Healey Junior, Infant & Nursery School

Radiant Rays, Durable Clays

Science Topic: Light

Participants: Year 3

Artist: Ammie Flexen

Cummins Buddy: Havovy Cama

Light might seem like an unusual study when we are working with clay when it is wet and sticky, but objects made of clay can be fired to be all colours and have shiny, reflective and even translucent qualities.  Taking our ideas from another Year 3 topic, we will be inspired by the history of the early Stone Age. We will be investigating the mysteries of how accidental discoveries can happen and testing out the wonders of clay for ourselves. By trial and error and careful recording, we’ll find out that sometimes we discover amazing things in unexpected ways. Ancient people used the sun to help them know the time of day and the seasons, and we will be exploring cyanotype papers and the effects of light and shadows in our art.

Session 1

Today for our first session, we met with Ammie and Havovy. Ammie is an artist who works mainly in clay and is a ceramicist. Ammie is working with us to develop our creative skills and explore clay. Havovy is a professional scientist/engineer who works at Cummins Turbo Technologies and is talking to us about science and working scientifically.

We worked with clay on a large scale, in builder’s trays on the floor. Our term topic is the Stone Age and we talked about how the first people might have discovered that clay dug from the ground can be changed by fire and made into pots and vessels to store or cook food. Havovy told us about her job at Cummins Turbo Technology and how their turbos are in machines all over the world. We created sculptures in clay based on Stone Age times, and learned skills like squeezing, pulling and pinching the clay. We learned that we can stretch, squeeze, stick and manipulate the clay into different shapes and stick them together. We discovered that we can make something bigger by working together as a team. We created the longest snake we could, that went around the room, then we built it into a tall pot. Havovy explained that at Cummins, they work in teams to solve problems.

Ammie gave us different objects made from clay to handle, and show us some of her work, including a porcelain lamp. 


We learned that there are different types of clay.  Some clay can be seen part way through, this is called translucent.

I learned that bricks are made of clay.

I didn’t know that clay came from under ground.

Durability is a new word we learned today.

If something is fragile, it means it is delicate and breaks easily.

A kiln is 5 or 6 times hotter than your oven!


Session 2

Today we experimented with testing the clay and testing out the effects of light.

Our first experiment used grey clay at three different stages of drying: wet, hard and bone dry. We added water to see what would happen and took note of our results. We noticed it changed colour and texture when it was wet.

We explored porcelain clay and made some shapes as thin as possible to see if we could make it translucent. We won’t know if it has worked until it is fired, and we can see if any light shows through it.

We made designs on acetate which is transparent, and then put those designs onto special cyanotype paper and placed it in the sun. The paper changed colour where the light could get through and created a shadow design.

At the end of the session, we projected images onto the wall with a light projector. Then we took turns to create shapes based on the hunter/gatherer dances we have been learning in our Stone Age topic. We drew around the shadows we made.

We are looking forward to our next session when we will be experimenting and creating our final piece of work for the exhibition.


I didn’t know that when you put the water in the clay that it would end up looking like mud.

I liked doing the light projection, it was really fun, I liked doing the drawings.

I liked the clay table, we got to put our hands in and feel what clay feels like.

Session 3

Today we began our work for the exhibition and tried some other activities so we could work in smaller groups. Havovy brought in an example of a turbo for us to examine and she talked to us about how they worked and how energy changes from one form to another. We thought of other examples, like how we eat food and it gives us energy to grow and do things. We explored making transparent designs with colour cellophanes and used a projector to see how the light shone through them and projected the colours on the wall.  With Ammie we learned a new technique of painting slips onto paper and then printed onto the clay. We made shapes with cut-outs that will allow the light to some through them. Ammie will put a clear glaze on them to make them reflect light more in the kiln, but it’s hard to imagine how they will change.

I liked the turbo engine bit because you learned some good facts.

I like the middle table. I liked the patterns we made with coloured cellophane.

As soon as you hold it up to the sun or the light the colours change and it’s brighter when you hold it up.

I enjoyed learning about the turbo and how big they can be.

It’s easier to learn about science by doing things

We are learning about teamwork as we share ideas and help each other

In class we mostly write in science, here we have fun.

Session 4

Today was a really busy workshop. We looked at the pieces we made last week and couldn’t believe how much they had changed in the kiln. The colours are much brighter and surface looks shiny and reflects the light. Deciding what to make together as a group was difficult as we all had different ideas. We are making some things on our own that will look effective together and we made some work as a team. First we made patterns with coils of clay and we made shapes, patterns and even pictures with them. It felt a bit strange because when we finished our idea, we had to smooth the clay together and the pattern disappeared. But when we turned it over, the pattern was on the other side and we were really proud of our work. Ammie is going to fire our plates with really shiny glazes on them, so they reflect the light. Next we made coils and shapes and then pressed them into a bowl to make round shapes, with some holes in so we can put lights inside them. Our final pieces for the exhibition will have spaces for light to show through and some pieces made shiny that reflect light from the surface instead. We learned that we could work together as a team and that we need to make sure we know what everyone else is doing so that our work fits together well.

I enjoyed making the clay plate-I swirled stripes and love hearts

It’s like magic- I smoothed it out and found the pattern on the other side

I enjoyed doing the bowls, they are really hard to start with but it is really fun as well.

I can’t imagine what they will look like with lights in them.