Gorgeous Clay Owls Ticked all the Boxes

Make a Mark/Mark Making was the inquiry focus for Wairakei Primary School in Term 2 as being able to write legibly and quickly is still a basic skill in our society.

To be able to do this, students need fine motor skills that will allow them to hold a writing tool efficiently and be able to move their hands with manual dexterity. This meant that students in Room 12 needed the opportunity to engage in manipulative activities to develop their physical skills and their hand and eye co-ordination. At the same time, students needed the opportunity to create something beautiful that they were proud of by exploring textures and shapes. Working with clay ticked all the boxes.

“ Clay can help children to:

  • develop hand and eye coordination - squeezing, patting, pounding

  • develop finger and hand muscles - poking, pinching be creative and learn about texture, shapes and forms

  • manipulate through rolling, cutting, making shapes

  • experience making 3-dimensional objects

  • socialise with others

  • express feelings and ideas.”

Education.govt.nz. 2015. Play idea: Clay - Uku. [ONLINE] Available at:https://education.govt.nz/early-childhood/teaching-and-learning/learning-tools-and-resources/play-ideas/clay/. [Accessed 11 August 2018].

The first thing was to cover wooden boards with hessian to provide a non-stick surface for the students to work on. A cutting tool was made by tying thin fishing line onto two key rings. This made an easy to grasp tool for the students to use. A selection of materials was provided for adding texture or for smoothing the clay (i.e shells, pegs, straws, sponges, kebab sticks, ice block sticks). Inside a 2-litre ice-cream container, I placed a couple of thin wipe cloths and a small amount of water. We were ready to begin.

Day One: Introduction & Experimentation

  • Students began by wedging small amounts of clay to remove any air bubbles and to make the clay pliable. This involved kneading, slapping, and pounding.

  • Encouragement was given to students to experiment with the clay to see what shapes they could make by rolling, squeezing and, cutting.

  • Experimentation with tools and fingers to add texture by pressing, smoothing, and poking was enjoyed.

  • The clay was rolled into balls and a thumb hole was made in the middle. A small amount of water was poured into this hole and the clay was smoothed over the top to seal the ball with the water inside. The balls were placed into a sealed container.

  • Clean up of hands and tools was done in buckets of warm water. The water and clay sediment was tipped into the garden. This meant there were no blocked pipes and the plants were watered.


Tyler, Dallas


Harry, Grayson, Wiki



Day Two: Creation of Owl

  • Using the Clay Owl Project tutorial and their experimentation ideas from the previous lesson students created their owls.

  • They were given a precut circle of clay to work with.

  • Then they scratched their initials on the back of their clay circle.

  • Creating the owls involved smoothing, pressing, folding, cross hatching, squeezing, cutting, rolling, sponging, and poking.

  • Some students also decided to add legs and talons to their owls.

  • On completion the owl was covered with a damp cloth so it did not dry out too fast and crack.

“Making an owl was easier than I expected. I liked poking the holes so I can hang it up. I liked pushing the shells down into the clay to make it look pretty with texture. by Stella”

“My eyes were a little bit hard to do. I kept finding different types of shapes to push into the clay. It ended up being messy because I used too much shapes. Next time I would choose three or two shapes. by Hana ”

“My wings were a little bit hard to do on my owl because when I folded the wing over it started to crack a little bit. I added more water to the wing so it could fold over. by Taylor C”

The owls were then fired. This proved to be the hardest part of the process as all three classes in the Te Huka Team had the opportunity to create an owl and this took several weeks. We also had to wait for the lovely local potter to let us know when she was going to do a firing. I was asked frequently “Is my owl back yet?” I also discussed with students that the firing process dries out the clay at very high temperatures and this can cause cracks and breakages. Even experienced potters can have this happen to their work.


At last the owls were ready to return to their creators. It was a relief that most of them had survived the firing process. A few needed a little bit of glue to reattach a beak or a leg. My helpful husband attached a hanging wire and the owls were taken back to school. It was decided not to attempt to apply colour to them as some of them were fragile due to the thickness of the legs. It was great to see the pride and pleasure as child and owl were reunited. Extreme care was executed as the owls were cradled carefully on their way home.









Taylor C


Learning Media Limited: Ministry of Education. 2008. Teaching Handwriting PDF. [ONLINE] Available at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pmQ4jVYCNqgFtrV2NXO5nBQ7faLJ76RX. [Accessed 11 August 2018].

TKI: Te Kete Ipurangi. 2014. The New Zealand Curriculum Online: the arts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/The-arts/Achievement-objectives#collapsible4. [Accessed 11 August 2018].

Education.govt.nz. 2015. Play idea: Clay - Uku. [ONLINE] Available at:https://education.govt.nz/early-childhood/teaching-and-learning/learning-tools-and-resources/play-ideas/clay/. [Accessed 11 August 2018].

Olive and Love: Hanging Owl Tutorial. 2013. Clay Owl Project Tutorial. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.oliveandlove.com/2013/09/hanging-owl-clay-project-first-grade.html. [Accessed 11 August 2018].

Keywords: make a mark/ mark making, inquiry

inquiry markmaking room12 01