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Chicago, Illinois
Reading the Skyline: Architectural History for K–12 Teachers
Teachers sketch Chicago’s architecture as part of an NEH summer workshop. Participants in the workshops have come from 43 states, from rural and urban communities and public and private schools. Image courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Since 2009, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) has hosted six NEH professional development workshops for 3rd–12th-grade teachers. The American Skyscraper: Transforming Chicago and the Nation brought 80 teachers from across the United States to the city each summer for an intensive 7-day workshop. Once there, teachers attended lectures, participated in scholarly discussions, and toured Chicago’s buildings, often gaining access to their behind-the-scenes workings. Chicago’s famed skyscrapers tell the story of the world-changing innovation that grew out of the city in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Taking this architecture as their main subject, teachers learned to think of a building as a primary source: a remnant of a moment in time, embodying the people and culture that created it.

“The workshop had a profound effect on me personally. . . In addition, having the skills and knowledge to read the built environment is critical to a full appreciation of place. I want my students to be able to go into a new city and read the architecture they encounter. I want them to be able to take that eye with them wherever they go, to be asking questions about origins and about the future.”
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