By Gabriel Selbig
For the sixth straight year at Homer High, ceramics students received the end of the year treat of a half day of school spent at Bishop’s Beach. On this field trip, ceramics teacher, Maygen Janetta educates her 50+ students on the traditional method of pit-firing.
Pit firing is the ancient, low-tech method of firing burnished ceramic pots. “Aboriginal tribes have been pit firing for centuries”, said Ms. Janetta. “It’s a useful lesson that must be taught in the outdoors!” Along with a signed permission slip, a burnished pot is the only requirement for the trip. In return, Ms. Janetta rewards her students with roaring bonfires, well-roasted marshmallows, and a sense of delight in knowing the majority of their classmates are kept confined within walls of much too familiar classrooms.
Each group of students must dig out their pits a few feet deep. Then, a fire is started in the pit, topped with the burnished pots and large amounts of shredded paper. Once the fire is out, students retrieve their pots from the pit and cool where crashed waves meet the sand.
“Results may very,” answered ceramics student, Mario Glosser, when asked of the outcome of the pots. “The beach burning is a good time regardless of whatever you yield from the pit firing.” At times, the pots crack or simply become charred in the firing, but every so often, the new designs are astounding.
A stress-free learning experience is rare, especially at the tail end of the year. With six years accident free, Janetta’s ceramics students will hold the beach burning trip in high regard for years to come.