1."Let's Plan a Trip"
This lesson concerns field trips to selected buildings and outdoor places in New Haven. For instance, it will include a trip to two art galleries, Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Center. They are across the street from each other, and both were designed by the architect Louis Kahn, one his first building and the other one of his last. It is a chance to experience with them architecture, space, line and drawing. We can look for differences and similarities and ask why are they different and in what ways. Upon return to the school we will construct models, draw and write about the places, outside, such as the benches we sat on, the different surfaces we walked on, the different paths we walked around. The actual constructions and drawings will vary according to the student's age, corresponding with the developmental levels pointed out in David Sobel's "Mapmaking" book. These trips can all be related to the literacy, math, social and science goals, along with their needs for "specially designed instruction".
Another trip will be to two libraries at Yale that are virtually next to each other, the Sterling Memorial Library, a large gothic structure, and the Beinecke Rare Book Library, that has some unusual features that correspond with its purpose. Students will be asked to identify, speak of, model, draw, map and write about these places, including the courtyards, monuments, ramps, and decoration. Also, the activities of other people there will be noted and reported. Photographs will also be taken, by students to record the trip.
Another trip will be to Yale's Old Campus and the New Haven "Green". This corresponds with a unit being written by a colleague in this seminar, Ralph Russo. In this trip we will contrast and be able to experience some of New Haven's oldest places along with its relating of natural and built surround, right in the heart of town. This will include actual rubbings of materials used, including bricks of Connecticut Hall the oldest building on the Yale campus (a texture far different and rougher than what we usually see and touch as bricks), tombstones of some of New Haven's earliest and famous residents (the crypt in the center church houses some), the pathways and walkways and the places to walk to on the green (monuments, etc.).
I also want to take them on an environmental study field trip to a small village with nature preserves. Stony Creek is the nearest one I know well. It has many features of an environmental nature and is steeped in history. It is on a harbor, like New Haven, it has natural settings (bird sanctuaries, a famous rock quarry, etc.), like New Haven (East Rock and West Rock, as well as rivers). I want them to be able to contrast these two places, both rich in features and qualities that are different (one is quieter, traffic moves slower, etc.). I want them to know that not all environmental study sites are formal. It is the nature we see in a place that makes it vital. Again, they can take pictures, make drawings, make maps, write about it and create a presentation to tell others about it, as in the examples of other trips.
2. "Go To Work"
This includes visits to natural places of work. We will visit an architect to see their work in their office and in the field. Students can help with taking measurements at sites, and making pictures of the place. Special attention will be given to our new building. I want them to see the features of building and studying sites that architects and builders do. I will transfer this to study skills and schoolwork back at our base. I also want them to know what it would have been like to be an architect or a builder in other times or other places. The history and securing of tools and/or artifacts of those places will be done with an architect. Knowing how people live and work in very different places and times is very important for students this age.
I will also plan to bring them on a trip to a historical site where they can see in action and put into their own action what it means, and what it's like to live as other people in other places and/or times. One trip I plan is to take them to Old Sturbridge Village. I want to bring them with their parents, if possible. We of course may also include any other students on any of the trips mentioned in this "curriculum unit". I can imagine students actually wanting to do things they see enacted, trying to do them in programs they have for kids and bringing back this experience to display and present to others in a play about our trips. I will also look for other sites that are closer to bring them similar experience.
One place I consider is The Whitney Museum. I have met with Bill Brown the director and we have tentatively planned some activities for my students. One would include the use of their computer lab. At this time, until we move to our new facility, students have limited access to computers. Also, at the museum they regularly do children's craft-construction projects to realize scientific principles. The site of the museum is historically important to the history of industry (Eli Whitney had his factory here, and he is famous for significant contributions), and it utilizes the large waterfall there for power. It can also be related to A. C. Gilbert's Erector Set toy that was invented in New Haven (Antique sets are seen on display there).
3. Peabody Museum is a well-known natural history museum at Yale University.
Our school has a partnership with them. It has extraordinary resources from a "great hall" of dinosaur skeletons to an extensive geological collection including a very large meteorite. Among my favorite things are its displays of artifacts from Indians, its taxonomic displays of birds and its large dioramas that depict different environments with their respective animals and plants. They also have a laboratory for teaching. I would like to develop this with our museum consultant because presently the lab is not used with students and I think it is important to give them experience of what it is like to do what scientists do in a laboratory and in a field trip. This is a potentially vital place with opportunities for studying its architecture, its spaces, its displays, perhaps seeing some of the behind the scenes (literally) work as well as the structured studies of its displays and its museum guides who give educational tours and talks. Again, some of the reporting, recalling and presentation techniques I have discussed elsewhere in this paper will be employed.
4. "Map and Go, Bring It Back"
A place they want to tell me about, and show me. Students frequently have a place they want to tell me about, a new home, a facility where they go to play basketball with their friends, or somewhere else, but they all have a place and a story to go with it. I will have them make a three-dimensional model of it, a sequence of drawings to show me the place (a virtual tour), and write about it. This may include field trips they go on with their class to an environmental study site. I will also provide them with a camera to take photos of the place. This will involve spatial placement of things in relation to each other as they recall and place them. They will also be invited to act out or demonstrate what they saw. Special attention will be given to our immediate surrounding environment of the school, which is currently near a river and park, with a bridge one block away that is of the "erector set" type of construction and on a turnstile when tall boats come up the river. There are many other environmentally interesting features at this, our temporary school site.
5. "Letters From Home"
We write in order to communicate with others. Where would you like to be writing from this time? Pick a place, start writing to a friend or cousin or any one else. We may actually use email for this. Start describing where you are and see if they can figure it out from what you convey. You can describe the temperature or any features that make it a place you like. It could be real, or it could be imaginary. The job of the reader is to find out where you are, or draw a picture of what you say. The feedback to the writer is in the drawing or statements of the reader. Implied in this is learning to correspond through language and writing.