Clay Bricks and Seder Plates
What better time than the Passover season to play with clay?
You can purchase clay at a craft store or collect it from nature. Clay is dirt that has little grit or sand in it. Chances are likely the clay our ancient ancestors used in Egypt was harvested from the banks of the Nile. They probably had large mixing bins in which they put the clay, straw and buckets of water. They mixed it up and stuffed the completed mixture into molds to make their bricks. You can do the same thing.
Take a bucket of clay and mix it with a bucket of finely crushed straw.
Add enough water and mix until the consistency is like very thick bread dough. Now you have a mixture you make into many things. If you want, you can make bricks by putting the mixture into any type of box (shoe, cereal, plastic container, etc.). Leave for a day and then remove so it will dry faster. Or, you can use the mixture to make a Seder plate. If you choose this project, give each student a ball of mixture about the size of a grapefruit. By pressing, kneading and pounding, have students shape the ball into a plate shape. If you want, use a pencil or twig to draw six sections into the clay to hold the six foods found on the Seder plate.
It takes several days for clay to dry thoroughly. It's best if you can place the clay items in sunlight and open air.
You can also dry the clay items by placing in a kitchen oven for half a day on a temperature of 250 degrees F. Once the clay is thoroughly dry, it must be baked to keep from dissolving when exposed to liquid. The easiest way to do this is by making a campfire with a thick bed of hot coals. Clear an area in the middle and place the objects in the center. Cover with hot coals and let bake for 3 hours. Periodically turn the clay items and cover with additional coals as needed. If you have access to a kiln, bake in it.
One participant in a clay workshop said it was also possible to bake items in self-cleaning ovens.
I have not tried this but it might be worth experimenting with.