In this lesson, students explore the questions: Where does your pottery live? How do environmental surroundings influence Pueblo pottery? Students will engage in mapping activities that will encourage them to explore and to understand their environmental surroundings on a deeper level. In particular, students are encouraged to reflect on the natural elements in their own environments while mapping their environments and making connections between places included on their maps.

The activities in this lesson refer to the pottery drawings that students made in Lesson I. If students skipped this step, then consider re-framing questions around another meaningful object, for example previously made art objects, objects that hold significance to the student’s family, etc.

Big Idea/Enduring Understanding

“I remember warm summer days when we would find clay or mica from the hills and mountains near our Pueblo, and if I really tune into these memories, I can remember the smell of the room where [Ignacia Duran] made her rain god and pottery. It smelled like a mixture of sagebrush and petrichor, the smell of water on earth.”   

   – Jade Begay (Tay tsu’geh Oweenge/Tesuque Pueblo, Diné)

In its most basic form, pottery embodies the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. Beginning with the earthen clay and the water used to mix it, to the fire that hardens the pottery, and finally the breath which blesses and brings pottery to life, these elements are vital to the transformation of earth to vessel. 

Lesson Procedures

Step-by-Step Instruction 

(Prior to class): Homework

Students read entries Avanyu: Water Serpent by Jason Garcia and Okuu Sedo by Matthew J. Martinez. Guiding questions for their reading include:

  • What does Jason Garcia say that Avanyu symbolizes?
  • How do some depictions of Avanyu, like on the Santa Clara jar (IAF.2628), reflect natural elements?
  • According to Matthew Martinez, what is one reason that people in his community partake in shadeh?
  • Matthew Martinez says that directions are essential. What are some of his reasons?
  • What is the significance of Okuu Sedo (Old Man Turtle)?

(0-5 minutes): Warm up

To begin this lesson, gauge what level of knowledge students already have of geographical maps. Project a wide range of maps for students to view and encourage them to notice similarities and differences. While creative mapping is distinct from geographical mapping, there are some common traits such as: a legend or map key, a title or heading, symbols, scale indicators etc.

  • What is the purpose of a map? 
  • How do we read or understand what a map says?

(5-45 minutes): Creative mapping local environments

This artmaking activity is intended to take students out of the classroom and into a setting where they think about and connect more deeply with their local environment. Due to various limitations and diverse settings this may include setting up: in a hallway, outside of the school building or recess area, or even walking to a local neighborhood park. Encourage students to bring their previous drawings along with them as they consider their pottery’s environment. Prompting questions to inspire students might include:

  • What route did you take to get to class today? 
  • Where do you live and what are some land markers around the area? 
  • Where will your pottery vessel live? 

(45-50 minutes): Clean up

(50-50 minutes): Closure/Reflection with students.

Ask students to share their maps with one another. Ask students specific questions that allow them to reflect on their learning.

Elements Curriculum

Time Requirements
1 hour

Materials and Equipment

  • (x20) sheets of paper
  • (x20) drawing utensils packs
  • (x1) Projector with images
  • Grounded in Clay catalog entries for Lesson II (see ‘Curators’ tab)
    • Matthew J. Martinez: Okuu Sedo
    • Jason Garcia: Avanyu: Water Serpent