Mrs. Clement taught fifth grade at Tillman Elementary School.
One of her standard classroom projects was creating a relief map
of the United States. It served the dual purpose of mastering
geography, while incorporating an art activity.
On a piece of Masonite, we traced around a stencil of the United States.
Then we mixed up a concoction of flour, salt and water, which was
spread on the board and molded to form mountain ranges, river valleys,
This stage was beloved by students, for they managed to smear goop
all over themselves, their friends and the entire classroom. I suspect the
school custodians had a much different take on the situation.
Once the mixture dried, it was time to add color to the map to portray
varying elevations of the land and to demarcate rivers and lakes. The final
step involved applying a coat of varnish to preserve the finished masterpiece.
Throughout the project, Mrs. Clement kept herself right in the thick of
things. She busily circled the classroom, moving from student to student, refashioning mountain ranges or adjusting colors to suit her vision.
Offering unsolicited help was an engrained feature of Mrs. Clement’s
teaching style. I recall being somewhat confused and mildly irritated
by her intervention on more than one occasion while in her class.
Sadly, the project was never completely out of her hands, for she
was incapable of fully entrusting it to us. In micro managing every
step of the process, the outcome was much more hers, than ours.
Letting go can be difficult. But, unless it happens, individual initiative
and creativity never see the full light of day.