I'm not sure how long we’ve been creating clay Legacy Pieces with families at our HPUMP, but this was my first time to participate. Depending on how long children have been at the school, their family creates a clay leaf, hand, or foot that the children glaze and then we adults adhere to the outside of our building. With all the pounding and slab rolling and trimming and organizing that goes into getting everything set up ahead of time, it can be easy to forget the larger WHY of it.
Watching grownups work so intently on such a simple task for their children, I was struck by the bonding quality this activity naturally possesses.. It’s an opportunity for families to get to know each other or reconnect after a summer apart. Families old and new are on equal footing (so to speak) when their hands are covered in clay.
And then there’s the pleasure of introducing these pieces to the children later, explaining to them that their grownups came to school and made this just for them. This information alone is enough to get them excited, and they immediately begin to examine the details in the clay.
First, and almost universally, the children flip the clay over to look at the (mostly boring) back. Sometimes they place their own hand atop the clay one, marveling at the similarities and tracing their grownup’s writing with their fingers. Often, the older children will exclaim joyfully at recognizing their name in the clay, proudly telling others, “My Mom wroted that for me.”
The value of these clay leaves and hands and feet extends beyond leaving something behind for our future selves; this tradition is very much an important part of our now.