Motawi Tileworks field trip combines lessons in art, economics

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By Tara Cavanaugh 

Crafting a beautiful Motawi Tileworks tile is a painstaking process, with each step demanding perfection. Crafting an economic model that supports the nationally-known business is just as tricky.

A class of Lakewood third graders learned about both the art and economics of the Ann Arbor-based company on a field trip earlier this week.

The field trip is just one example of how the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ humanities curriculum for elementary students works. Art teachers plan with classroom teachers to create lessons that combine art with social studies, writing and science. The result is curriculum that leaves a lasting impression on students, showing them that the world is an interconnected and interdisciplinary place.

At Motawi Tileworks on Tuesday, Erin McKillen’s third graders took a tour of the facility, learning about every step in the tile-making process. Students watched as clay was molded into shapes and patterns, dried, placed in a 1,000-plus-degree kiln, glazed and painted. (For a more detailed look at each step, see the slideshow above.)

Students also asked questions about the economics of the business: How do you determine price? How do you manage inventory? What outside factors affect your sales? What’s your best seller?

Lakewood art teacher Peggy Leonard has done this field trip for three years. “They study economics and talk about business, but I think it’s hard to get a hands on experience for what that’s like, so it’s good to come here,” she said. “It’s a great mashup of a factory and art.”

The Lakewood PTO supports the field trip, paying for the students to tour the facility and for Leonard to have a substitute teacher. “My students often say it’s their favorite field trip,” Leonard said.

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1 Comment

  1. What an AWESOME experience Lakewood Lizards! From the story that I was able to read and the photos that I viewed, I can tell that you had an AMAZING field trip. Special thanks to Mrs. Leonard, Mrs. Greiner, Mrs. McKillen, our parent volunteers and our PTO for exposing our children to this enrichment opportunity.

    You even got the chance to meet Ms. Motawi the founder of the company! That is super cool. Thank you for my bunny tile. I am going to keep it in my office for the rest of the year.

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