Technology, Engineering and Art (TEA): Students Create Clay Lamps and Learn About Power Generation

Over the past few weeks, Mount Madonna School (MMS) eighth grade students have been working in their Technology, Engineering and Art (TEA) class to create clay lamps, that, when finished, will be wired and functionable.

Teachers Angela Willetts and John Welch have shared lessons introducing students to techniques for working with clay, and broadened their understanding of the electrical “path” – from power generating plant to the lightbulbs that will illuminate each lamp.

In designing their lamps, students practiced the entire design process.

“They first thought about who would be the user of their lamps and talked to them to find out their needs and what they liked,” said Welch. “Students brainstormed and did internet research to broaden their range of ideas.”

Next, students made prototypes and drawings of their lamp design. This included planning for enough “holes” or open spaces for line to shine through, as well as sturdy bases and needed openings for the light fixture and bulb, and space for the cord to enter the lamp, while still allowing it to sit stably on a flat surface.

As they completed their designs, the teachers gave each student a block of gray stoneware clay from which to fashion their lamp. While the clay was drying, students spent a week in TEA class learning about the different ways electricity is generated and how it arrives at a wall outlet.

“They learned the difference between AC and DC electricity and how their light fixtures work,” said Welch,” and about processes that make electricity safer, so that when they wire up their lamps, they will understand what all the parts are for, why they have to be careful, and how they connect to the larger whole. Additionally, a certified electrician will inspect their work, to reinforce students’ sense of the importance of safety.”

After sufficient air-drying time, the lamps were fired in the school’s on-campus kiln, and will soon have glaze added and be fired a second time. Once that process is complete, we hope to share a pictorial “light show” of the students’ finished lamps!


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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