Arts learning connects with hands-on fun

COSTA MESA — Sonora Elementary parents and grandparents got a feel for what their children have been learning this year in ceramics class.

And they did it by getting their hands dirty.

On Tuesday night, relatives joined their children in using rolling pins, wooden sticks and plastic knives to roll, cut and mold thick gray clay into a mug tailor-made for their hands.

"I feel like a kid again," said Christina Anderson, who joined grandson Gavin Anderson, 7. "I haven't had so much fun since I used to play with Play-doh."

Sonora Elementary treated the first 20 families to sign up for a parent-child ceramics workshop given by its resident master teaching artist, Eikko Amani, before the children's culmination art show in the multi-purpose room.

Amani is a master teacher from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts who has been working on ceramics with the second- through fourth-grade students.

Schools pay to use the services of master teachers, but Sonora is one of seven schools that receive financial assistance through the center's ArtsConnect program, said Ginger Johnson, the center's community programs manager.

The parents in the workshop got a hands-on opportunity to see how the students were taught ceramics as "Amani-sensei" conducted the workshop like she would one of the children's lessons.

"So you see the value in this type of education," Amani told the parents.

Amani incorporates science and math vocabulary into her teaching and explains how the clay reacts when fired and how the glazes change, said Principal Christine Anderson.

The students also write about their experiences in a journal.

Highlighting how art supports other parts of the curriculum is what ArtsConnect is about, Johnson said.

The students also "really love it. They look forward to it because they get to be creative," said third-grade teacher Peggy Roberts.

During the workshop, second-grader Christopher Lopez De Los Angeles, 8, walked around the classroom with a big smile on his face as he played with a piece of clay. He hadn't finished his mug yet, but said he already knew what he intended to do with it.

"I'm going to give it to someone — my mom," he said. "Because I love her. Yesterday she bought me a helicopter for my birthday."

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