Category: Chicago Expedition 2009

What an experience this trip to Chicago, Springfield, and Madison was for me!  I was able to see and visit things that I have had an interest in since I was a child, such as Abraham Lincoln and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Spending time with other professionals who do what I do – teach American history, was refreshing and informative.  The trip was well-planned, organized, the sites were fascinating, and the speakers were outstanding.  Three of the most important things that I reacquainted myself with was that field trips are good, participating in hands-on activities can make what is being learned more interesting, and having educational fun while learning helps to better assimilate information and the learning process.  These ideas will be incorporated more fully into my classroom, while all of the knowledge and experiences of actually being in these historic places will enrich my teaching and bring my excitement into my classes.

While those are things that I need to remember with my classroom, sometimes the everyday realities set in.  Orchestrating field trips will be challenging for three main reasons: 1)  working within a team, teachers don’t like to give up their class time due to the ever-looming CSAPs, 2) planning travel logistics for 120-130 students is challenging, and 3) budget cuts and financial restraints make field trips cost fairly prohibitive.  On the less gloomy side, as 8th grade team lead, I planted seeds with my team about the idea of doing an integrated field trip that can bring in math, science, language arts and history for the upcoming school year.

Being a technology geek, a big part of the trip for me was to see technology in action.  Three perfect places for that were the Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Chicago History Museum, and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.  These three sites were extremely engaging and drew people into their exhibits.  The Lincoln Museum offered costumes and props for children to experiment with and to participate in creative play.  The pictures on the wall of pictures at one exhibit allowed the viewer to click on buttons to learn more about the who, what, when,where, and why of the individual that was being viewed.  Other parts of the exhibit may have been motion-activated to turn on voices talking about topics such as slavery, the war, and politics of the era.  The Chicago History Museum had some great exhibits but the work that has been done with their website was the most important thing that I can use in my classroom.  The interactive maps, the Chicago stories, and the Encyclopedia of Chicago are all fabulous resources that anyone with the Internet can use.  The Museum of Science and Industry was a marvelous, interactive building of wonder.  If I lived in that community, I would be an annual membership, so that I could experience all of the exhibits and the opportunities for learning.  A person would be hard-pressed to be bored in that environment.

Another valuable aspect of the trip was the Chicago Art Institute.  I spent an additional  two evenings there, as the visits were free and I wanted to see more.  Seeing paintings up close is always a much better way to understand and “see” the artists’ work.  I have been in dialogues with my school’s art teacher on working out some type of art salon in which students will paint pictures in their chosen artist’s style, do research on the artist, and then, in character, talk about “their” art with visitors.  I spent some time trying to find books relating to American artists from colonial days to reconstruction and finally came across a book that shows children of all ages and from different walks of life, depicted by various American painters.  I am hoping that students can relate to seeing children their own ages but in a different time and that these can become conversation starters for classroom discussions on American history and trying to get students to think through “old” eyes, rather than looking at historical things from their modern, twenty-first century eyes.

I bought  a lot of varied books, maps, and “props” that I plan to incorporate into my lessons.  Seeing the books first hand is much better than reading a blurb on Amazon or some other website.  I took lots of photos and movie clips that I will incorporate into powerpoints and slide shows.  So many students don’t travel outside of their own town let alone out of state which is why it’s important to bring multimedia into the classroom and “show” students historical places and cities.  I feel a lot more comfortable and knowledgable from the books I read leading up to the Chicago trip, as well as visiting all of the sites to teach students about the history of the labor movement, progressivism, and Abraham Lincoln.  Here’s to a great upcoming school year!  Many thanks for the experiences that this trip offered!


Placing of roses

Placing of roses

Drs. Adelman and Rees

Drs. Adelman and Rees

Although the weather was drippy and dreary, the information that was shared by Dr. Adelman was fantastic.  He is a historical gemstone of knowledge and it was awesome to have him as a guest tour guide and lecturer for the day.  I am glad to know that he made some movies that cover his area of research, that will be available to other learners of history even after he is gone from this realm.  I felt that his movies were well done and are still relevant by today’s standards, especially the black and white movie about Packingtown, as black and white can never look dated, as did the color in the 80’s movie about Pullman.  I hope that Jonathan makes copies of the discs to share with our group.

Haymarket Memorial Statue

Haymarket Square is a busy intersection of streets.  The touch of keeping the cobblestone in the alley was nice.  I’m amazed that it took so long for Chicago to honor the site of the Haymarket Massacre.  The statue that was erected was powerful.  Faces undistinguishable showing that it could be any man, woman, or child throughout the world fighting for their rights as working people.  The wagon coming up out of the ground, showing that the movement was resurrecting and not going away was also powerful.  I found the plaques surrounded the base of the statue interesting reading in that included unions and people from all over the world.  I believe that I might start a classroom tradition of celebrating May 1, not as I learned, of leaving flowers on someone’s doorstep, but as a recognition of labor world-wide.

The life of Jurgis and Packingtown!  The lunch at the Lithuanian restaurant was good – the food I found enjoyable – cabbage stuffed with some meat (had me a little worried after The Jungle), potato squares, and some type of dumpling. sauerkruat soup – was a bit hesitant but it was actually good.  This meal helped set the tone for the visit to the gates of the where the slaughterhouses were located, although we probably ate much better in that one meal than many of the residents of Packingtown generally ate.

As we got out of the bus to take photos, all seemed serene but then a stench hit you.  As it had been raining most of the day, I thought that perhaps it was residual smells left in the soil from all of the slaughterhouses.  We found out that one packing plant was still in existence, hence the stench.  From that small dose that we were assualted with, one could only begin to imagine what it was like on a daily operation with thousands of animals being slaughtered and working in that environment.  It is almost an impossible task to describe the smells to students. I don’t know how much a person could find in primary sources written from the immigrant’s viewpoint on how their day to day life was, the sorrow, hunger, helplessness they felt trying to assimilate into a new country.  If such sources could be found, they would be very powerful to students.  Otherwise, books such as Sinclair’s and writings from people such as the settlement workers who worked with the immigrants and who may have documented the hardships these people faced would be a good alternative.

The Pullman trip was interesting, as we learned about George Pullman’s “benevolent” treatment of his workers.  The better off one was with the company, the higher the ceilings in your house.  An analogy I would make to students would be that Pullman thought of himself as the lord of his fiefdom.  He provided for his workers food, shelter, and work but he screwed them by charging inflated prices at the company store, with the housing provided, and the meager wages paid.  His system was set up to “help” the workers sort of, but they were never able to get ahead – only to survive.

All in all, lots of great information was shared with us.  Understanding, seeing, and being in these areas will help to inspire me with my teachings of the labor movement and the very real lives of all of the immigrants who flooded the Chicago area, helping to build this country with their sweat, blood, and lives.

The morning went too quickly with our visit to Jane Addams’ Hull House.  The house had beautiful architectural features in the Victorian sense.  The women who led our tours and discussions were extremely knowledgeable and had an obvious passion for their jobs and the programs that they are creating.  As we were wrapping up our first section, I was reminded of the Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver and I asked Lisa Lee about any connections.  She got a big smile on her face and immediately knew what I was talking about and that they were contemporaries.

I found it interesting that Jane’s father was a strong supporter of the gentile and upper-classes being involved in work that benefited the less fortunate.  It is apparent looking at Hull House itself, that money was involved.  It is unfortunate that today’s wealthy are very frivolous and do little to help the vast population of mankind better itself.

Having educated, connected, and well-spoken people advocating for the voiceless masses of immigrants was critical in bringing their issues to the forefront.   Medical care, safe housing, sanitation, wholesome food,  job skills, learning English, learning to read, offering arts in the form of music, acting, and painting, were a smattering of the assistance that the settlement houses offered.  Also, I found the summer camps to be a great motivator in allowing these people to feel that they were something else besides chattel helping the cogs of big industry by allowing them some leisure time.  Helping immigrants understand and assimilate into American life was a large mission.  I see the Boys and Girls Club as a modern extension of settlements, in that they provide homework help, cultural and sporting activities, field trips out of the neighborhoods that some children have never left , as well as a safe haven from some of the violence and drugs that the children’s everyday lives experience.

The dining hall offered a place to eat a wholesome meal, socialize with others, and learn social etiquette.  Addams realize that with the majority of women working, there was not time for nutruious meals to be cooked.  Camp attendees learned about growing food during their time at the camp.

I very much appreciate the current work that the Hull House people are working on, specifically the urban gardens.  People in today’s American cities are so far removed from where their food comes originates.  The concept of food deserts is a scary, but very real situation.  Even where we are staying, a true grocery store that offers fresh fruits and vegetables is hard to find.  The use of heritage seeds is excellent.  I am trying four varieties of heritage tomatoes this summer and I am very excited to see some produce from the plants.  Working with neighborhoods to develop barren land or even to create roof top gardens or raised gardens could be a very rewarding concept.  I also found the information on the Three Sisters intriguing and will be trying to grow corn, beans, and squash together in my garden.

As Maslow’s hierarchy points out, mankind cannot be productive unless the basics needs are met.  Food, shelter, and clothing being the foundation from which other things can be achieved.  The urban settlements like the Hull House helped to get some of the bases covered for the immigrants so that they could have a better quality of life.  I am glad that these progressive ideas of the settlements still remain and are, in fact, being modernized for today’s world, as with the urban gardening.

How can I use all this great information?  Well teaching civic responsibility is one way.  Bringing up issues and ideas from past times, seeing what worked well, what has been solved, and what still needs to be solved could be a starting point.  Historical ties could include the victory gardens of WWII, rationing, Kennedy’s call asking not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country, and today’s issues of green house gases, global warming, recycling, and consumerism.  As my curriculum content doesn’t get to this time period, I could see tying in some lessons with Earth Day.  Perhaps starting off with historical social problems and perspectives and then moving into modern issues.

Prior to today, all I knew about Wisconsin was dairy, bugs, and people wearing cheese-head hats.  I am very envious of the work that Wisconsin’s historical society has done in conjunction with teachers and education.  The body of work that has been created is spectacular.  I’ve seen some classrooms that still use the same Colorado history book that I used in the 70’s.  This is a great example of a state historical society working in conjunction with school districts to create engaging, exciting curriculum that meets the needs of their state population.  Where is Colorado in all of this?  Way behind!

The Wisconsin Historical Museum had a very good collection of  artifacts.  I was surprised at the products that were made and founded in WI.  The displays offered a great historical walk from the beginnings of European settlement up into modern times.

Seeing the Native American dioramas was very educational, as I am most familiar with the Pueblo and Plains Indians.  The displays of homes were well done and it offered a great perspective to walk into the one made with the vertical logs that were “stuccoed”.  The displays that went through the seasons offered a glimpse of what daily life was like throughout the year.  I have not seen a display set up that shows the seasons like we saw today.  The tools, fabric, pottery, and games offered insight into daily life.

The trapper store was very hands-on.  It is one thing to see a picture of a pelt in a book or video but quite another experience to feel the furs of mink, adult and young beaver, badger, seeing the pelts on a drying frame and seeing an actual beaver hat.  The goods that were traded and sold to people our on the frontier gives another aspect of life in the early Unite States.

I would like to create a trunk of materials that would offer students a tactile view of the trapper life.  Furs, utensils, pots, textiles, blankets, and food supplies.  A good educational experience could be building structures of the area and time  period we study.  This is really far out, but if we could build homes on our school property from different cultural regions and have some type of rendezvous.

The lectures that we heard today were good, though the room was way too hot after a heavy lunch and a beer.  Dr. Jonathan Pollock’s lecture on using primary source documents to understand the change in immigration laws was very interesting.  He gave me a new perspective on examining government documents to understand our country’s history.

The introduction on using the History Society’s website and resources was informative.  I’m a hands on person, so actually playing with the website is how I will learn best.  The primary resources they had out for our perusal were cool.  I looked at old photographs and really enjoyed seeing them, although some were sad.  I looked through two ledgers from Cripple Creek and Victor, surprised they were in WI.  One ledger was Union Dues for the Victor Mining Union.  That building is in dire straits and they are working on fund-raising to restore the building.  The other ledger from Cripple Creek, I couldn’t figure out what it was keeping track of.  I hope they are able to get more primary documents and pictures digit for the masses to see via the internet.

Lastly, the lecture from Doctor Schultz was awesome and reminded me of my college days and engaging professors.  I can only hope to have half as much enthusiasm when teaching my students.  It’s unfortunate that we can’t use such colorful language to accent points, but we are trying to teach students that they don’t have to accent their conversations with colorful words with every sentence they speak.  I really appreciate the manner in which he showed the segway from the Progressive Era to modern times.  I am still foggy on the differences between the Progressives and the Populists, but I will get the concept.

Fun, fun, fun….

The Museum of Science and Industry was a giant, educational playground.  In school surveys, students always say learning isn’t “fun”.  A field trip to a place like this would definitely make learning fun, or reinforce what has been learned in a “fun” manner.  There is something for everyone at MSI.

Of the exhibits I could squeeze in, (there wasn’t enough time there), I loved the U-505 and the transportation.  Wow!  There was tons of information packed into that exhibit.  Did you see the size of those screws?!  The whole thing was done phenomonally.  There was lots of background information on why the wolves of the sea were a problem – shipping was being interrupted and the flow of goods and supplies, along with sinking of a few passenger ships.  The who, what, why, when, where, and why were all answered.

The model train exhibit was very, very cool.  Chicago to Seattle and things in between.  The amount of time that went into creating the display had to have been huge.  Transportation through cities, from cities, around geographic features, and from sea were all displayed in a user-friendly manner.  Products, goods, and services were also depicted, from the praires, to the mountains, to the shipyards.  Not being a science person, I found the DNA and cloning exhibit to be easy to understand and well done.  I liked the one part about choosing your child….puts things into a different perspective for students.

I would have a hard time bringing 130 8th graders to a place like that and letting them “roam” free.  First reason being not knowing where they are and with whom.  Second, I’d really want to have some type of guide or questions that they would have to answer, so that they would have direction with what they were doing with their time.  All things considered though, students would really enjoy being able to interact with history and modern times.

When does Colorado get something like this??  The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is interesting and interactive, but not on the level of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio were very cool to visit.  I’ve enjoyed his work and had only been to Taliesin West.  I did not have a guided tour.  Today’s tour taught me a lot of Wright’s use of space….the grand piano tucked into a wall was very clever.  The use of barrel ceilings broke up the angular lines that were found elsewhere in the room. The small, cramped hallway with the barrel ceiling that opened up into the children’s playroom with big barrel ceiling was a huge contrast that made each one seem smaller or larger depending on the direction of travel.  Geometry was abundant everywhere.  The use of offsetting each layer to give an illusion of height in his office was interesting and worked.  I did not find the black chain attractive in the drawing area, but when I heard how it was necessary to keep that second level balcony space afloat without the use of pillars, my attitude toward the chain changed and I saw its’ functionality.

Wright’s use of the natural landscape and incorporating the landscape into the design was very progressive.  It seems that builders have forgotten this concept and build houses inappropriately and do not work with the sun, wind, nor landscape.  This tour does not have a direct connection to my classroom as it is too modern in the time line.  However, it could tie in with the use of natural resources that surround an area where building takes place.  The Native Americans built homes based on the materials that were available in their regions and complimented their tribes’ needs.

On a personal level, my disdain for Wright increased as more stories were told about how he treated others.  His wife first and foremost was treated poorly – she managed the household, child-rearing, and her husband’s infidelity.  Wright’s lack of involvement with his children, while still exacting behaviors and expectation seemed to be unjust and inappropriate.  Not paying his sons who worked for him….  I found it interesting that the son who sold building materials ended up living the longest … 102.

Lloyd’s integration of Japanese style and function was very stylish as well as practical.  I like the window that reflects the Japanese style of hanging kimonos.  The use of screens and rice paper is a great way to difuse light as well as offer privacy.  The screens can be used to make areas small as well as large, depending on if they were open or shut.

The use of walls, especially on the exterior and in places that are busy was effective.  It allowed people privacy from the street, while letting the user enjoy nature, the breeze (or blocking winds), and seeing the stars (depending on your light pollution level).  The use of “hallways” to lead you into an area, but having the actually entrance offset, was effective in making areas seem larger and more private.  Actually seeing his use of space and material really brings home how progressive and in-tune Frank Lloyd Wright was with the environment.  I’m almost surprised that he didn’t use Murphy beds as a way to keep areas open.

Today’s walking tour of old town Chicago was a photographic journey.

It was refreshing to see that these homes had a semblance of yards…in a big city, having your own private Idaho seems to have an extreme value.  It gives one a sense of tranquility and greeness within the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis.  The haves versus the have-nots are the only ones to benefit from this, but if you can afford it, you can get it.

DBQ’s….again my enthusiasm for this is piqued.  I think it is a great program.  I met Phil at the National Middle School conference last October in Denver and was looking forward to seeing him again and I’m sorry to hear he was sick.  I really want to get and try the Mini-DBQs.  I started off with the Salem Witch Trials and used the primary sources as a whole class activity and disucssion.  Student feedback was really positive.  Later I used How Revolutionary was the American REvolution.  At the end of 3 days I stopped the document analysis….and I was using the short version.  Keeping student focus of conversation on the topic was challenging.  Too many students tuned out when they couldn’t understand the language of the time or easily read the handwriting (again, please remember that many students can’t read cursive, let alone write legibly themselves)  I had mixed ability groups.  Too many just wanted to be spoon-fed the “answers” rather than draw conclusions themselves.

Also, I am wondering about when to use DBQs…..after a topic/lesson has been introduced, before a topic of study is presented so that misinformation from the text won’t muddy the waters, or in conjunction with a topic of study.  Can anyone shed light on how they use incorporate the DBQ’s?  Who has worked successfully with their LA teacher to incorporate the DBQs and writing?  How did you do that, or did you just tackle the writing in your own classes?

Dr. Sarah Marcus was extremely knowledgable about the city of Chicago.  I enjoyed how she pulled in The Jungle and Death in the Haymarket with today’s lecture.  The encyclopedia of Chicago website is phenomenal.  The amount of time and effort that went in to creating such an interactive website is immense.  This will be an awesome tool to use in the classroom when exploring and discussing components of Chicago history.  Plus I gained a lot more background information for myself that helps to put pieces of history together for me.  Note to self – Dr. Marcus’ lecture started off discussing geography (that sometimes overlooked subject that students don’t like) and how relevant geography was to the development of the area.  If students don’t understand the lay of the land land and geographic features, the why and how of settlements becomes moot point.  This is important for me to remember when discussing Jamestowne.

Great Chicago Stories….very interactive for teachers and students.  Again, a lot of time went into the development of this site.  The stories cover many topics….immigration, labor, progressivism, sports, transportation.  The idea of artifact kits is very cool….there are enough antique stores in Florence and Canon that it seems I could find things that would apply to students lives in Colorado…or maybe if I dig thru the layers of dust and other matter in the attic at my grandmother’s ranch.  Students and citizens of this city are lucky to have such wonderful resources available to them. I was surprised that the meat industry had such a small display, yet all of the exhibits seemed to be snapshots of Chicago life, leading the viewer to do either be satisfied with what they experienced or priming the pump of curiousity, inviting the viewer to learn more on their own.  The brain outline was a neat activity that I can see applying to my classroom.  Perhaps that could even be tied in with some of the DBQs, to better understand some people’s views.  While not a fashionista myself, the clothing exhibits were interesting.  Most appealing to me were the display of clothing before  1900.  The  outfits were fabulous and gave a better understanding of how upper class women dressed.

What a collection of art!  The Impressionist collection was quite….impressive.  Our focus of conversation was the American artist movement, starting from the days of the colonies up into the mid 1950’s.  Our docent was extremely knowledgeable and had an obvious passion for what she does.

FILE0388John Singer Sargent ….. I loved the full size picture he painted of the woman.  The style of how he painted interested me, in that he had the canvas next to the subject and would stand back and come up and dash some paint on, then go back and look again, running back up to add more paint.

Jazz Bowl

The Asian collection of pottery was enjoyable to me, as well as the large pot depicting an era of jazz.  The beautiful blue glaze that was used, along with the black and the scraffito techniques.  The painting depicting a jazz scene was also enjoyable….I am a jazz fan, if you can’t tell.  The American art collection offers a great selection depicting a slice of American life at various times.


Water Tower

Walking to Gino’s, I kept stopping to take pictures of the buildings.  I noticed this object that I am guessing was a water tower, left over from days gone by.  I am curious to learn more about the history of this tower.  The architecture of the buildings is phenomenal.  How were these some of these buildings created?  How were the decorative pieces added on to the buildings?  Which brings me to the display of architectural pieces….the iron work, the wooden pieces (I’ve forgotten the official name) that decorate the outlines of walls.  Very cool and much much more to see than in Colorado.

I am trying to coordinate with my middle school art teacher for next year.  She received art prints through some national program for our school’s use.  The focus of our discussions are how to blend our two subjects together.  I have been thinking that students could research American artists, create paintings in the style of their artist, present the research via a powerpoint while touching on influences, training and give a monologue of their artist’s life.  Dressing as the artist and showing off their works of art would make it come alive for the audience.  Trying to have some type of art salon, where students would be set up and the audience would come around and here about their lives and view work would be another interactive way to build up interest for the arts and history.  The problem is that the art teacher does not see all of the 8th grade students; yet that would create a natural audience for those students participating in art class.

While wandering the halls and exhibits, I was on the lookout for Native American displays.  I was surprised that the exhibit was so small.  Indigendous peoples from Africa, Mexico, South America, and the Plains Indians were represented but there were only a few things from North America.  It’s almost as if Chicago has forgotten its’ ties to the ones who had lived here before the white settlements.

Today was spent learning more about the phases of Lincoln’s professional life.  The day kicked off with a tour of the old courthouse, which is really the new court house, made to look like the old court house.  The original building is no longer, except for the bricks and stone blocks.  All were preserved, labeled and stored when the court house was torn down in an attempt to get back to the basic courthouse Lincoln and Douglass’ time . I found it interesting that in attempts to modernize, we as a society tend to downplay historical things and want to go with the latest and greatest, and then a few generations later, attempt to put things back to the old ways.  I do feel that the building has been nicely “restored” with the architectural features and furnishings.  I loved the old wood that was everywhere.  I wondered if the staircase had any significance to the compass rose with its lay-out.  The answer was no…the old circular staircase was not OSHA-approved, too rickety, and had collapsed.  When it was rebuilt, the designers went for a more simple plan.

While we were not walking in the exact same places that Lincoln walked (due to the fact that it is all reconstructed), the place did have a hallowed feel to it.  This feel was carried on into the only home that Lincoln had owned.  The home almost had voices and echoes of the by-gone days although we were ushered through it too quickly.  (which brings me to a logistics question – our group was very large.  If we had split up into smaller groups and each took a site and then rotated through, I think it would have been helpful for us but perhaps not for the speakers at each site) Seeing the reconstructed neighborhood was enjoyable.  The lots were small and I wonder why, especially as fire was always a possibility and land was plentiful.  The house footprints generally took up the majority of the lot.  The house across the street was architecturally interesting in learning how construction can be dated – the nails, types of wood, style of framing, plaster materials, etc.   Also, it would seem the dining room would have been a room of great importance and pride;  I wonder why it was not displayed to the public. I did find the comment that Mary would work with the hired girl as interesting, especially as she had come from a background of privilege and had grown up with slaves.  Her household with Lincoln was slave-free, which could be a possible indicator as to the Abe and Mary Lincoln household’s view on slavery.

New Salem I enjoyed.  Not so much as this is where Lincoln got his unsuccessful start as a businessman, but rather here is a slice of how life was lived during this time time period.  It reminds me of the Rockledge Ranch at the Garden of the Gods except it is more expansive.  A place like that would be an awesome overnight trip for students to really see how life was lived in the early part of the 1800’s.  Until you walk in a person’s shoes, you can’t really comment.  Daily chores, outhouses, being an active part of the food you eat, cooking on a wood stove (it is more difficult than it may seem, especially trying to get all dishes out at the same time), being a part of a whole that works together for survival and success.  As a society, we tend to forget the concept of that success.

Lincoln’s Tomb was austere and somber.  The many kinds of stone that was used in it’s creation, as well as the architectural style was fascinating.  I wished we had a bit more time for perusing.  I think there are some interesting activities that could be made from the symbolism that was used throughout the tomb as well as where the stone came from.  None came from Colorado, although the burnt orange stone in the beginning area was from Utah.  I wish I had asked about the travertine on the floor!

I am still contemplating what my lesson will be about.  I do know that I want to use technology, websites, webquests, etc as a way for student engagement and learning.  My subconscious is still processing.