When You Take the ‘C’ in Clay and Replace it with a ‘P’, You Get?

June 24, 2021
Charissa Delima
Sam Lock


School: Scotch College 

Year Group: Pre-Kindergarten 

Teacher: Samantha Lock

Creative Practitioner: Charissa Delima

Creative Practice: Visual Art

“I want to play” said a three-year-old child. “That one!” He said pointing to the balls of clay on the table. So, he sat on a chair, took a clay ball, broke it into chunks and started exploring the material. I wondered if he knew that through clay he was instigating play and not the other way around?

The culture at the Early Learning Centre at Scotch College is based loosely on play. With so many theories and types of play, where and how can the Creative Schools program fit in? 

During the initial meeting, Samantha and I collaborated developing ways to enhance play-based learning in more challenging, yet fun ways. The idea was to expand learning by working around the central idea of 'senses', following the International Baccalaureate, the curriculum used at the school. We agreed that introducing the Five Habits of Learning through modelling and action was a good idea. As the early years are full of children in an imaginative and inquisitive state, they would start from here and slowly show what collaborative, persistent and discipline looks like. These three-year-olds thrive through exploring, observing, questioning, and experimenting. To them this is play, which resonates with a quote from O. Fred Donaldson - “Children learn as they play. More importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.”

Setting up an open-ended environment was one way to invite the children to look closer, to be curious and want to investigate what the offering is. Children are little researchers, they learn by using their senses to explore how things work. They need to be able to see, touch, taste, smell, move, and hear the things they are learning about. 

“While researching to refresh my thinking on the theories of play and what it looks like, learning through senses has been emphasised repeatedly. I’ve learned that this is called ‘concrete learning’.” - Creative Practitioner 

“We have spent a lot of time outside, venturing to bush school or going on nature wanders. These times have been a cacophony of excitement and engagement. The children are used to leaving the class to explore nature, and Charissa being involved has added another creative dimension to the time we spend outdoors. Her approach of setting up an artistic experience and beginning a process that peaks children’s curiosity has meant that children come to an activity as they are ready.” - Teacher

The beauty of clay is the intentional building of a relationship with the material. Whether one realises or not, exploring clay means ‘all-in’; an embodied experience of senses through squeezing, pushing, pressing, rolling, and feeling the clay through both hands and feet. The action of manipulating the material into solid and/or liquid. The children could spend 10 minutes to 2 hours playing with clay, and through this experience, they learned to create a narrative embedded with the language of Science, Math, English, and Art.

“The beauty of Charissa’s open ended approach is that all styles of learning and concentration are accommodated. Children come to her and are welcomed. There is no expectation of a finished product, or how art should look. For me, it has been amazing having Charissa with us because it reaffirms my belief in the power of process-based art over product-based work. The act of making and being involved with materials is so enriching. I have been able to work with children on activities as Charissa engages with others so that the creative development has expanded.” - Teacher

So, what happens when you take the 'C' in clay and replace it with a 'P'? Oh, you have PLAY!