(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
It was a lesson to remember. West Seattle Montessori teacher Matt Whittemore invited us to stop by as he fired up a hands-on learning experience in his backyard last Saturday. Whittemore’s class (the Horned Owls 1-3) has been studying early man; their culminating project was glazing pottery and seeing it fired in a backyard kiln and pots in the Raku pottery method. WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams captured the scenes.
“Our unit of study coincided with our study of early man and his basic needs and our yearly school auction,” Whittemore explained. “During our class conversations, we talked about basic needs such as eating, shelter, and clothes and where those items came from. The goal was to get the students thinking about what it might have been like to have to discover everything. Humans only had their natural resources to learn, utilize, and adapt from. So, I did some research on the ‘Raku’ style of pottery and took on the project.”
“The kids made the pots in the classroom in small groups. We air-dried them and then Bethany Woll bisque-fired them to remove any moisture and prepare them for glazing.”
On Saturday, students glazed their pottery during a beautiful day for outdoor projects. According to their teacher: “The kids all glazed their own pottery pieces. Bethany and I operated the kiln, maintaining temp, watching the glazes liquefy, and moving the pieces to the ceramic pots for the final reduction.”
Students and parents watched as Whittemore and Woll loaded students’ work into the kiln.
Parents helped throw shredded paper and sawdust to create the fire and smoke, carefully covered to seal in the goodness.
The pottery was placed into a pot for post-fire reduction during the Raku process.
Summarized Whittemore: “At the end of the day, it was the process that mattered, the community, and the knowledge that there were a lot of happy kids that will remember this for a long time to come.”
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