Forgiveness Vessels 

Connecting experiences of forgiveness can be empowering. 

In this three session residency, I visited a 7th grade classroom as they began creating forgiveness poems, based on Lucille Clifton's Poem for My Father

Students considered how their poems of forgiveness could be expressed in a vessel: What shape would it take? Would it be shallow, or deep? If their vessel held salt water, as the water evaporated from the interior of their vessel, how would the salt crystalize? 


Day 1

1. Students write for a few minutes about how they were feeling the moment they were wronged, the topic of their forgiveness poem.

2. Students each receive a handful of clay and are asked how they could express that feeling or moment with clay. The clay could be expressing a feeling or represent an object involved in the moment. 

3. After students title their piece, one student starts off the group by sticking their piece to the person next to theirs as they share their title, and this continues in one direction around the room. 

4. When the large piece clay circles back to the start, students are asked what they notice about the collection of sculptures. How heavy is it? What might this symbolize? 

5. Students are asked to think of a word that helps them know when they are ready to forgive someone. After 1-2 minutes to think, the large piece of clay gets passed back around, and as the student grabs a handful of clay they share their word. If they choose to pass they should grab some clay as well. 

6. Students practice the basics of wedging.

7. Students have ten minutes to express with clay something about their forgiveness poem. 

8. Students are paired with the person next to them and with their partner, and are challenged to find a way to combine their sculptures somehow. 

9. Students are asked to title their combined piece, and share this with the group. 

10. Students reflect on a notecard: 4 things they saw or heard, 1 thing they saw, and 1 thing they felt. 

Day 2

1. I share with students the analogy of how I collect a jar of salt water each time I go to the ocean. If I keep the the jar capped, it will remain the same. If I open the jar, it slowly evaporates, leaving salt crystals in the jar. 

2. Students are asked to discuss how this idea might relate to the idea of forgiveness. 

3. I offer a jar of salt water for the classroom and ask a student to open it. 

4. Students observe the work of Rose Lynn Fisher's Topography of Tears

5. Students are asked to create vessels to represent their forgiveness poem. Students considered how deep or shallow their vessel will be. If it was to hold salt water, a deep vessel would evaporate more slowly and we would see less of it on the surface, yet a shallow vessel would evaporate more quickly and we would see more of it on the surface. 

6. Students build their vessels while they take turns reading their work-in-progress forgiveness poems. 

7. The students reflect on a notecard: 4 things they saw or heard, 1 thing they saw, and 1 thing they felt. 

Day 3

1. I introduce the word cathartic and after the bisqued pieces are returned to students, ask them to consider if it would be cathartic for them to break their piece against a wall, or if they would prefer to glaze their piece. 

2. Students that choose to can glaze and students that want to break their piece can pick one phrase from their poem that they will say as they throw their piece against the wall. 

3. The students gather in a circle to watch as one classmate at a time says their line and throws their vessel against the wall. The surrounding students are asked to support and cheer the classmate that is performing. This is video recorded. 

4. The students reflect on a notecard: 4 things they saw or heard, 1 thing they saw, and 1 thing they felt.