Upper Batley High School



Science Topic: Forces and Light

Participants: Year 7

Artist: Ammie Flexen

Cummins Buddy: Donna Skeldon

We will be working through design problems and discovering how similar the processes of creating art, engineering and science are when.  Using clay as our starting point, we will test construction skills, decorating techniques and learn to make decisions and predictions for our design. We might find that clay is unpredictable, and that we need to be flexible about our ideas as it shrinks and changes through the power of heat and chemical changes. Our Cummins buddy tests materials and we will discover that muddy clay and metals have more in common than we first think.

Session 1:

Today in our first session, we met Donna (from Cummins Turbo Technologies) and Ammie (who is a ceramic artist). Donna talked to us about her work at Cummins and explained how they test materials for safety and showed us a really interesting presentation on turbos chargers. Ammie told us about her work as an artist and showed us some making and joining techniques using our hands and forces, by pressing, pinching and squeezing the clay.  We experimented to find out how whether clay can hold itself up when we built a tall pot. It didn’t! It stayed for a short while, then collapsed. Ammie explained about the chemical changes that clay goes through when it is heated in a kiln, so it turns from sticky clay to a very hard material. We need to think about how clay shrinks, how it becomes brittle and how it changes when we are designing our final piece of work. Today Ammie set us tasks that meant we had to work together as a team, as well as working individually on creating our robots so we could develop our own ideas and test out the clay for ourselves.



Today I learned that art is not just on paper but can be clay and other materials.

I learned score and slip are important when joining clay, if you have any air bubbles your clay will explode when being fired!

It was exciting making our clay robots and learning about turbo chargers.

We learned about speed and G-Force when looking at the turbo charger.

Todays session was exciting and opened our imagination.


Session 2

This week we tried out different activities. Donna showed us how to test and record materials with the paperclip test. It was fun to see how many times it took bending a paper clip for it to break. We learned that the conditions for testing need to be the same to get accurate results and that everyone in the group might do the experiment differently.

We made textures in porcelain, to see how thin we could make the clay, to see if we could make it translucent. This mean exerting a force on the clay, with our rolling pins and objects to make textures and patterns.

We tried out slip-trailing onto the clay using a potter’s banding wheel. This meant we could spin the clay, while we poured slips. The slips are opaque and made with liquid clay and oxides. When we dropped one colour on top of another, it pushed the first colour and made it spread out. We used tools and brushes to move the clay on the surface. Ammie showed us how the slips interacted and moved when we added vinegar and oxides to the slip.

We began researching and thinking about our final exhibition design. Circles played a strong theme, with holes cut out the clay to let light through. We are looking forward to beginning our designs next session.


Today was very scientific because we mixed slips and vinegar to create different consistencies.

Using the rotating force from the potter’s wheel helped the slips to spread. This reminded me of the Coriolis effect which is to do with the Earth’s rotation.

I like using the porcelain, it was a much smoother clay and it could be rolled out very thin. I added different textures and patterns using various tools, you can even make your own tools out of porcelain

Today was amazing. The thing I enjoyed was when we tested paper clips with Donna. We had to see how many bends t took to break them. This was fun science!

I learnt that if you use too many colours when slip trailing it rolls into one colour, this happened first. Second time I only used 2 colours and tapped it from the bottom to get a neat colour.

The awesomeness was over 9,000!

Session 3

Today we began work on our final piece of group work for the exhibition. We have had so many ideas it has been hard to choose.  Using forces, we experimented with two different types of clay. We pressed into porcelain to make delicate textures patterns, which we then rolled around small cardboard tubes to make vertical shapes. We made the porcelain as thin as we could, hopefully it will be translucent when it is fired. The tubes are going to be displayed on a light box.  We also worked with crank clay, which is much coarser than porcelain and has sand in it. We couldn’t get such delicate textures as the porcelain. It took more strength (or force) to make patterns. We cut these into flat shapes that we will add colour to next time.


I found the crank clay interesting as it is much harder to work with because of the sand in it.

We learnt that clay has atoms inside it. They stay together when clay is wet.

I enjoyed making the porcelain tubes, it was very delicate to do. It was fun adding the textures and patterns to the porcelain.

It was exciting seeing my flat piece of clay become a 3D cylinder. 

We had to be really accurate with our work today as we used templates (a bit like a net) to help us make our flat clay rectangles into cylinders.

Session 4

Today we added to our work from last week. We added colour on the crank clay shapes, by painting on underglazes and then wiping it off. This was easier to do because the clay had been fired once and was hard, so wetting it didn’t change it. Ammie explained that the clay will go into the kiln again and will change colour again. We also saw our robots from the first week with a glaze on them over the oxides we painted on. They looked so different.

We painted with slips onto newsprint. We could work quite freely with this technique. Then we pressed the paper onto slabs of clay porcelain or crank to make a mono-print and the colour was left on the clay. These were turned into bigger versions of the tubes we made last week and will all be displayed together on the light box. 

Ammie had fired some of the porcelain tubes and we tried them on the light box to see what they will look like. It’s going to look amazing in the exhibition!


We have worked together as a team to create or magical final piece. I have enjoyed working with people I don’t always work with in class.

From the project I have got to work with clay, I have never worked with this before. I now know how clay changes after it has been glazed. I love my model – it looks outstanding!

I have had the best time I have ever had in school

This project has been amazing

I can’t wait to see how the final piece looks after it has been fired the kiln.