Grounded in Clay: Curriculum image





In lesson IV, students will reflect on what they’ve learned about Pueblo pottery and think carefully about their own work. Students will explore the questions: What does pottery have to say about the people who made it? How does Pueblo pottery connect Pueblo people to their ancestors and their descendants? How do objects tell stories? They will be asked to write their own catalog entries imagining a future for their pottery.

Big Idea/Enduring Understanding

“For generations, our grandparents and all those who came before us made offerings and said prayers as they walked on worn paths, guided by previous knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the clay, ash, and pigments. This knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next, sharing with those who wanted to learn.”

– Jerry Dunbar (Tigua/Ysleta del Sur Pueblo)  

It is essential to acknowledge our ancestors, those that came before us, sacrificed, and blazed those early paths. Without them, we would not exist.  Their works in clay, made for families and communities, represent a legacy of creativity, innovation, utility, and loving generosity. We may not know their individual names, but our ancestors are not forgotten.  Their creativity stands the test of time and their gifts everlasting as they continue to provide purpose and place for us today.  

Lesson Procedures

Step-by-Step Instruction 

Day 1 

(0-10 minutes): Warm up 

Begin this lesson by reading the provided catalog entries with students. Either as a class or in small groups, ask students to consider the following questions:

  • How does each entry explore the life of Pueblo pottery?
  • How do the authors express their connections to the pieces they’ve chosen?
  • How do these entries explore the larger theme of ‘Ancestors’?

(10-20 minutes): Creating a mind map

Using the entries from the Grounded in Clay exhibition catalog as inspiration, students will create a mind map to help guide them in writing catalog entries for the pieces they created in Lesson III.

Teacher should provide students with the following prompt:

  • Imagine your pottery will be shown in an exhibition 100 years from now. Write a catalog entry to accompany your piece that explores the life your pottery might live and the ways in which it will connect you to future generations. Ask yourself the following questions: What kind of life has my pottery lived? What has it witnessed? What will it say about me as its maker?
  1. Using the graphic organizer included with this lesson, create a mind map to help you answer the questions posed in the prompt.

(20-50 minutes): Writing a catalog entry

1. Using your completed graphic organizer as a guide, write a catalog entry for your piece. Write about your piece in a way that expresses how you feel about your work. You may choose to write a poem about your piece like Max Early, write your entry from the point of view of your pottery vessel like Evone Martinez, or write a loving physical description of your piece like Bernard Mora. You may also choose to write about your pottery in a different way entirely. No matter how you choose to write about your piece, take the time to think about it from your own perspective and consider you own experiences.

Teachers – Consider including writing parameters specific to students’ grade level

(50-60 minutes): Sharing catalog entries with peers.

Share your artwork and entries with the class or in small groups.


Choose an object, or a picture of an object (photograph or sketch), that holds personal significance to you, your family, or your community that you can bring into class the following day. Think carefully about why you chose your object. Come to class prepared to discuss your chosen object with your peers.

Note to teacher: Consider organizing a class exhibition. Display student work and accompanying entries in an accessible space (classroom, library, etc.). Invite students and their families to view the work.

Day 2

(0-10 minutes): Warm up 

In small groups (3 to 4), swap your objects (or pictures of your objects) with your peers. Look closely at your classmate’s object. Without any background information, consider what the object might be used for, what it might mean to your classmate, what stories it might hold, and why it was chosen for this exercise.

(10-30 minutes): Sharing/reflecting with classmates (students remain in small groups) 

1. One at a time, go around your group and share about the object that you brought to class. What is it? Why did you choose it to share with your classmates? What does it mean to you?

2. Share a story/memory about your chosen object (or a story that your object reminds you of). How is your object connected to the story/memory you chose to share? Is it in how it was made? How it was/is used? The way it looks? What it meant to someone else? Etc.

Limit sharing to 5 minutes per person.

(30-50 minutes): Making connections to larger themes

Pueblo pottery plays a special role in Pueblo culture by connecting creators to their descendants through shared stories, experiences, and art.

1. Write a short reflection (2 to 3 paragraphs) on how you connect to those who came before you and how you wish to connect to those who will come after you. Consider the following questions:

  • What stories have you heard from people in your family/community who are older than you?
  • What stories would you want your great-great grandchildren to know?
  • How do you imagine those stories would be passed down?
  • What objects would you use to tell those stories?

(50-60 minutes): Closure/reflection with students.

As a class, reflect on the lesson’s activities by considering the following questions:

  • How did it make you feel to consider a future 100 years from now?
  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • How can objects tell stories?
  • What did you learn about the role of Pueblo pottery in the lives of Pueblo people?
  • Do you feel differently about Pueblo pottery after completing this unit?


Ancestors Curriculum

Time Requirements
2 X 60-minute classes

Materials and Equipment

  • Grounded in Clay catalog entries for Lesson IV
    • Max Early: Rarest Form of Pottery
    • Evone “Snowflake” Martinez: Navi Poeh
    • Bernard Mora: Water Jar: A Pueblo of Tesuque Ancestor
  • Students’ completed pottery vessels from Lesson III
  • (x40) sheets of paper
  • (x20) writing utensils
  • (x20) Graphic organizers, “Lesson IV: Catalog Entry Graphic Organizer”