Art Lesson Plan: Ceramic Animal Sculpture

Clay Animal Sculptures

Submitted by: Marcia Lavery - Lincoln Junior High, Skokie, Illinois
Unit: Ceramics - using ancient animal sculptures as inspiration
Grade Level: 6th-7th (adaptable for grades 3 through 8)
See high school example below



Images of Pre-Columbian animal sculptures. Students are very interested in animal images. They love their pets, they love to see wild, ferocious animals in zoos, and they like to create imaginary creatures.



1. Students will create a clay sculpture with realistic or imaginary animal features.

2. Students will draw at least three preparatory sketches of ideas for their sculpture and complete an "animal sculpture brainstorming" worksheet.

3. Students will be able to identify at least two functions of Pre-Columbian animal sculptures and at least two symbolic reasons for the animals depicted. Students will complete a "Pre-Columbian Art Criticism" worksheet.



Effigy images, Moist Clay., Clay Modeling Tools., plastic bags, Glazes., boards, Canvas Rolls., Colored Pencils.., Sketchbooks.




Teacher Planning and Preparation:
Gather art postcards and images from the internet (at least five for each table)



Postcard book from the Art Institute of Chicago, images from the Internet

Cloth and Clay


  • Symbolize: stand for or represents something else

  • Functional: can be used

  • Slip: muddy, liquid clay used to attach two pieces

  • Score: to make marks on the clay to attach two pieces

  • Slab: a flat, rolled out piece of clay

  • Coil: a rope of clay, rolled out with your fingers

  • Kiln.: used to heat the clay to make it permanent. It is over 2000 degrees hot!

  • Firing: heating the clay to make it permanent.

  • Sculpture: a three-dimensional work of art

Book: Animal Sculpture in Pre-Columbian Art. - A book by the Art Institute of Chicago. It includes some of their pre-Columbian collection. If they are sold out, you can also get a copy here..


Student Prerequisite: Some prior experience working with clay is recommended, but not necessary.


Instructional Methods: Discussion, group discussion of the animal images at their tables, demonstration, individual practice.


Set Induction: When students come into the class, images of the Pre-Columbian animal sculptures will be on their tables. Observe the students casual discussions and encourage them to talk about the pictures with the people at their table. Some of the remarks I have heard include: "Wow! Look at this funny pig!" "It looks like a Chia pet!" "What animal is this?" When the bell rings, tell students "The pictures at your table are ancient sculptures, made in Latin America. They used animals in their art, because animals were important to them in their daily life, and they symbolized different things. Today we will talk about these sculptures and later this week we will make our own animal sculptures of animals that are important to us."



Day One:

Read the paragraph about Pre-Columbian art on the Animal Sculpture worksheet. Tell students to look at the pictures on their table to answer the questions on the sheet (See Student Worksheet). After they finish the first half of the page, they can go on to the final section. This is to help them get ideas for their own animal sculpture. These two activities should take about 30 minutes. When they finish, I have them draw a few more ideas for an animal sculpture in their Sketchbooks.. Emphasize to the students that they can choose to create a functional animal sculpture: an animal that is also a container.


Day Two:

Demonstrate two different methods for creating an animal sculpture. One of these methods is to create two round bowl forms, using the pinch method. Then, score the edges and apply Slip. to the rims of the bowls. Attach the two bowls together. This creates a round body. Don't forget to poke a hole with a paperclip or pin to allow air to escape. Then, add animal features! The second method is to use coils to build the body. This method works best for creating a vessel or container with animal parts. Since I teach this project at the 7th grade level, the students already have some experience working with hand building techniques. The demonstration will last about 30 minutes. For the remaining 20 minutes, the students had the opportunity to catch up on their assigned sketchbook drawings. I also use the remaining time to talk with each student to determine what animal they will be making, and what hand building technique would work best to make their sculpture.


Day Three:

Explain clean up procedures and remind students how to wrap up their "in-progress" clay sculptures. Student begin their clay sculptures.


Day Four-Six:

Students continue working on their clay sculptures. Review construction procedures - thick coils for legs etc. - Score and apply slip to attach.

Depending on how fast the students work, an additional day might be needed to finish.

(Allow at least one week for drying and firing)


Day Seven and Eight:

Demonstrate glazing techniques. Allow students to decide if they want to paint their sculptures with Tempera Paint. or if they want to Glaze them. Allow two days for painting and glazing.


1 2


Submitted by: Linda Erling-Baker, Archbishop Walsh Middle School
Ceramic Effigy - Lidded Vessels

Students make two pinch pots. A slab ring is fused to either the inside of lid or the bowl shape to keep the lid from sliding.



Rubric: based on creativity, concept, work ethic, craftsmanship, and glazing/painting

Quiz: include vocabulary words on final quiz

Worksheets and Sketches



Series: allow students to make more than one. For students who chose to make something simple, like a tiny mouse, I required that they make a series of these animals.


1 Submitted by: Linda Erling-Baker
Archbishop Walsh High School
High School Animal Effigy (for Story Pot Lesson)


This elephant vessel brings a smile - done by a non-art major (Art Survey course). Linda doesn't remember the story the student used. This could be a functional vessel with removable head - to be a container of sorts. If this were to be made a sculpture, a hole would need to be made in the belly and a hole between head and body. Forming techniques could be two large pinch pots - or two molded bowl shapes fused together. Head is a pinch pot. For a removable head (as a lid) a slab ring would be added to fit inside opening. Thick coils form the legs - slab ears.



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