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
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.