What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? For many of us, the birth of Jesus is the first image we see. We can easily imagine Mary holding her sweet baby Jesus with Joseph and the animals looking on.
Years ago, CAK’s elementary students started a sweet tradition that is still going strong today: making their own nativity out of clay one piece each year!
Written by Christa Margene for CAK
Back in 1995, then elementary art teacher Margaret Moran decided to have the kindergarten, pre-first, and first-grade students make a baby Jesus out of clay as a Christmas project. Elementary teacher, Laurel Clothier, who is finishing up her final year teaching first grade, suggested Margaret have each grade level make one part of the nativity. That way, by the time they “graduate” from elementary school, they have a complete nativity set! The following year, the Kindergarten class made baby Jesus, Pre-First and 1st grade made the lambs, 2nd grade made angels, 3rd grade made Mary and Joseph, 4th grade made a wise man, and 5th grade made the stable.
For such a fun project for the students, it is a lot of work for the art teachers! Each figurine has to be dried for a certain period of time and then fired in a kiln. This kiln currently resides in the Middle School art room, but for years it lived in the High School art room. Trays of the nativity figurines had to be driven up to the High School and walked in tray by tray. In the early days, a few clay animals were stepped on during the process of getting each piece to the kiln. It was and remains an laborious process for the art teachers, but it’s completely worth it!
Thankfully, these days, walking everything over to the Middle School is much closer so each figure can dry and then be fired. Additionally, the clay can’t be overworked or it will create air bubbles and can explode while in the kiln, damaging the pieces around it.
Margaret has had more than one mother tell her, “If my house was burning down, I would rescue those figurines first! I am so glad the tradition lives on in the Elementary School.”
It is such a special thing to have your children hand make the nativity scene that helps us remember what Jesus did for us by coming as a baby. Margaret is still putting her own boys’ two nativity sets out, and her boys are currently 31- and 33-years-old!