Children's Environmental Wall

In the fall of 1997, as the funding for the construction of the Environmental Interpretive Center was being completed, Ford Motor Company sponsored the development of the Children’s Tile Wall Project modeled after a similar project at the Kansas City Zoo. Conceptually, the tile wall was to consist of hundreds of ceramic tiles designed and painted by children and their parents who had attended one of the educational school programs in the Environmental Study Area. Their experiences were then artistically expressed on ceramic tiles to be placed along the exterior wall next to the main entrance of the Center.

Our outdoor school programs offer many opportunities for experiential environmental education. Some details discovered during these programs reflected the detailed adaptations of plants and animals. Details of an acorn, hooks of a burr, wings of an insect, and colors of bird feathers are just some of the features that could be artistically displayed. Tiles for the entrance wall reflected the details that a person experienced during a visit. The majority of the tiles were painted by school children ranging from third grade to high school. Some adults, parents and teachers created tiles, too.

The creative process for tile wall participants began with an exploratory walk in our 300+ acre Environmental Study Area. During this walk the program leader would stop and point out specific details of natural features found along the trail and asked everyone to look closely to generate an idea of the detail that should go into their tile. Several stops would be made along the trails and participants were allowed ample time to sketch something that they observed. Every effort was made to focus the participants on details of discoveries and not on the landscape as a whole.

After the walk outdoors, the group would go back to a classroom where they would select their image and transpose it with pencil to the surface of a tile. They would then use colored glazes to paint their image. The finished product would often be a surprise to everyone as the wet glazes were often very different colors than the finished product would reflect. Each tile was numbered on its back, and the name and age of the artist, the date, and the name of the artist’s school were recorded and stored in a database. The tiles were delivered to Greenfield Village for application of a clear over-glaze and subsequent firing in their kilns.

After firing, each tile was photographed, catalogued and stored in numbered boxes until they were installed near the main entrance of the Center. Each of the photographs was printed in reduced scale, and given to Susan Miller, a Michigan artist, for appropriate placement according to a seasonal theme. Using this photo mock-up all tiles were re-organized according to their placement on the wall. Rustin Tile Company then completed the installation of the tiles.

Artist Susan Miller created the Blue Heron Murals located at each end of the wall as well as the mural acknowledging the Ford Motor Company Fund as a major contributor to the development of the Center and the Children’s Tile Wall Project in particular.

On your next visit to the Center, please take a few moments and experience, as in nature, the diverse and wondrous creations on display on the Ford Children’s Tile Wall