How to Deal with Poorly Made Bongs

If you have ever taught ceramics in a high school setting, you have likely dealt with some inappropriate projects. So what do you do when a student tries to sneak some drug paraphernalia by you? How do you deal with poorly made ceramics that are part of some nefarious plans? Check out the video to see a foolproof strategy for dealing with these projects.

How do you deal with these types of projects?

Do ceramics ever “accidentally” blow up in your kiln?

2 years ago

Timothy Bogatz

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.


  • Breanne kanak

    This happened during my student teaching! The kid got as far as to glaze it before I discussed with my co teacher that we should probably destroy it… that was an awkward conversation lol

  • Elizabeth Kick

    Thanks for the best laugh I’ve had in a while!!!

    • Timothy Bogatz

      Glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth! It was a lot of fun to record!

  • Megan Andrews

    Amazing. Such a mystery, why they never make it through the kiln.

  • Mis Luchsinger

    Love it!

  • AnneCaudill

    Oh my gosh… I’m dying! Thanks for sharing!

  • Trinh Bitzer

    Haha! I love this idea. I usually just “lose them”. “What? I have no idea what happened to that! It was a self watering flower pot for your mom? Man, do I feel bad.” (Yes, a kid actually told me once the bong they made was a self watering flower pot!)

    • Kay Hess Grogg

      HAHA! I got the same response but the kid asked me first how to put a hole in it so his mom could water from the bottom. I rolled my eyes and told him it wasn’t necessary! Mom would like it better without the hole. Really? Do they think I just fell of the turnip truck?

  • Kelly Phillips

    Lolz, Tim. Ever so gently drop it from 3 feet! Nice work!

  • “Dumb” question, but do you outline at the beginning of the course that this is unacceptable behavior? As a photo teacher, I’ve found that I have to specifically say to students what is allowable subject matter (i.e. no drugs/drug paraphernalia, no images of underaged drinking, no gratuitous violence towards humans or animals, etc) because I’ve actually had parents defend their children’s photographs of such subject matter. Now everyone signs off stating they understand it’s unacceptable and what the consequences are…doesn’t stop everyone, but at least they know.

  • funkhouserb

    Isn’t there a more respectful way to deal with this than breaking student work? Seems like clear expectations and honest conversations might go further than this transparent lie about “I don’t know what happened…” I was hoping for a more sensitive answer than this.

    • Tamara Hallock

      A student who dares to expect it to be fired should be ashamed and I think it’s a perfect way to deal with it. Sorry, they don’t deserve sensitivity.

      • funkhouserb

        I think everyone deserves sensitivity. In this case, I didn’t hear the teacher clearly explain what will and will not be fired. He said, “I tell them I’ll fire anything they make” so why wouldn’t the student think a bong would be fired? It seems like clear expectations about what is school appropriate would be a valuable discussion BEFORE they make anything.

        • Tamara Hallock

          I’m with Mary. They’ll have to make a bong outside of school without any involvement from me.

    • Mary

      Why are we showing respect for inappropriate behavior? Making a bong on purpose is defiant and bold. It is also insulting to a teachers intelligence to think they will not recognize it for what it is.

      • funkhouserb

        Mary and Tamara, Of course I’m not suggesting that schools start firing bongs. Hear my point. I’m talking about what is best teaching practice here. He said he would fire anything the student makes. There was no mention of what is allowable from the teacher. I think this would be a good addition to the video but it wasn’t there. What I heard is “I’ll fire anything” which is not a message I think we should broadcast as best teaching practice.

        I teach in a region of California where pot is legal and marijuana paraphernalia is pervasive. We aren’t living in decades past where marijuana was always illegal and had to be hidden. Not all students will automatically know that bongs and pipes are not school appropriate. In many parts of the country, students might know this already but not where I teach. It seems to me the best advice to art teachers is to have clear expectations about what is and isn’t school appropriate. “Anything that appears related to drugs or alcohol or sex will not be fired. If you aren’t sure, ask before making the work and we can talk about it” might be a better starting place than “I’ll fire anything you make.” (But I’ll break it and not tell you why if I find it inappropriate.)

        It seems this communication with students will build more bridges and respect in the classroom than “accidentally” destroying student work and covering up with “I don’t know what happened”. I personally would like to know that I made my expectations clear and invited the students to talk to me rather than assuming the worst in them. I have found this builds strong relationships with students and minimizes discipline issues.

        • DustyDay

          I always start the year by talking to students about permanence, about the ways that clay is permanent when fired, we talk about clay chemistry and quartz inversion. We talk about how ancient civilizations are continuously revealed to archaeologists through excavation. Then I go on to explain that because of its permanent nature i do not feel compelled to fire EVERYTHING they make, part of art is using our design and critism to evaluate and “edit.” For me this isn’t about creative “rights” within the class room, it is about “does the world NEED another permanent bong or pipe?” “could our ceramic material, our geologically limited material, be used for more artful works?” then you avoid the whole issue because glass pipes and bongs can be melted and recycled.

  • Tamara Hallock

    Good one, Tim. My student said it was a vase. Oh, really? Ha, my way to deal with it was to toss it right into the trash and let it break.

  • Lorraine Pulvino Poling

    LOL!!! Same thing would happen in my classroom. Must have been air bubbles or not dried enough- oh dear……

  • Mary D

    Actually this is hilarious because i can remember my high school ceramics teacher giving us a very serious lecture forbidding us from making bongs, pipes, ashtrays, or any type of genitalia. I remember a not too bright kid making a large bong in spite of the lecture. The teacher suggested he glaze it with Fire Red, at the time a lead based glaze. Lol. Never had this problem myself only taught elementary.

  • Ruth Post

    Same thing happens to my students ash trays and guns :)

    • Kay Hess Grogg

      I had an advanced student say one year, “Ms. G, I can tell how many rednecks you have in the Art I classes by the number of ashtrays they have made.” Quite smart!

  • Monica

    I’ve had this happen several times. I don’t make a point at the beginning of the year to say what they can and cannot make, I don’t want to put any ideas in their heads. If it’s a really nice piece, artistically, I’ll plug any openings rendering it useless as a bong. I’ve NEVER had a student ask about it and it’s my way of saying “I know what this was meant to be…don’t do it again!” When I catch something which has happened three times this year I usually do the above but if it’s during the construction phase I have them fix it. I told one that I just didn’t like that appendage on his coil pot and that it would be in the way of the decoration later and that it needed to be removed….he removed it no questions. I’ve had two tea pots this year that are clearly bongs. One was a tea pot with the top of the lid open and formed so ones mouth could comfortably fit! I explained that tea pots don’t have open lids and it needed to be closed off. The other was the knob on the tea pot I caught as I was loading the kiln, it was bowl shaped and had this really strange little hole going through it…not any more! Just an FYI for anyone that doesn’t know, you can fuse bone dry clay with vinegar and plug those unwanted openings quite easily.

    • Martha Butcher

      I’ve never known that you could fuse greenware with vinegar! White? I’m an elementary art teacher and will really be able to use this trick to save structural problems!

      • Monica

        Yep, just white vinegar. I buy it from Sam’s Club…2 gallons for @$5. It works on all clay bodies. I use several different clay bodies with my students and when I learned about the vinegar trick several years ago I was able to free myself of all the slip containers and the chore of having to keep them in usable! I cut it 1:1 with water because it’s too strong right out of the bottle. I also have vinegar spray bottles the kids use to clean the tables, it really helps remove the clay residue. Glad my post was useful! :)

    • Jill Henrichsen

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Meredith May Wise

    You made my morning. Laughing to tears. I think the the best part is taking the photo and trying to have some “restitution” as you deal with the “accident”. It is helping the students play out what would have happened if that piece was allowed to be fired/glazed. Yes, they created a work. Now, what is the community impact? Play it out with them.

  • A teacher in my district like to pour slip just into the lower spout, so they still end up with a nice, slightly odd vase.

  • Paul Garrison

    What I don’t like about this solution is it fosters a deceptive classroom environment, and it’s literally destroying a students’ work because it made the teacher uncomfortable. It teaches the student that they can’t trust or be honest with a teacher. It’s also fairly dishonest. Here is the honest version of what this guy REALLY means at the beginning of his class “I’ll fire anything you make but I might destroy it first if I think it’s something inappropriate!” But he doesn’t say that or he doesn’t tell us he says that, because the reality of that is so crappy.

  • Jill Henrichsen

    This is awesome. I teach high school ceramics and will be mainly teaching ceramics this fall.

  • Amy Dawson

    Today, I told a student you can’t make a bong in class. Please start over.
    Of course there was the defiant, “What?? I didn’t!” but i just repeated myself.

    I only had one bowl get past me but only because I didn’t think it would work. I was wrong…

  • Carly

    Straight up rule in my room NO BONGS OR DONGS, easy to remember when it rhymes