There was Mayor Dave's ill-fated proposal to incorporate them in to Madison's infrastructure a few years back. And Judy Garland did have that shining moment in Meet me in St. Louis. But on the whole, trolleys aren't exactly top-of-mind when it comes to transportation options. It is 2011, after all.
But last week, my image of the quaint streetcar was changed for the better. I was fortunate enough to accompany the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools board and staff on their annual Grants Tour"aboard a Badger Bus Trolley. With balloons and oversized checks in hand, we rode all around the city delivering over $52,000 in award money to unsuspecting MMSD teachers and staff for highly creative and innovative programs.
Our first stop was Sherman Middle School where a class full of 6th graders was on hand to surprise their teacher, Susan Curtis, with the good news. Her Africa Connects grant will create a curriculum based on the African collections at the Chazen Museum of Art on the UW campus. The program will have Shabazz High school students model service learning presentations to Sherman students who will then present their African projects to students from their feeder elementary schools. What a fabulous idea -- an educational version of "paying it forward." Giving away money -- this was fun. Ed McMahon and Publisher's Clearinghouse had nothing on this Trolley Tour.
Next stop was East High, where we shocked grateful recipient, Cynthia Chin (East Area Energies grant) during a Fine Arts Week assembly. We were also treated to an incredibly powerful Spoken Word performance. Passionate student poetry recited aloud. I have a grant idea for next year.
We then hit the Doyle Building where I got to deliver the balloon bouquet to a district administrator for his proposal that will allow Madison teachers the opportunity to attend Edgewood College's Sustainability Leadership Conference. And then on to Shorewood and Crestwood Elementary Schools where grants were awarded for much needed resources -- quality LGBTQ literature and anti-bullying programs, respectively.
Hopping back on the trolley, we headed over to Thoreau. These teachers received a grant to measure the impact of using disco-sits, stability balls and rocking chairs for academic and behavioral improvement in the classroom. Seemed like a good idea given the first-grade energy in the room when we presented the award.
The Trolley's last stop of the day was Toki Middle School, where teachers Carlene Bechen and Brandon Tewalt won for developing the Expeditionary Learning Model. It's an interdisciplinary concept where students will develop questions based on community issues and then apply core academic areas, like science and writing, to answer those questions. Based on the unbelievably thoughtful interrogation by the students upon hearing the news, I know in my heart this will be money well spent. If all goes according to plan, this program could even become a model for other schools in the district.
As we boarded back up for the last time that day, I had a quick flashback to yet another special trolley I had long since forgotten"the one from PBS' Mr. Roger's Neighborhood (http://pbskids.org/rogers/). Fred Rogers once said, "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem." Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."
I was privileged to enjoy a "beautiful day in the neighborhood" with heroes last week.comments powered by Disqus
This post will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging. There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.