Students learning ancient ceramic methods

Students in summer school at Nimitz Middle School are experiencing the connection between art and science with the help of University of Texas Permian Basin and the Ector County ISD Innovation Department.

UTPB Associate Professor of Art Chris Stanley said the innovation department wanted to make the connection between art and science. On Tuesday, they were creating ceramics out of soda ash as part of a variety of enrichments that have been added to summer school classes this year.

Students also looked at 89 million year old shark’s teeth under the microscope.

“We use it in a way that the indigenous potters of the Americas would have used it to create burnished pottery in the style of Maria Martinez the potters of the Candil Alphonso Pueblo House. Those are in the kiln right now. Then we’ll bring the trailer up in a couple of days and horse manure fire those, so they’ll be mirror black,” Stanley said.

“This week, we’ve been playing with Egyptian use of salt, or soda ash, the material that was called Egyptian paste. One of the most famous pieces of Egyptian faience was William the Hippo. They think William was made about 4,000 years ago,” Stanley added.

The method will help them learn the effects of the soda ash, which Stanley said will eventually make a glaze just through evaporation and firing.

Chief Innovation Officer Jason Osborne was trying out some of the material. He said the students were saying how hard it was to work with.

“These are opportunities for kids to be creative during enrichment and be exposed to things they normally don’t do in the school,” Osborne said. “The pottery is something we want to start embedding into classrooms, as well.”

He said they want to tie it across curriculums such as social studies, geology and math.

Osborne said the innovation department and content coordinators with ECISD are working together to see what that will look like.

“Mr. Stanley is super excited, too, because obviously that exposes more kids to art and creativity so it’s just another addition to a wonderful partnership with UTPB,” Osborne said. “I think it’s cool, too. He’s teaching them an ancient art form, something that a lot of folks really don’t know about …”

He added that the enrichment classes have been hugely successful this year.

Matthew Hulsey, an 11-year-old going into sixth grade in the fall, was making a cat with a crown.

“It’s kind of hard, but it’s pretty cool how you can make it into different kinds of shapes,” Hulsey said of the material. “I do a lot of art with pencils. I draw real amazing robots and stuff and animals sometimes. I have a little bit of experience with my hands.”

Eleven-year-old Haylee Vigil, who also is going into sixth grade, said she thought the clay was easy to work with. She was making a turtle.

“It’s fun,” Vigil said of summer school. “It’s better than regular school.”

Clarabel Olivas, a UTPB student who was helping with the enrichment class, said the enrichment classes are beneficial.

“I think that the enrichment helps present the information … in a bite-size manner. It makes it easier for the kids to comprehend and also they’re having fun while they’re doing it,” Olivas said.