Clay Artist Builds On Textbook Lessons

April 29, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

HAMPSTEAD — An art teacher at Spring Garden Elementary is using clay sculptures to help students bring to life the ancient cultures they're studying.

As an extra boost, Jan Rouse Van Bibber brought in Baltimore artist Rodney Jackson to work with the fourth- and fifth-graders.

Jackson, 20, teaches at the Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington and is a ceramics major at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He remembers his own school days in England and Miami, Fla., when lessons in books alone just didn't come to life for him.

"Everything was so hazy," he said. "The way it's taught now, it's being clarified."

Making a sarcophagus is a lot more interesting than just reading about one, Jackson said. That's how fifth-graders are supplementing their lessons about Egyptian culture.

In music, they listened to the opera "Aida," set in ancient Egypt, said Jason Peltzer, a fifth-grader and son of Elaine and Barry Peltzer of Duncan Lane.

Fourth-graders are studying the Middle Ages and are building clay castles under Jackson's guidance.

The construction for each was simple -- starting with a small box made of five slabs and open at the top. It served as the vault for the sarcophagus, or the foundation in the case of the castles.

For the castles, Jackson showed the fourth-graders how to build on the foundation with one clay brick at a time, using tools to attach the bricks.

"We'll just keep building until we run out of time," Jackson told the children. "The ones that aren't finished will look like really authentic castle ruins, so don't be discouraged if time runs out."

Jason said he enjoyed making a structure, because it was easier to make a good sarcophagus than a good duck or bird.

"You could make it look old and wrinkly," he said, and it would still be realistic.

Rouse Van Bibber said she likes to stretch subjects across the curriculum and show children the art behind the subjects they study in other classrooms.

Even in her class, she tells the fourth-graders what is behind the castle design, such as the cross-shaped windows.

"The cross was not a religious sign, but was for the crossbows," she said. "They were narrow to shield the archers. The arrows couldn't go in very well, but they certainly could goout."

Bringing in Jackson to work with the children is a way to capture their interest and bring a new perspective, she said.

Jackson said teaching helps him as an artist.

"When I have to put something into words, it makes a lot of the theories I'm working with moreconcrete," he said.

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