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Elmwood students experience power of pottery

April 29, 2021 News Story, School Activity
Elmwood - Pottery

Elmwood High School students are creating ceramics to reduce their stress levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Raman Dhiman teaches English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Literacy, Academics and Language (LAL) students at Elmwood. Recently, she introduced LAL students in Grades 7 and 8 to pottery making.

Dhiman is finding that working with clay is helping to keep anxiety at bay.  

“I got a class full of Grade 7 and 8 students and they are very restless. With the COVID situation, they are feeling a lot of anxiety,” Dhiman said. 

“I have a lot of experience with ceramics myself. I’ve experienced how soothing this art form can be. Working with the hands has the potential to reduce one’s stress levels.”

It just so happened that Dhiman discovered some unused clay in Elmwood’s art room. She then introduced her students to pinch pot, a simple and ancient form of handmade pottery that has been widely employed across cultures.  

The students have been using the pinch pot method to craft clay cups, pots and bowls. 

“They just keep progressing and I keep teaching them different forms of building,” Dhiman said. “We’ve moved into surface decorations like sgraffito and Mishima and they’ve really got good at it.”

“I learned how to make cups and make them smooth using an old credit card,” said Khaled Al Shehab, a student. 

“I like the peaceful quiet time doing pottery,” said Senay Mismark Tsegehans, a student. 

As relaxing as creating ceramics can be, Dhiman said the students are still learning the language when shaping clay. 

“The best part about teaching EAL/LAL is that language is everywhere,” said Dhiman, who noted she couldn’t have done the pottery project without Elmwood art teacher Scott Boyko, who shared resources, funds, and his skill with the kiln. 

“Anything can be used as a language learning opportunity. In the process I’ve learned so much about their cultural backgrounds and their personalities. These students are from all over the world. You see their background, their pottery form and their surface decorations, it’s like there is a memory in the body from back home. They took to it like fish to water.”

This isn’t the first time Dhiman has seen the benefits of back-to-basics type activities. She has spent time in the kitchen with her students, cooking up such delectable dishes as spicy corn bread and sweet beet cookies. 

In addition to calming the nerves, activities such as cooking and potting can give one a sense of accomplishment.

“When I started to make (pottery), I didn’t know anything about it. I was surprised that the cup looked like it was made of glass,” said Alla Dine Al Moustafa, a student. “I feel happy that I know how to make it because we don’t have to buy it. We can make it.”

“The students are so proud and excited that they’re able to create art that is not only beautiful to look at, but also functional. You can actually drink from the mugs,” Dhiman said. 

“They’re thinking of giving to them to their family members and their moms for Mother’s Day. They’re really excited.”

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