It used to be when we talked about safety in the ceramics studio we were refering to various glaze chemicals, maybe some airborne silica. Or maybe we were referring to body strain from sitting a potter’s wheel or fatigue in the muscles of our hands. Now it means something completely different.
We are hearing many concerns from K12 teachers, college professors, studio directors etc regarding how to keep covid at bay while working in clay. We recognize that our relationship to so many teachers, schools, studios and so on puts us in a position to embrace our role as a hub in our greater clay community.
Research that has been done on how the COVID-19 virus survives in ceramic media is somewhat contradictory. We have heard that the virus can not survive in slurry for more that 48 hours, however there is also evidence that suggests this is not accurate. However, we do not believe that it is inherently unsafe to offer ceramics in a school or studio. Like in all other aspects of our COVID-19 society, reasonable precautions should be taken such as:
- Wearing nitrile gloves, open a bag of clay and cut blocks of clay off to issue to each student, enough for that class period ONLY. Any scraps can be placed In a bucket with a date of the last added scraps written in grease pencil or on a piece of masking tape on the bucket. Close the lid and leave it untouched for at least 2 weeks to a month. (Recommended for elementary or middle school classes)
- Issue an entire 25# bag of clay to a student and write their name on it. Only that student should touch the clay, and that block can be used for multiple projects until used up. A separate bag can be issued to that student for storing scraps, or they can be placed in a communal bucket with the same strategy as outlined above. (Recommended for high school)
- if possible, have separate tool kits for each student, if not possible, use a bleach solution* to sanitize all tools between uses. (we recommend a 1-2 gal bucket filled with the solution. Tools should be submerged for 30-60 seconds
- partition out surface decoration products such as glazes or underglazes into smaller containers and put into a rotation so that the jar and lid (touched surfaces) can be sanitized between uses.
- aprons or smocks can really help to limit possible contamination and spread outside the classroom.
- use the bleach solution to wipe down all surfaces between classes
*Bleach Solution: The CDC recommends using 5TBS (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of room temperature water. Bleach should contain 5-6% sodium hypochlorite and be used prior to its expiration date.
We are working to create a resource similar to a facebook group where strategies for teaching ceramics can be shared. In the meantime, here are some initial suggestions we would like to share:
- we are putting together a variety of kits designed to meet needs of various ages, experience levels, and construction methods. (custom kits are also available)
- we are making our regular clay bag bags available for sale so you can partition clay out for students to take home to work on.
- we are in the process of putting together project kits as well – these will be a complete lesson plan with all the non-standard materials you would need to assign these to students for them to complete at home.
- as much as we are able to, we continue to update our website with teaching ceramics online resources