process, creativity and the research she and her colleagues have been doing in this field.

She also talked about how the arts can help improve student learning outcomes.

For the afternoon session, I chose her breakout which was all about failure. Making it okay to fail allows us to have great success. She had each group make a vehicle out of art supplies that would take us to Mars. Each group had to create a sales pitch and during the creating of the vehicle, were given a card with something that created failure.

Our plenary session was with Francisca Sanchez and several musicians. Francisca discussed the CCSESA Handbook about Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Art Teaching. She talked about the power of the arts in decolonizing the classroom to reach all students. We split into table groups and came up with soundtracks for a children’s book that each group chose. Music, dance, collage, language, literature.

One musician, Miles Jay, said “Music allows us to communicate without words.” Miles flew from Turkey and came straight to the conference to share his music and words with us.

Day three began with remarks from Sarah Anderberg. That was followed by a presentation about Creativity at the Core Module 19:  Developing Empathy and Understanding through World Music with Pauline Crooks and Aaron Bryan who developed the module. Because The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association Arts Initiative, these modules are available to be used in classrooms at no charge.

It was a fun interactive session that discussed the research around music and empathy and how music connects cultures and helps develop appreciation for diversity. I chose to attend the presentation bi Lindsay Weiss, Ed.D on The Why, the What, and the How of Increasing Inclusion. She talked about Universal Design for Learning and how it can be used to reach students with special needs.

After Lunch, there was a special closing with the Chula Vista Music teachers. They came in singing and then taught us a song in the round and we all joined in.

Being with so many VAPA leaders and educators was really amazing. It is so refreshing to be in a place where everyone in the room from a district superintendent to a researcher, to a VAPA coordinator, to a teacher recognize the value of visual and performing arts as an integral part of the curriculum and are all finding methods to bring the arts into the classroom in meaningful ways.


Please note

Creativity at the Core Summer Institute Day 1


In July, I attended a Summer Conference at the County Office of Education. It was a 3-day institute that was all about art education across all arts disciplines as well as the California State Standards and the Create California Campaign.  Teachers, administrators, superintendents, VAPA leads and teaching artists all connected for hands on learning, informational workshops and optional field trips.

We learned about CCSESA’s new professional learning modules and got to experience a few of them. Those modules were developed by County Offices of Education and Arts Partner Organization Leaders.

Day 1 Opened with a welcome from Pauline Crooks, Dr. Paul Gothold, and Dr. Gary Waddell.

We did an opening activity with Steve McCormick from the LaJolla Playhouse. One where we lined up by height, the next lining up by birthday without speaking.

Letty Kraus spoke about the revisions to the California VAPA standards and how they differ from the National Core Arts Standards.

Then we went to morning break out sessions. I chose the STEAM presentation with Amy Bultena from Stanislaus County Office of Education.

We made 3D birds (chosen from photos of CA endangered birds) with Crayola model magic, covered them in feathers, added wire feet, then linked them to a makey-makey and wrote basic code to have them chirp, go to a web page or have a voice speak about the bird.  This was a 2 part session for both morning and afternoon. This lesson aligned with CCSS Language Arts, CCSS Math, NGSS Science and CA Arts Standards. Students read, write, sketch, plan, engineer, sculpt, build, write code, and present their projects. It was a fun information filled workshop.

Amy also shared other Visual Arts Integrated Curriculum Projects that she developed and that Stanislaus COE sells for a small fee. After leafing through her books, I realized that I have been integrating Visual Arts for about as long as I have been teaching. What a great resource for teachers to have lesson plans like this that have been already created with clear instructions, and the standards listed.


We had a lunch session with Mary Rice and Pat Wayne detailing the Create CA project as well a the Arts Education Data Collection Project.

When the afternoon sessions ended, we gathered together for a Plenary Session where we collaborated in small groups to make sculptural faces from planks of wood. After creating, groups came together and discussed ways they could add on to the lesson and each group told a story about the “person” they created.



Plant Plaques



The first grade students were studying plants and flowers so this was a project designed with that in mind. All of my classes did clay this year using Mexal Air Dry Clay made by Laguna Clay Company. Without a kiln, this is a good alternative.

Students were given a blob of clay and then instructed to flatten it and cut a rectangular or square shape to create a flat surface that they could press found objects into or draw onto to create flower images.

Once the plaques were dry, the students used Jazz Gloss Tempera to paint them. I did not seal them but that certainly could and probably should be done to preserve them even further.


Picasso Cardboard Faces



This is a project I have done many, many times over the years. It is super inexpensive as I use scrap cardboard from just about anything you can imagine. Sometimes, the cardboard is from a package insert like the one above left and already has interesting shapes pressed in. Other times it is just a flat scrap.


Typically I do this lesson when I look around the art room and see that I have been gifted copious amounts of cardboard from the librarian and others or I have just unpacked a supply order or I am at the tail end of supplies and realize I need a lesson to fill in the gaps before my order arrives.


Whatever the case, the students always enjoy this lesson as it is fun and colorful and they can make it as elaborate or as simple as they want to.


For this lesson, the students were given pre-cut rectangles of cardboard. If they wanted a different shape, I offered to cut them on the paper cutter. They also had a few trays of assorted scraps of cardboard to get them started. They could cut the cardboard pieces to their liking. Thicker cardboard is more challenging to cut so if students asked me to, I would help them cut. I always tell them to try things first before they ask for help. I have found when given that directive, they often surprise themselves with how capable they are.


They glued the shapes on with white glue and added color with pastels. They completed this lesson in 45 minutes start to finish including a quick PowerPoint about Picasso and cubism.


Newspaper Animal Portraits


As the school year winds down, supplies seem to be at a premium. I do my best to be very budget conscious since my program is funded entirely through the generosity of parents and our foundation. Because of this, I tend to slide in to the last few weeks of art with just enough paper, paint and glue to get us through to the end of the year.

This is one of those lessons that is easy to do on a budget with a few donated newspapers and some scraps of construction paper. I usually have a good sized bin of paper scraps by the end of the year and I have a stack of newspaper from a few years ago so that made this project even easier. I first showed students some examples I had made and then I demoed how to cut different animal heads, ears, snouts, and bodies for the students and they chose what animal they wanted to create and how they wanted to create it.

If you do an online search for newsprint animals you will likely have even more examples of this lesson to choose from. These were our version and we completed them in one 45 minute session.

Necklaces with Air Dry Clay



The Kindergarten students created beads with me for their clay project this year. We used Mexal white air dry clay from Laguna Clay Company.  For our first session, I modeled how to make a medallion and beads. We talked about how we could make our beads into cylinders, spheres, cubes, or cones. It was their choice.

I modeled each shape and let them create. This was a great way to reinforce shapes they were learning about in math class. The students then made a medallion and as many beads as they could make in our 30 minutes together.

When they returned for their next lesson, they painted their beads with Jazz gloss tempera paint made by Van Aken paint company. It is sticky and smells weird but dries quickly. When it is dry, it looks a lot like kiln fired glaze. You can add a coating of clear nail polish or clear acrylic spray to seal them but I did not.

Because we had finished all of our art lessons for the school year, I had to send the beads and medallions back to the teachers and they worked out how to make necklaces in their own time. The necklaces pictured here were assembled with pony beads and rexlace. Rexlace is the plastic lacing made by the Pepperell Company and is used by many campers and scouts for boondoggles and lanyards.

Great job Kindergarten!

Surf City


Just when my Third Graders needed a summery lesson for their last project of the school year, I discovered Heather Brown’s art. She is an artist who lives in Hawaii and makes the most beautiful paintings many of which have surfers and the ocean and/or scenes from Hawaii.

Students used black crayon for their images and liquid tempera to paint with. They came up with their own beach scenes. I wanted them to be able to mix different values of blue as Heather Brown does. I did encouraged them to include a surfer or two but they did not have to. Several students decided to go over the black crayon with black oil pastel when they were finished. Even if the paintings were wet, they still could use the pastel to get a stronger black line

A perfect lesson to kick off summer!


Kindergarten Collage Flowers


One of my favorite things to do is show my youngest students the magic of a square. Cut it in half and you get two rectangles. But if you cut it in half diagonally, you get two triangles.


When you cut the tip off the triangle, you get a trapezoid. If you cut all the corners off and round the edges, its a circle. It is always fun to teach these youngest artists how to manipulate shapes to make objects.


The students were given a few different sized squares as well as pre-cut circles, long skinny green rectangles and I brought in my bucket of paper scraps.


I modeled how to cut the square and how to make different shaped flowers. You can see that I modeled the pinwheel type flower and the tulip like flower. I encouraged them to decorate the vases and create more flowers if they wanted to.

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I really think this one is fun:


This student did their own flowers in their own way! I just wish I had time to talk with each and every one of them hear their thought process. We spent 30 minutes on this lesson from start to finish including clean up. Whew!

Clay Colonial Houses



For my Grade 5 students, we did Colonial Houses with our air dry clay. Typically, I have done these as a watercolor project but because we were doing clay this year. I felt that it would be a good tie in to their Social Studies Curriculum.

We used bamboo skewers, pencils, plastic forks, and plastic knives as our tools. I do have a few clay tools but not a class set so using these inexpensive tools worked just fine. I put several examples of Colonial Houses from Williamsburg up on our screen in the classroom so that they had references.

We discussed what the houses might be made from: brick or wood. We talked about all the things they needed to include in the buildings such as windows, doors, siding, chimneys, steps. etc.  We also talk about the Salt Box house with its 2 story front, pitched roof and one story back.


I pretty much let them go off on their own after we talked about the buildings, things they might want to include and the characteristics of the air dry clay. I always like to see what creative things they come up with.