Sunday, March 30, 2014

Urban and Rural Michigan

We've gone into Detroit once or twice a week since the first week in February. This has been enlightening and delightful. We've met a lot of terrific people whom we hope we'll get to know better and better in the years to come. Our destinations have included Avalon Breads, the D:Hive, the River Rouge Plant, the Detroit Institute of Art, Kidpreneur, Earthworks Urban Farm, Cass Tech, Detroit City FC, Jefferson Avenue, the Friends School, the Heidelberg Project's installation on the east side of the city we well as its studio and offices off Woodward Avenue, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Detroit Artists' Market, Los Galanes restaurant in Mexicantown, and that statue of Joe Louis' fist.

Soon, however, we'll be leaving urban life behind, for the very wide and very open spaces of the Upper Peninsula and the Great Lakes.

Our Spring Trip will take place from Tuesday, May 27 to Saturday, May 31. Jayonne Wynne from our lunch and Aftercare crew has agreed to join us as a second chaperone. Unlike last year, the seventh and eighth graders will be embarking upon a different adventure than the fifth and sixth graders. Revisiting the themes of The Odyssey and Explorers of the World, the heart of the 7-8 trip will comprise four maritime voyages on four different vessels on three different Great Lakes.

We'll leave from SK on the morning of Tuesday, May 27, and head up I-75 to Saginaw Bay. Around lunchtime, we will set out, like Gilligan, on a three-hour tour, albeit on a much more reliable ship than the Minnow: the Appledore IV, a schooner out of Bay City that plies the waters of Lake Huron. 

Here's a link to more information about the Appledore fleet: http://www.baysailbaycity.org/appledore/appledore.htm

From there, we will pile back on the bus and head up the freeway across the Mackinac Bridge. Once we're in the Upper Peninsula, we'll turn west on Route 2 for a few minutes and settle in at my family's house on the northern shore of Lake Michigan--the same place where we camped way back in September. After spending the night there, we'll set out the next morning, May 28, on a short tour of the nearby shoreline on a small collection of kayaks, canoes, and rowboats. 

Then it's back on the bus for a drive across the UP to Houghton, where Michigan Tech University is located. We will settle in our guest rooms at Michigan Tech, have some dinner, and tour the campus and town. The following day, May 29, after a morning hike, we will set out on the SS Agassiz with graduate instructors from Tech for some marine research on Lake Superior.

Here's a link to more material on the Agassiz:

We will fall into bed early that night so we can get up early on May 30 the drive to Marquette for lunch and then on to Munising for a boat tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. After the tour, we'll head back down to the family lake house for the night. We'll get up at a decent hour on May 31 for the five-hour drive back to Summers-Knoll and home.

Here's more on the magnificent Pictured Rocks:

We always strive to keep these trips affordable while still making them as fantastic for the soul and healthy for the mind as they can possibly be. In the past, SK trips have fallen within the $300-$500 range. We don't have a final tally for this year's trip yet, but we expect that the cost will run about $350 per family. When we have made the last of our reservations, we'll have a budget set in stone and will be able to communicate precise costs to you.

Ryan and Saul: Friends School Exhibition

Mike and Isobel wrote some notes on our second Detroit Exhibition, held by Saul and Ryan at the Friends School of Detroit.

Karl started it out with the usual introduction, partly for the benefit of Bryan Baker, the Friends PE teacher who joined us. Then the boys took center stage in Friends School's small gym. They started the lesson with an explanation about what Friends School did, and a brief history. This soon turned to a Q&A about Quaker values and the school's population. 

The boys ended this with the activity portion. For the activity, they did a survey on what we thought Summers-Knoll and Friends School should collaborate on. Ideas included artistic, athletic, academic, and social events. After the survey was handed in, Saul resumed question time while Ryan crunched the results. 

Ryan then proceeded to explain the results, which included a few new suggestions like faculty collaborations and combined field trips. The boys had the idea that we might start light, with attendance at each other's events, and then begin to work toward actual collaborations, like Music Cafes. To conclude the Exhibition, they took a final round of questions.

Denali and Jonathan: Heidelberg Project Exhibition

Nico and Jianmarco wrote a report on our first Detroit Exhibition, which they also filmed.

On Friday, March 28, Denali and Jonathan did their Exhibition on an activist art installation in Detroit called the Heidelberg Project. They gave their Exhibition at Heidelberg's studio and office space just off Woodward Avenue. Margaret Grace, the Project's Education Coordinator, was also there.

First off, they told us about the organization. They explained how the Project's creator, Tyree Guyton, had seen how the neighborhood was going downhill, and how he had decided to empower the neighborhood, and later Detroit, through art. By painting on buildings and using what would otherwise be junk to make art, he created an international phenomenon.

At Margaret's suggestion, we are considering ways to make interactive art from tires rescued from a tire graveyard off Mt. Elliott Street near the installation. Jonathan suggested making a colorful playground. Aristea had suggested earlier that we bring some tires back to SK and collect some spare seedlings from Earthworks for a friendship garden.

Jonathan and Denali then gave us objects from a random collection of stuff and invited us to make art, in the spirit of Mr. Guyton's work on the east side of the city. It was a fun and thought-provoking exercise. We liked the spirit necklace that Margaret and Trent made and the war hamsters created by Ryan and Saul.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Images from the Heidelberg Project

Here is the Polka Dot House, the original work in the Heidelberg installation on the east side of Detroit.

This piece was contributed by elementary school students. Those are bottlecaps.

This is a close-up of the Polka Dot House. Jianmarco took all these wonderfully composed photos.

Noah's Ark.

Images from the D-Hive

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Way up high on the D-Hive wall is an outline of their mission as an incubator--a metaphor that was also used at Kidpreneur and Heidelberg; they used the term at Earthworks farm, too, but it isn't a metaphor there.
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Here we are at the D-Hive on our first visit, adding to their (SK-like) wall of wishes.

Friday, March 7, 2014


I feel proud of the group today. I told them that this morning, and I wanted to take a moment to tell you why.

If you've had our conference, you have heard me explain that we are embarking on a set of projects that will culminate our Cities unit. The kids are working with the same partner with whom they read their Cities novel (Girl with a Pearl Earring, City of Silver, etc). I identified six institutions and/or organizations in Detroit with whom SK might usefully collaborate. The kids researched these groups and, in pairs, sent me lengthy e-mails explaining which ones they were most interested in, and why. Yesterday I matched them up.

Nico and Jianmarco: Kidpreneur.
Trent and Aristea: Earthworks Urban Farm.
Isobel and Mike: Avalon Breads.
Denali and Jonathan: Heidelberg Project.
Saul and Ryan: Friends School.
Lily and Maya: Detroit City FC.

Before I gave them the results, I wrote on the board: What is the mission of the Detroit Projects? We held collection, and then I asked them to write their thoughts on the board.

They covered the usual ground of community service:

  • so that we can help make Detroit a better place

They didn't miss fun as a motivating factor:

  • to meet new people.
  • 'cause it's fun!

They were aware of what's happening already:

  • to know the heroes of Detroit
  • to recognize that people in Detroit are creating great organizations and for SK kids to be involved in that

They saw opportunities for a synthesis of our little city and the great big one down the road:

  • culture mix smoothie (that is, Ann Arbor's culture and Detroit's)
  • to connect two different environments to make a better one

They saw bigger purposes:

  • to have a more environmentally healthy community
  • for the people, by the people, of the people

They understood that the objective was not just to do something over the next few weeks, but to create a sustainable set of connections:

  • to connect future Summers-Knollians with the outside world
  • to create paths that will be turned into roads

How about that? I've included above everything that the kids wrote, with just a few (very few) corrections for spelling. I didn't cherry-pick the best comments: this is everything they wrote.

To their observations, I added 'to make SK kids stronger'--there's something in it for us, and my recent mantra with them has been My job is not to show you a good time. My job is to make you stronger. I also wrote to deepen connections between Detroit and Ann Arbor, but I didn't have to--they had covered that already.

I was proud of their thinking. I was impressed.