Here is a great fall clay project we did in my co-op art classes. (4/5/6th grades.) I saw a set of leaf-shaped plates in Better Homes and Gardens that gave me the idea for this project.
Fall colored polymer clay (Sculpey or similar)
gold acrylic paint
I gave each student a square of waxed paper to work on. They put their names on their paper. They each got to pick a chunk of polymer clay. I used about 1/3 of a block per child. We talked about conditioning clay. (Working it until it becomes warmed and pliable.) If polymer clay is not conditioned, it will not hold together. While the kids conditioned their clay, I showed them a demonstration of how we would make the leaves.
Roll the clay into a ball, and then into an egg shape. Using the palm of the hand, squish the "egg" onto the waxed paper, then press it out into a flat oval shape with your thumbs, keeping it even and not too thin.
When the leaf is the size you want it, take a real leaf that has been flattened and burnish (rub) it with the back of a spoon onto the clay with the veins face down. Gently peel off the leaf. (You do not want really dry brittle leaves for this project or you will be picking leaf bits out of your clay leaves. Leaves that are fresh or just a day or two old are best.)
Gently peel your veined clay leaf off of the waxed paper and pinch at the top and the bottom to form the tip and stem end of the leaf. You do not have to be too fussy with the shape because when you pinch the top and bottom it almost magically makes it into a realistic looking leaf. Form the edges of the leaf as desired-- cupped to be bowl-like, ruffled, wavy, etc. Bake according to package directions. (I did the baking at home and we finished these the second week.)
Above-leaves before gilding. After baking, give the kids their leaves on a newspaper and have them paint gold paint over the leaf, being careful to get paint into every crack and crevice. I had moistened paper towels for each student to wipe the gold paint off with immediately after painting. Guild the back of the leaf also, if desired. Wipe off. After they were all done painting, I had wet rags for the kids to clean their fingers with. Have them put their gilded leaves onto their waxed paper pieces to dry. Acrylic dries very fast. Use care: Acrylic paint can be washed out of clothes only if it is still wet. After drying it is permanent.
This was a very simple project with stunning results. I was very pleased with how great every single leaf looked. We had ruffled, jagged, smooth and wavy leaves. Every one of them was beautiful. We thought they would make nice gifts for their moms to put their rings on or even for a small soap dish.
Above left: 5th and 6th grade leaves