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. Additionally, in 2020, the NEH awarded CAF a CARES grant to help it manage the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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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