Student tours, like the one I did today with the dynamic 6th graders from St. Gerard Majella School in Kirkwood, fill me with hope for the future of St. Louis. I end these tours with a challenge to the students to go back home and dream, and return one day to shape the city of tomorrow. I love the energy and thoughtfulness they bring to exploring landmarks and a thousand years of St. Louis history.
Homeroom teachers, Mary Manganaro and Sue Brand, specified history and architecture of St. Louis as the focus for today’s tour so we explored the train shed and head house of Union Station, Carl Milles’ “The Meeting of the Waters,” the Campbell House Museum, the Central Building of the St. Louis Public Library, Soldiers Memorial, “Twain”, Citygarden, the Wainwright Building, Metropolitan Square, the Old Courthouse, the Basilica of St. Louis King of France and the Gateway Arch. We discussed Lewis and Clark, Theodore Link, Scott Joplin, Louis Sullivan, Phillip Johnson, Robert and Virginia Campbell, Bob Cassilly, Cass Gilbert, Andrew Carnegie, Michaelangelo, Mausolus of Halicarnassus, Pierre Laclede, Ulysses S. Grant, Richard Serra, Dred Scott, Carl Wimer, Sacagawea, Louis IX of France, underground caves, skyscrapers and the Mississippi River. Lincoln Perry’s murals in the central atrium of Metropolitan Square provide a wonderful analogy for city life in St. Louis and it was great to be able to draw the children into them.
I enjoy nothing better on these tours than getting students to look closely at art and showing them how to view it from new perspectives whether it’s the corbelled ceiling in the Delivery Room of the main library, the interior of the dome of the Old Courthouse, the construction of a French Colonial house or the south leg of the Gateway Arch from the base upward.
I was very impressed with the knowledge these middle-students brought with them (as with Homer’s Odyssey), with their keen observation (three things were pointed out to me that I had not previously noticed in the Met Square murals), with the questions they asked and with their retention of the names of structures and people introduced along the way. Several moms generously gave up a day to join this field trip with their children and a few dads left their offices to meet us along the way.
A wonderful chemistry occurs when you introduce an energetic class of youngsters into the lunch rush of the downtown business community. St. Louisans are friendly every day of the week but it’s especially enjoyable to watch them – whether museum director, hot dog vendor, restaurant cashiers ( Hardees & the Bread Co.) or businesspeople – interacting with students and making them feel welcome. What a perfectly gorgeous day it was to explore downtown St. Louis and what wonderful images the 6th graders from St. Gerard’s in Kirkwood have to dream on tonight.
© 2010 Maureen O’Connor Kavanaugh