Summer plans…version 2013

What are you planning for your upcoming summer? Traveling? Family reunions? Summer Camp? Summer reading?

disneycastleWith the end of the school year around the corner, the Potwins have a few plans ahead of them. A short get away to Disney is definitely in the cards. One last pilgrimage to the Land of the Mouse before the crowds get too cumbersome, as well as the Florida humidity rises to similar levels found only in the thickest portion of the Amazon Jungle.

Since both Mr. Potwin and I will be working most of the summer, preparing forlakechamplain the coming school year as well as shuttling between summer camps, travel will be limited. Sadly our annual ( and relaxing) Vermont fishing trip will not happen, much to the collective relief of all bass fish in Lake Champlain.

Much of my reading will be centered around many of the titles on the newly announced Sunshine flwinnState list, in addition to my course work reading about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. This preparatory reading will help me better understand the lessons during my National Endowment for the Humanities – Landmarks in American History grant. In mid July, I will be traveling to Iowa to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and writings. Thank you NEH for selecting me as part of your program.  Thankfully, I am attending  the American Library Association conference. Woohie!  chicagoala The annual ALA conference will beheld this year in one of my favorite city’s , Chicago, home of the ALA (and Intelligensia Coffee– yummie! ). With luck, I will be able to meetup with my two rockstar librarian idols…Nancy Pearl and Sarah Houghton.

easy-to-make-christmas-ornaments-simple-craftsTime off will be spend with Eoin, traveling to local museums , reading and doing arts and crafts. Normally, we work on our Christmas crafts in the summer months, as that December is too busy a month to fully enjoy the intricate nuances of glue and glitter and paint and fun foam.  We are eagerly awaiting the release of the diary_of_a_wimpy_kid_ver84th Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie this August as that Eoin and I are reading Jeff Kinney’s books in tandem. The reality of my son turning 8 years old this summer is shocking; my baby was just born, or so it seems, and now he is a healthy and active 8 year old who loves to read, count everything, thinks math is the coolest subject, wants to be a football player/ restauranteur/teacher/Lego brick designer. Where did the time go?

It’s good to be home….

After a week away in Chicago, I am looking forward to being home in Bradenton with my husband and son. I took the elevated train from the Van Buren / Library stop to Midway airport with a fellow participant from Massachusetts.  We chatted about the past week, the things we had learned and the places we had visited. While the elevated train is significantly cheaper than taking a taxi to the airport, it also offers a wonderfully clear parting view of the downtown and its majestic skyscrapers. I have truly enjoyed this week. Again, many thank yous to the National Endowment for the Humanities and to the staff at National Louis University for selecting me to participate in the Exploring Public Places programe.

Air Tran, please leave on time! I have a very eager little boy who wants to get his hands on a certain lego kit in my suitcase.

Chicago’s Lakefront and Public Places in Perspective: a conclusion

Sadly, my ritual Intelligentsia coffee shoppe in the Monadock building was closed on the weekends.  Luckily, I found another nearby location. Granted the décor is more industrial in theme, I do prefer the marble, art deco stylings of the Monadock location. However, the coffee is fantastic,  the croissant yummie, free WiFi and the atmosphere is conducive to writing.  What more could a girl want?  Also worth noting, Carl, another NEH participant from my work table, is equally enthralled with good coffee, as am I.  He has been visiting the same Intelligentsia coffee shops, and we often chat as we pass each others’ table.  To my chagrin, they sell a blend of coffee ( sold out at the time of my visit) aptly named Librarian’s blend.  However, it is a decaf blend.  It is marketed as

This blend is representative of the soul of the librarian: steady, reassuring, and always there with that slight edge of eccentricity. It has a bold base with a bit of sparkle.

Obviously, they do know us very well…….

As a group, we discussed what we have learned this week and how we will be applying it to our classrooms in our hometowns.   This sharing of ideas has lit a spark with me.  I have a number of ideas for my final project.  Each participant is expected to produce (within one month of our departure) a plan for a final lesson   with our students, geared to the age we teach. Many of my fellow participants have turned in their lesson plans today.  I have elected to mull it over more and will email my plans in within the week. I have a number of ideas, but need to sift through and clarify it on paper.

Today is a day of great sadness.  It is the final day of our National Endowment for the Humanities, Landmarks in American History program.   I would like to thank Dr. Mark Newman, Dr. Costas Spirou, Dr. Larry Bennett for organizing this program to inspire teachers (and those of us who work with school children) to inject a different perspective into our lessons.  All three lecturers were extremely knowledgeable of their subject field, all three were engaging.  My particular favorite lecturer was Dr.  Larry Bennett. His humor and light personality was injected into each lecture and tour he gave.  I am truly honored to have been selected for this program and am leaving with a refreshed outlook as well as rejuvenated approach to my library program. Participants were treated like professionals, yet it has been an enriching week as that the group got along so well.  I can feel like I am leaving the NEH Chicago program with something in my hand (a practical lesson plan), something in my head (I have a new outlook on public spaces) as well as something in my belly (the hospitality was incredible!).  Finally, I would like to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for offering the Landmarks in American History program.  While numerous government programs are being scrutinized during budget cutbacks, this program’s offerings are invaluable and should not be slashed.

I would also like to thank the University Center staff for accommodating our group of 40 teachers.  The University Center, during summer months, operates as a downtown hotel.  At a very reasonable rate, they offer clean modern dorm rooms, with a private or semi private bath, in a prime location of downtown Chicago, in the education corridor.  The Loop, CTA lines, as well as many historic sites and museums are well within walking distance of the University Center.

Upon the noon time, final dismissal of our program, many participants dashed back to the Uni Center to collect their luggage and depart for the airport.  A number of us stayed for a final afternoon, to depart on Sunday.  I felt a sense of bittersweet sadness.  I have so very much enjoyed this week, learning, travelling, meeting new people from across the country and exchanging fresh ideas.

 After walking back with my roommate, Rebecca, we said goodbye in our room. One of the major reasons I enjoyed this week was that I had found myself rooming with another teacher who was very much like me, personality wise.  We had a ball; sharing some of the activities together and laughing constantly.

After bidding Rebecca adieu, I decided the afternoon should be spent at the Robbie House in Hyde Park.  I have been itching to take the Wright 3 tour, given by school aged, docent trained children of the Frank Lloyd Wright house.  The beauty of this tour is that it is given from the perspective of the Wright 3 book (a children’s book) by Blue Bailliet.  I toured the house, witnessing the patio were the workman in the story fell, were Tommy found the oriental fish talisman in the children’s play yard, the windows which ‘sighed’, and the Invisible man embedded in the stain glass window, Tommy’s neighboring apartment complex where he lived.  After being in the house in person, it did not feel as haunted as the book implied, though it certainly had a ‘presence’; its own breathing ‘life’.  I was ecstatic to finally take in this historic home.

After the tour,  I walked about Hyde Park, a very gentrified neighborhood,  which boasts some fabulous architecture, bookshoppes  (to support the University of Chicago) and is home to many prestigious families…including the First Family, the Obamas.  I stopped to grab a cold soda pop at Medici’s bakery, which turns out to be the Obama’s favorite neighborhood bakery.  I was able to take the #6 bus back to the downtown Loop, to return to my room to rest…..a half empty room, as that Rebecca and her belongings are now off to their next adventure.

I ate a quick supper at the University Center. From there, I also took a trip up to the Hancock building, up to the  96th floor lounge  to enjoy the view.  At twilight the city is being to twinkle with lamination.  This was an interesting experience to compare with my trip to the top of Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) two years ago.  While that was 180 floors up, the Hancock view was not as high, though I felt much more prettier and accessible view of the skyline, somehow.  I still do not like heights……..Adjacent to the Hancock Center is the Watertower Plaza.  A second stop at the Lego store has provided me with another prezzie to tuck away for Christmas. (Ironically, the sales clerk remembered me from my visit on Monday. He greeted me by name! How impressive!) I was then able to sit in the Millennium Park to enjoy an outdoor concert.  One of the many benefits of Chicago’s public places during the summer months are the many free, quality concerts in the parks.

The Future of Public Place in a Global Age

This morning began,  much as  my mornings this week  have all begun…with a yummie café au lait and a chocolate croissant at the Intelligentsia café.  It felt ever so bittersweet, as that they will be closed on  the weekends ( serving primarily the office workers in the neighboring Federal Building).    The ever so friendly baristas  pointed out  the Millennium Park location is open on the weekends.   So breakfast/ blogging time on Saturday  and Sunday is no longer in jeopardy.

Today’s agenda was a busy one,   This morning, Dr. Bennett ( while all of our NEH leaders are very knowledgable, Dr. Bennett is a wonderfully engaging lecturer) briefed us before taking  Mr.  Tim Gilfoyle took  us on a walking tour of  of the North End of Millenium Park and  the 21st Century improvements.   We discussed  new visions for future  developments,  the corproate sponsorship,  the political wrangling and  technology within the park as well as funding issues. Our tour was so popular, that others outside of our group joined the tour.  We  visited the Pitzker pavillion by Frank Gehry,  gardens, the Crown fountain, the famous Cloud gate  scultpure by Anish Kapoor.  Freddy Falcon came on the tour with me. I am embarrassed to say that I caught him planking in the Boeing sculpture gardens.

Prior to  noon time we  Dr. Bennett switch gears and  discussed the   ebbs and flows of city developments, the role of lakefronts in revitailzaing cities.


After lunch  at the Uni center, our teacher leaders  offers time for the groups to work together to produce their week’s project.  Since, my group has already completed this task,  I spend part of that afternoon working on this blog posting,  and part of it at the Chicago Art Institute.  All the while thinking about what we discussed and learned this week and how we will be applying it to our classrooms

Dr. Larry Bennett, Dr. Mark Newman, Dr. Tim Gilfoyle

in our hometowns.    I have a number of ideas for my final project.  Each participant is expected to produce ( within one month of our departure)  a plan for a final lesson   with our students, geared to the age we  teach.  I know have a number of ideas, but need to sift through and  clarifiy it on paper.

By 6pm,  I felt a sense of bittersweet sadness.  I have so very much enjoyed this week, learning , travelling, meeting new people from across the country and exchanging fresh ideas.  While we will be meeting again  on Saturday morning,  it is the last official night of the program.

I had made reservations to enjoy supper at the Atwood Café,  in the Burnham

Hotel Burnham, Reliance Building, Chicago, IL

Hotel….as an ode to  the urban planner who  envisioned  a city of the future,   the core  player in this week’s lessons, Daniel Burnham.    The hotel has since gone through a revitalization….see my previous blog.  And ultimately, after a week of grabbing quick meals and eat ing cafeteria food, it is a treat to enjoy a proper meal. My roomate Rebecca joined me. We were surprised to arrive to a reserve table  with not chairs, but two loveseats as a seating.   Towards the end of this 3 hour meal,  my roommate began to slowly inch towards reclining on the sofa to enjoy her dessert.  As a pregnant lady,  the establishment did not issue a reprimand .  A three hour meal was relaxing, the conversation  enjoyable, the food savory and beyond words.

Interior of Atwood Cafe, Burnham Hotel, Chicago, IL

Past, Present and Future use of Public Space

My morning began as other Chicago mornings…. breakie in the Intelligentsia café.  The baristas are getting to know me and my daily order by heart. ( I feel like the Norm character on the 80s TV. program “Cheers”) . On one hand I feel guilt for not trying different places. On the other hand, I feel guilt for trying something different during my short time in the city and having the new choice be a less than satisfactory experience.  Yes, there is comfort in the familiar.  Besides, the coffee is ever so tasty.  Sigh.  Such an emotional struggle going on in my head at too early an hour.

Federal Plaza, Chicago

After breakie, I am trotting over one block to the Federal building.  Much of the plaza is under construction,  and viewing Alexander Calder’s Flamingo  sculpture is hampered by protective plywood and netting.  However, the short building in the plaza  (popularized in various movies, including Ferris Buller’s Day Off),  is a post office.  I am planning to mail out my post cards from this  spot.  Not only is it a famous spot,  though really the only post office I can find.   ( Many office buildings in Chicago have ornate mail collection receptacles in the main lobby, by the elevators, as well.)

I was excited for today’s lessons.  Our NEH/National Louis leaders will be discussing   the past/present and future of public space.   We will be looking at the progress ‘caused’, or perhaps ‘inspired’ , by  the World’s fair in 1933-1934.

Within a span of 40 years, Chicgao hosted two world’s fairs  that celebrated  the European discovery of the Americas and the 100th  birthday of Chicago , respectively.  Both fairs were organized during prosperous times, yet opened during  two of the worst economic depressions which America had every experienced.  It is documented that these fairs  did more than offer an occasion to celebrate;  they employed people during a time when many were struggling with being out of work, also, it provided a brief escape from the hard times of everyday life.  The Century of Progress, in 1933,  symbolized hope for both Chicago and the country.

Me, South Lakefront Park, Museum Campus, Chicago, IL

Importantly,  the fairs serve as examples of hope public places can serve a multitude of purpose: building community, entertainment, sparking the down turned economy, as well as offering a glimpse into a possible dynamic future.

The 1933 Fair lasted two years, to accommodate the mass number of visitors.  Scientists penned the Chicago 1933 ‘s fair  as

Science finds,

Industry applies,

Man conforms.

During the morning lecture,  we examined primate sources: various photos from the actual  1933 fair, postcards and advertising flyers  as well as maps and admission tickets.

Sue the Dinosaur, Field Museum, Chicago, IL

After the planned morning lecture ,  group  spent the afternoon on a  scheduled  trip across the street to the south end of the Lakefront park, were much of the 1933 World’s fair  was constructed ( though was built to be torn down after the fair’s closure).    We walked down to Roosevelt Ave and Michigan Aves  to observe the redevelopment of the park,  the extensive bike trails, the soft ball fields, the sculpture,  the  pathways leading to the Museum Campus.  The group then broke up around 12.30pm near Soldier Field to tour various public spaces, including Field  Museum,  the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium .  I elected to visit the Field Museum and Sue the Dinosaur ( if one ever has the opportunity to visit , I would recommend it highly.)

From there,  I returned back to my dorm room to rest and reflect and have a late/mid afternoon lunch and to compose my thoughts.

Shortly around 7pm, I ventured out again to try to visit theChicago Public Library and  sat down to absorb  the space;  how it was being used, who was using it,  how it was causing others to behave/react. My roomate ,  Rebecca, joined me.  We visited with Jessica, the children’s librarian on duty in the children’s  reading room.  She was speaking so passionately about reading and inspiring children to read that she was an the verge of tearing up.  Which, of course, casued me to get slighty weepy as well, as that is the name of the game for all librarians who work with young people….to inspire our children to be reading. …to inspire and uplift.

Me, Chicago Public Library, 9th Floor Winter Garden, Chicago, IL

Rebecca and I visited all nine floors of the public area of the library, including the magnificent roof top winter garden room.  Again, a public space  used to inspire cultural awareness, civics mindedness,  to uplift the soul and inspire.  Daniel Burnham  approve of this building ‘s attributes which adher to the 1909 plan.

Since it has been a long day out in the sun, I am not only sunburnt,  but rather  a bit tired from all the fresh air. A little snack then bedtime amongst the skyscrapers.  Boy, those were sure tasty cupcakes……

Grant Park and Chicago’s downtown lakefront as a public place

Another morning breakie at the Café Intelligentsia.  Another café au lait and a chocolate croissant. Is it wrong to enjoy such a simple breakie so much?  Their coffee is outstanding.  The customer ahead of me had a deep conversation with the barista about the quality of the beans.  Further proof that coffee consumption is not a socialize addiction but on the verge of a religion.

After posting a blog for Day 2 of my NEH program, I am very much looking forward to Day 3.  Today’s schedule will take us on a walking tour of the north end of Grant Park as well as an afternoon seminar of the history of the park.  I am very much looking forward to meeting up in the park for a picnic lunch today with my fellow NEH Skyscraper alumni and our CAF leaders from 2009.  Today can be summarized as a ‘park day’.

Rebecca and I , Buckingham Fountain, Chicago

Before heading off to class, I dashed back to my room to pick up my roommate, Rebecca.  She is a middle school math teacher from Kalamazoo, MI and we have been getting on like a house on fire these past few days.  Not only are we roommates, we are table mates in the classroom and have no shortage for things to chin wag about.

As the class gathered, we summarized the previous days learning,   by defining Daniel Burnham’s   impact, of who he was and of his many roles.  From approx 9.30am until lunch time, we divided off into two groups.  Larry Bennett led a walking tour of Millennium Park.  From Michigan Ave South to Buckingham Fountain, along Lakeshore Blvd, to the skating rink/ playground area in the North East corner of the park, over the British Petroleum walk designed by Frank Gehry to the Pritzker Band shell (also designed by Gehry.  Today’s goal was to look at what the latest developments in the park have been realized and observe how they are being used and how.

Lunch was a lovely treat.  Several participants were also past participants of the Skyscraper program ( as I was two years ago in 2009),  met with the Chicago  Architecture Foundation  NEH program leaders,  Jean Linsner and  Jenn Masengarb for lunch in the South garden of the  Chicago Institute of Art.  It was a lovely sunny day, a quiet relaxing garden, steps away from the frantic traffic of Michigan Ave.  We enjoyed catching up on what we have all been doing and of how the Skyscraper NEH program has been implemented in our schools.

CAF NEH Leaders, Jean Linsner and Jenn Masnegarb

Sugar Bliss, Chicago

Mrs. Pullen,  I was able to find time at lunch to make a selection at Sugar Bliss, on North Wasbash, across from Marshall Field’s/Macy’s department store.  While the daily flavor selection is overwhelming, I will warn you that vanilla is never JUST vanilla.  Delish.

Returning to the classroom for 1pm, Dr. Bennett   continued his seminar on the nature of public places using Grant Park as an example of discussions between open spaces versus urban development and the need for each.

To wrap up the afternoon,   our teacher leaders discussed what the parameters of the weekly assignment as well as the final project.  Web services such as: Prezzie, Weebly, Glogster, Museumbox and Wikispace were all demonstrated.

With my homework completed for the weekly assignment, I then trotted across the street to the Chicago Institute of Art to take advantage of the free admission day.  Sadly, I was turned away due to my cupcakes.  Expectedly, I could not take my gourmet Sugar Bliss cupcakes into the museum.  However, I was not allowed to ‘check’ my cupcakes in the storage area.   What is the world coming to? The coat check lady suggested that I quickly eat the cupcakes to be allowed in.  She obviously did not fully understand the importance of gourmet cupcakes. Oh well,  the art institute will be on my itinerary another day…..sans cupcakes.

Due to lack of Internet connectivity in my room,  I have been  writing my text in the evening, then posting in the mornings at breakfast ( usually a free WiFi spot.)  Thus,  my postings will be brief at this time.  It is my aspiration to elaborate on what is learned in the classroom by synthesizing my notes and posting this information when I return home.  Frankly,  I do not feel it  a good idea to be trotting around at night with my electronic equipment seeking a WiFi spot.

Daniel Burnham: Chicago’s visionary architect

Freddy enjoy his morning cafe,Cafe Intelligentsia

Luckily, I found another WiFi spot…which also serves a yummie café au lait/ chocolate croissant breakfast.  Am not sure which I was primarily seeking out, though both as a welcomed treat.  I posted yesterday’s blog from the Intelligentsia Café,  (53 West Jackson  Street).  This 1920s Chicago Art deco is bistro is much more classic in its styles when compared to other more modern styled coffee bars on Broadway Street or near Millennium Park.  Again, Chicago is a city of great contrasts of styles.

Dr. Mark Newman, Monadnock Building

This bistro themed café is located in one of the buildings I studies last time I was in Chicago as part of the NEH program on Skyscrapers as an American Icon, the Monadnock Building.  This historic building was built from 1889-1891 (the North half) and the south half from 1891-1893.  Its sixteen floors (197 feet tall) make it the world’s tallest masonry building.  Each half of this build are independent in style from the other. The North half is famed for its lack of ornamentation and is one of the last skyscrapers to use the wall bearing building method (the walls at street level are nearly 6 feet thick to support the weight of upper floors). The south half o the building is a steel framed construction as demonstrated by its narrow piers and wide styled windows.

Alas, the coffee was delish.  And I was able to post my blog entry from yesterday, day 1 of my NEH program. I was also able to check my Gmail account to find an email from Ms. Jean Lisner, from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.   During the summer of 2009, I participated in another NEH program here in Chicago, hosted by the CAF, to study the importance of the skyscraper in American history.   Unbelievable, she had spotted our group the day prior touring the park along Munroe Ave.  Out of the group, she had spotted me and thus emailed me.  Can you imagine my surprise to read this email?   I dashed a reply back that our group was to be in her building   around 9am.

National Louis University, Michigan Ave, Chicago

Class began promptly at 9am on the fourth floor of the National Louis University campus on Michigan Ave.   We recapped our events of the day previous.   We were introduced to Mr. Robert Sayers, a director from the NEH who was in attendance to measure the delivery of the proposed program. We discussed our in class assignment, to produce a walking tour for our students.  Participants were broken up by ages of the children we teach, I found myself working with several other participants, including two who had participated in a previous NEH Chicago Skyscraper program with me in 2009.  We each agreed that we would research and photograph two separate buildings which we would then present via Animoto.

So, our morning began as a walking tour, highlighting many of the landmark skyscrapers in the downtown core (also known as “the Loop”).  We began our tour in the Santa Fe Railroad building where the CAF is hosted. It was a great treat to see Jean again and to share with her our excitement of this current program and of how her program was a fountain block to this afternoon’s lecture on Daniel Burnham and his 1909 City beautification plan.

Fergusson Foundation Fountain, Chicago Institute of Art

Gerry Danzer and Mark Newman lead the walking tour, pointing out many ofthe works of Daniel Burnham and of the Chicago School of Architecture.   We looked at , among others:  the Chicago Public Library, the Fisher Building, the Monadnock  buildings, the Rookery,  the Marquette Building, the Chicgao Board of Trade Building to name a few.

Are we being faithful?Each time observing the public spaces and how people were using them.  Fittingly, our tour ended in a public space at the South garden of the Chicago Art institute, in front of the Fergusson Fountain.  This fountain is of five Roman goddess, their bowls of water flowing to the next.  Each goddess represents one of the Great Lakes  (Erie, Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Ontario). The most‘southern’ goddess, Erie, has a look on her face of “have we been faithful?”   Faithful to ourselves? To the land? To creating a society which is just and civic minded?  All are factors in Burnham’s 1909 plan.

After a quick lunch, we reconvened to attend Costa Spirou, one of our program leaders, and Larry Bennett lecture on   Daniel Burnham‘s history of his 1909 plan as well as its impact and his legacy.   The last hour of the day was dedicated to giving feedback to Mr. Sayers from the NEH, highlighting the programs strengths. Many participants   gave positive impressions.

From there, we broke from our classroom for the evening.  I walked back to the University Center, along Michigan Avenueto enjoy the sunshine and low 80s temp.  After having supper  at the Uni Center with my roommate , we walked up Michigan Ave,  over the Chicago River, to browse a few shops as well as take in a few more buildings ( such as the Chicago tribute Building, the Chicago Cultural Center  the Wrigley building to name a few).   Our final destination, I am embarrassed to share….. the American Girl Shoppe and the Lego Shoppe at the Water Tower.  Without giving too much away, yes, Eoin, Mummy found a present for you……

Due to lack of Internet connectivity in my room,  I have been  writing my text in the evening, then posting in the mornings at breakfast ( usually a free WiFi spot.)  Thus,  my postings will be brief at this time.  It is my aspiration to elaborate on what is learned in the classroom by synthesizing my notes and posting this information when I return home.  Frankly,  I do not feel it  a good idea to be trotting around at night with my electronic equipment seeking a WiFi spot.

Chicago, its downtown lakefront, and public places in perspective

Freddy enjoy breakfast, University Center

Today began with a quick breakie in the University Center’s Cafeteria with Freddy Falcon.  I was flattered to have another resident ( I think that she belonged to a religious order), perhaps in her mid sixties ask if I was ‘here with one of the kid groups’.  What an odd question.  My first  thought was that my grey roots are in need of attention from my hairdresser, so why would someone ask me this?  The question was then repeated, with a glance down at my stuffed Freddy Falcon doll.  Oh. Now I get it.  I quickly smiled at her and informed this fellow diner that I was here with a teacher’s group.   Though secretly, I was flattered to  be thought of as younger than my recent 40 year birthday would dictate.

Dr. Mark Newman, Art Institute of Chicago, Modern Art wing

Despite the morning rain storm,  40 fellow educators from around the country met to begin our week’s program,  Chicago’s Downtown Lakefront as a Public Place: Exploring Public Places in Local, National and Global Perspective. We split off into two groups to walk along Munroe street to Lake Shore Blvd to  visually compare  20th century  urban planning styles versus 21st Century planning styles.  Our workshop leaders, Dr. Spirou and Dr. Newman described the Lakeshore park area as a former swamp, built on trash from the  1817 historic Chicago fire.  The park is frames my modern skyscrapers to both the  North and South,  though the  towers to the west are a mantel of historic buildings,  one of which  we are learning in, the national Louis  University offices in the  former Chicago Electric and Gas Co. building designed by Daniel Burnham.

National-Louis University, Michigan Ave. Chicago

After the tour, we re-group in our classroom, to compare and contrast,  the  Crown Fountain vs the Buckingham Fountain;  the Frank Gehry designed  band shell vs the Petrola band shell.  Again,  looking at styles from the early 1900s  as well as the 2000s.

After regrouping from our lunch break,  Perry Buis Spoke on the topic of  Why Chicago became and important city?  It is both a national city as wella s a global city.

Finally for the afternoon,  Larry Bennett  spoke  of the City’s Beautifcation Movement.

Chicago Riverwalk, North Wasbash Ave. Chicago

By 4pm, I will admit to being tired.  Yes, the University Center is extremely clean and quiet,  though I personally find it difficult to get comfy and be able to sleep  in a new place the first night.  So,  after taking a pre supper power nap,  I trotted out to Wasbash  and Wacker street to enjoy a quiet supper at the South Water kitchen restaurant.   Admittedly, this is more of a after work type of gathering place,  though I choose it for its location.  My window table afforded me a view of the   Trump Tower and the two Marina Towers from the mid 60s.   Again, a great contrast in styles, as is evident  just about everywhere one turns in Chicago.

Due to lack of Internet connectivity in my room,  I have been  writing my text in the evening, then posting in the mornings at breakfast ( usually a free WiFi spot.)  Thus,  my postings will be brief at this time.  It is my aspiration to elaborate on what is learned in the classroom by synthesizing my notes and posting this information when I return home.  Frankly,  I do not feel it  a good idea to be trotting around at night with my electronic equipment seeking a WiFi spot.

Chicago, here I come….in one fashion or another…..

I finally made it to Chicago.  Finally.  If one thing I have learned is that 1) always be polite and smile  and 2)  when travelling, be prepared to roll with whatever may come.

Today was no exception.

As I entered the Sarasota Airport, the Leivia family was dashing past, a Saint Stephen’s School family, trying to make it to their gate.  I think that Lloyd and Larrisa were surprised to see me, just as I was them.

Air Tran flight out of Fort Myers, during a rain shower

While waiting to board my plane in Sarasota,  numberous calls came over the PA  system announcing over bookings and please to check  bags in lieu of over crowding the overhead bins.  Yes,  my flight was over booked.  I voluntarily agreed to give up my seat ( as I am hoping someone else who do if I were travelling with companions).  In  exchange, I was driven to Fort Myers to catch a direct  to Chicago flight which arrived  twenty minutes later than my original flight from SRQ (connecting in ATL).  I also rec’ved a round trip ticket for future travel as well as an upgrade to  first class.  What a treat!  First class afford one a few extra feet of leg room space.  ‘ Yahoo!’ cheers the 5 foot ten librarian with excessively curly hair!  Extra leg room is a definite plus.

Thank you to Stephanie at SRQ Air Tran ticket counter for  making these arrangements and kudos to Rosemary from Diplomat taxi for getting me to Fort Myers airport on time for my 3.11 pm departure.

As with many things in life,  my unexpected  travel plans had another silver lining.  I sat across the aisle from an elderly couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.  It was lovely chatting with two people who were so happy and in love.

Freddy getting ready for bedtime

Freddy getting ready for bedtime

After checking in at the University Center, kitty corner from the  Chicago Public Library,  I began to settle in, meet  my roommate,  Rebecca the math teacher from  Kalamazoo, MI.  If my detoured travel plans are any indication,  this week will be filled with many new and wonderful adventures.  Learning more from the Chicago NEH fellowship, the Park as a Public Place  will be a rewarding week.

The only draw back is that I miss Eoin dude terribly.  He was ‘bootlipping’ it when I left him at the airport.  Perhaps the promise of something from the Lego store on Michigan Ave will cheer his spirits.

NEH Grant- American Skyscraper:Transforming Chicago and the Nation conclusion

NEH Grant Day 7/Saturday July 18, 2009

Today is the final day of our program The American Skyscraper: Transforming  Chicago and the Nation.  It is a sad feeling that the program which I have been anticipating and planning for  so many months is now over.   Overall, it has been a valuable learning lesson, and experience which I would not have had otherwise. I feel that I have learned a great deal and that  my interactions with my Saint Stephen’s students will be enriched.   I am looking forward to seeing my Eoin boy this evening , after having been without him for  7 days.

I would like to publicly acknowledge my Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School friends.  Thank you to Mrs Pullenand Mr. David Snodgress, for excusing me from my on campus duties this week so that I may attend this program.  Thank you to Mrs. Gina Anderson for composing a stellar  reference letter on my behalf.  Thank you to Mrs. Denise Hartnett for  being equally as excited as I am upon hearing of my inclusion into this program.  I am grateful that you have aided my travel plans.  Thank you to my fellow staff/faculty  co-workers as well as school parents who have been reviewing my blog,  both as it appears on wordpress in it’s original form, as well as it’s second generation  on my Facebook page. I do hope that my enthusiasm and excitement of this adventure  have  been captured accurately.

And finally, thank you to the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding such an intellectually stimulating program as well as seeing a need in which to better promote American history to  our country’s teachers and ultimately to our children.  Thank you to Chicago Architecture Foundation for selecting my application.  This week has been a valuable learning experience. Mrs. Jean Linsner and Ms. Jenn Masongarb thank you for planning such a rewarding and enriching week of activities.

University Center I am posting a few snap shots of  the University Center, 525 S. State Street.  It is my understanding that this facility functions as a student dormNEH Chicago-Day6 004 for neighbouring DePaul University, Robert Morris College and the like during the normal school year.  In the

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summer,  this  operates as a  secure,  inexpensive downtown hotel option. My room was one of  four  bedrooms in an apartment style unit.  With two bathrooms, there was no waiting for the shower int he morning! Youpie!  I can only imagine what a cool dorm  facility vibe this building has during the  school year, certainly nothing like my university days, I  can assure you.3rd floor  outdoor common areaNeh Chicgao- Day 5 006

My dorm roomAfter grabbing a quick breakfast nibble at the Panera Bread shoppe on the University Center, I finished my packing , my co roomates, Sarah the  art history teacher and Jean  the librarian  and I  made our way to the Santa Fe building with our bags for the final wrap up discussion set to begin @ 9am. As we entered a slide show of  snapshots  documenting the week’s activities and participants was  projected on our classroom’s screen.

How has this week changed how you are thinking about using architecture in your classroom?  What are you going to do with what you have learned this week? I think that I have learned how to  look at the contrasts of different buildings and the different lifestyle of each design period.  I have learned how to better question why a specific building in located in its given place and respecting its history.  I have also gained a better understanding of the history of Chicago and why is  blossomed from this particular spot.    Of course, I now have a crick in my neck from looking up most of the week, but it was well worth the minor discomfort!

How will  you share  this newly gained information and knowledge?  Personally, I have tried to maintain this blog to document the workshop activities, knowledge  that I have gained and fantastic adventures i have enjoyed. This blog  is viewed by my fellow staff/ faculty co-workers as well as my school community (school parents).   This blog can be viewed via, as well as via my Facebook page’s  notebook widget. My school  library webpage contains a link to  the blog to facilitate  viewing.   I am averaging  15 views per day, according to the statistic counter.    As part of  my obligatory portion of the grant, I will be documenting an assignment which draws upon the knowledge that i have gained this week. While I do not have  concrete plans, I am leaning towards  a lesson which  highlights our new Saint Stephen’s Middle School (LEED) building, set to open January 2010 as well as highlight children’s literature which   employs architecture within  the literary theme.

How has architecture affected your way of teaching?  I have learned to let the building speak to the viewer, that architecture can elicit an emotional reaction from a viewer. I  have learned to pay better attention to the build environment around me. that the built world and the natural world are  juxtaposed each other.

Should you see any huge erroneous  facts, please  contact me to make the correction. Much info has been  delivered this week,  errors are  bound to happen, unfortunately.

Neh Chicgao- Day 5 011By 10.30am, I had left with a few other participants who were sharing a ride to either Midway or O’Hare.  Vicki and I shared a taxi to Midway.  I will admit to being  nervous to make it to my plane on

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time, after viewing the line ups for the departure security check points  on my arrival one week prior.   Luckily ,   I arrived at Midway in 25 minutes in  light Saturday morning traffic, I checked my bag , cleared through security  by 11.45am.  I would like to publicly thank Sebastien at the Midway Air Tran ticket counter.  He was so very excited to see my Canuck passport.  I am glad that I madesomeone’s day !  I am also thankful to Sebastien for  assigning me a  seat with extra leg room 10C, the next aisle  behind first class and thus making my trip home more enjoyable.    By 2.37pm, were were pushing away from the gate and heading home  to SRQ .  We landed  @ 6.06pm to an eagerly awaiting Eoin  boy and my husband at the end of the ramp.

As much fun  and rewarding as it was to be learning  about American  history in Chicago,  it was great to be home with my family in  Florida.