For the second year in a row, two Hazelwood West Middle School educators took students to Chicago as part of a cross-curricular activity that adds rigor to the curriculum. Elaine Eversgerd, an art teacher, and Chris Weil, the Gateway to Technology (GTT) teacher and 22 Academic Excellence (AE) students visited The Windy City for a weekend in early December.
Just like last year, the students studied the elements and principles of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Last time, accompanied by a tour guide, the students and teachers saw Wright’s homes in Chicago from the outside.
“This time, we went in and actually toured his first home, the one that he built for his wife, and the Robie House in Hyde Park,” said Eversgerd.
“Going into his homes was really cool,” agreed Ashlee Fortschneider. “It was different, how he wanted to have rooms within rooms and stained glass windows. We’re working on stained glass and in Chicago; we got to see how to make it into something Frank Lloyd Wright would do.”
Examples of stained glass created in Wright’s style are on display in the school’s library and in the AE class. They will also travel to local art shows. Students created pencil drawings using lines, angles and geometric shapes arranged in his style, which Eversgerd critiqued for symmetry during a recent class.
Ethan Marciniak said, “I like how all these art designs are all through Chicago. Frank Lloyd Wright’s house had geometric shapes in the windows.”
On the first day of their visit, the group visited the top of the 1,451-foot Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). The next day, they took a guided tour of the city, visited the Art Institute of Chicago and two Frank Lloyd Wright homes. On Sunday, they stopped at the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Navy Pier. Before returning to St. Louis, they visited the Museum of Science and Industry.
“This year, we added a visit to the Rainforest Café, a medieval theatre performance, a stop at the Hard Rock Café, where we saw the Blue Man Group perform again,” said Eversgerd. “Their show combines art and technology more than any live performance I’ve ever seen. Their newest show dives into the newest technology, such as iPhones® and facts about ever-changing technology. They had a life-sized iPhone® on stage. They actually created paintings on canvas, using audience participation. The theatrics cross over into art and technology.”
“The students are able to make connections in every one of their classes now,” said Eversgerd. “Everything they did had relevance to all of their classes. Everything we did crosses someone’s curriculum.” Art and technology were the driving forces behind the places they visited. However, students also learned about art history, architecture and set design.
“We saw Chinatown,” said Breon McElvaine. “I didn’t know there was one in Chicago. We saw art on buildings. We got to see an indoor amusement park, the Navy Pier and the Sears Tower.”
“Throughout Chicago, we saw lots of artsy things,” said Madi Belyew. “We went to a lot of museums, including an art museum; we saw stained glass that looked like mirrors.”
Students also learned other lessons during the trip.
“They have to learn life lessons with regard to compromising, co-habitation, time management and collaboration,” said Weil. “When they signed up, they didn’t know who else was going.”
Eversgerd said one student who had to adapt to traveling with classmates she would not otherwise travel with is Amber Davis, who wore a purple shirt with “I [heart symbol] Chicago” printed on it in yellow. “I learned how to get along with people I don’t usually hang out with,” she said. “I liked the history museum because they had ‘Sue,’ the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found.”
Preparation for the trip started in the spring, when the teachers met AE students and their parents at Six Flags over Mid-America in Eureka. There, they experienced first-hand the connection between physics and roller coasters – g-forces, turns, rises and falls.
“The Six Flags trip also helped us meet a school goal of parent involvement,” said Weil.
“Art is everywhere. Someone created everything around you, from the clothes you wear to the car you drive and the buildings you stand in,” said Eversgerd.
Weil said additional trips will be planned based on the amount of student and parent interest.