By Emily Wilson, Creative Services Manager
Adventure was in the air on this particularly bright and clear September morning. I boarded the Greenhill bus bound for the DART station with the Upper School urban studies class, led by Becky Daniels, Greenhill Legend and US History Teacher. Also chaperoning the trip were Assistant Head of School Tom Perryman and US English teacher Eve Hill-Agnus.
Downtown Dallas was our destination and, yes, we could have taken the bus all the way there. But that wouldn’t have allowed us to truly assimilate into urban culture and city immersion.
Students boarded the crowded southbound DART train, shuffled down the standing-room-only middle aisle, grabbed nearby handholds… and away we went. And that was only the beginning. Upon reaching our stop downtown, the students’ standing balance would again be challenged… driving a segway.
That day we all learned that there is no better way to explore Dallas’ urban center, to get up close and personal to the sidewalk life of a vibrant city, than to ride a segway through downtown streets. Ms. Daniels had each of her students research a particular landmark of the city and designed a segway tour to visit these landmarks. Each student then spoke about their assignment to their fellow students.
Mastering the segway took a bit of balance practice, but after a few laps, they were off! Some landmarks of the urban tour included Pioneer Plaza, City Hall designed by I.M. Pei, the Giant Eyeball, Thanksgiving Square, and the JFK Memorial. After lunch in Klyde Warren Park, the students dropped off their segways and finished the day at the The Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture.
It is Ms. Daniels’ hope that her students will take experiences like this and start to understand what makes cities come alive, from their origins to current day, and exploring the nuances of urban life. “I want them to realize how much cities have to offer, how urban centers fit together, and how much history and activity there is to find if you know where to look,” she says. Despite Dallas being many of our addresses, students often don’t know how much there is going on downtown. For example, Ms. Daniels explains, Dallas has the largest contiguous arts district in the country, and its public transit capabilities are greater than many people think.
A few days later, students took the time to reflect on their experience. Their quotes say it all…
“There were so many places in downtown Dallas that I never realized existed!”
“The Old Red museum was the perfect finishing touch because we all got to see how the “three tiers” (economy, politics and transportation) fit into Dallas’ history.”
“Before today I could not see myself enjoying downtown Dallas during my free time, but after seeing for myself all the places to hang out, I think it’d be a great idea to go downtown for an event with my friends.”
“I need to be able to navigate public transportation, and I definitely should know how to navigate my own city. This experience helped with that.”
“I feel like going into a city for a class focusing on cities was a great form of field research, and it really enhanced our experience in the class.”
“Loved the immersion.”
“There is no comparison between looking at pictures of buildings and being told facts about them, and seeing them in person and learning about them on site. It was cool hearing about some of the architects and motives behind the buildings’ constructions because after knowing who was the architect for some of the buildings, you could tell certain attributes that are part of their own personal aesthetic. (Particularly I.M. Pei) Thank you for giving us that experience!”
“In school, we mostly learn about cities other than the one that we live in, so it was really interesting to learn about the history of Dallas and what makes it unique.”
“I had never seen Dallas City Hall or the Police Memorial. I even enjoyed learning about many places I had seen around Dallas, but knew nothing about.”
“My favorite part of the trip was seeing all of the interesting people who ride the DART. There was a diverse group of people!”