Day in the Life

Talking with Kayla Johnson, FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio

A second Fellow will join The Clay Studio in 2024. Thanks to the team at The Clay Studio for creating and sharing this video with us! 

Picture of Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson

Kayla (she/they) is the After-School Program Coordinator & FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.


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Day in the Life: Teaching Artist

In my role as an FAO Fellow here at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, I get to enjoy lots of variety in my day-to-day experience. My direct service work in the fellowship is working with Claymobile, our mobile engagement community program. The majority of this work is centered around teaching ceramic classes in schools, but I also get to teach in community centers, libraries, and farms. I began in this role acting as a teaching assistant, which means that I worked with the lead teacher in setting up the materials necessary for the class and supported students in their creative process. More recently, I have begun lead teaching in classrooms; it has been a wonderful process starting from having no knowledge about ceramics, to learning how to assist, then to leading a residency. Last week, I had my first class lead teaching at Steel Elementary. I started my day at the studio packing all of the necessary materials and then driving to the school. On arrival, we bring all of the materials to the classroom and introduce ourselves to students. 

Each day at work is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

As a lead teacher, one of the main components is teaching a demonstration of the ceramic project we will be completing. For this particular class, we made coil bowls which are made of small ceramic spirals using a plastic bowl as a mold. During my demonstration, I focused on the feeling of the clay as it was many student’s first experience with it. Teaching how to make a coil, how to smooth the inside of the bowl, and glazing are some of the main focuses for this project. After the demonstration, the rest of the class is spent moving around the classroom, checking in with students and answering any questions that arise. Many students shared ideas of projects they want to make in the future, what they might eat out of their bowls and share information about themselves and their families. The classroom teacher took pictures of each student with their finished bowls and we said goodbye, all in under two hours. 

After a Claymobile class, I’ll switch over to my special project work which is teaching in our new after-school program. The after-school program started last year, and we are now working with four schools in the area. After unpacking and taking lunch, I’ll set up our studio with the tools and demonstrations necessary for our class. Then, I walk to the school that we work with that day to pick up students at dismissal. After all of the students arrive, we walk to the studio together. Once we arrive, we have snacks and homework help which is necessary time for students to relax and connect with each other. Then we switch to studio time. Teaching in the after-school program can be similar to the style of Claymobile teaching, but as it is a smaller group who have had practice in multiple making techniques, it runs more independently. Some days we offer a full demonstration, others are free-making days where students choose what they want to make, but most days fall somewhere in between. This is a long-term program for students, so the curriculum is built particularly for the students from each school. Connecting with students on a weekly basis is one of my favorite parts of my job, and being able to provide a fun and safe space for students to make art and chat with friends. Working within the after-school program lends itself to a stable consistent schedule which is nice for me and Claymobile gives my schedule some flexibility and fun. Each day at work is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Picture of Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson

Kayla (she/they) is the After-School Program Coordinator & FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.


Natalia works with children and their families at an event at the Museum of the City of New York

A Day in the Life of a Fellow at MCNY

9:00-9:15 – Grounding 

  • I start my mornings by checking my email, responding to any messages, and planning my schedule for the day. I find this routine really grounding because I know exactly what I need to do and when to do it throughout the day.


9:15-9:45 – Field Trip Prep Time 

  • Most, if not every morning, I will be leading field trips for K-12 audiences as part of my direct service work. After I’ve grounded myself in my goals for the day, I will take time to prepare materials that students will engage with throughout the experience. Our field trip materials include a wide range of historical objects, iPads with videos, and arts and crafts materials. 
  • I will also review the information about the group to best tailor the experience to their needs. Sometimes the teacher let us know ahead of time that the students are studying a specific topic related to the gallery, so I will make sure to include that topic as a discussion point in the tour. 
  • I will often teach more than one field trip in a day during the academic year, so I will prep materials for my second field trip at this time if needed so that I am not rushing later on.


10:00 – 1:00 – Field Trips 

  • Depending on the time of year, I will teach one or two field trips a day. Each trip is an entirely different experience. Some of the variables that make each field trip unique include the student’s prior knowledge and interests, their grade level and previous museum experience, the gallery we are visiting, the time of day they visit, or even the weather. Developing my arsenal of teaching strategies has taken lots of practice, experimentation, and collaboration with other facilitators on the Education team. 


12:45 – 1:00 – Clean Up! 

  • Once all of my field trips for the day are done, I will put away materials that I took out for the day. I will also make note if we are running low on supplies and replenish them so that they’re prepared for the other museum educators who may need them.


1:00 – 2:00 – Lunch

  • When the weather is nice, I will eat lunch in Central Park! The Museum is across the street from the Conservatory Gardens, so I will often sit on a bench in that area. Now, having worked at the Museum for a year, it’s been really fascinating to see and learn how the gardeners change the landscape over the seasons. 


2:00 – 5:00 PM – Special Project Work Time 

  • In the afternoons I have dedicated time to work on my special projects. These projects change throughout the year depending on the upcoming programs and gallery rotations. Much of the special project work I do is collaborative, and I really appreciate the opportunities to work and learn from my colleagues!  
  • Field Trip co-development – One of the special projects I have been working on is co-developing a field trip for our upcoming exhibit People, Place and Influence: The Collection at 100. Part of this work includes selecting objects that students will interact with, identifying the types of engagements we will have students participate in, and selecting the main concepts we want students to take away from the field trip. 
  • FAO Foundation work – I will also work on projects for the FAO Foundation. The projects I have worked on this year include creating a graduation book to celebrate the second-year fellows upon the completion of their fellowship, preparing to present for prospective students, planning for the upcoming New York City retreat, and more.


Picture of Natalia Wang

Natalia Wang

Natalia (she/they) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York.