Local History Comes Alive

Eleventh Graders took their History of St. Louis studies right out of the classroom and to the streets of their city early in the first trimester of the 2019-2020 school year. Students chose one of four different trips that offered insight into various parts of their studies.

Walking Tour of Downtown

Students participated in a walking tour of downtown that covered the classics like the Arch Grounds, Old Cathedral and Old Courthouse as well as other highlights that focus on the early history and architecture of the city. They visited the sites of some early businesses and banks and learned about how trade evolved in the region.

Soldiers Memorial

Students toured the newly renovated monument to the soldiers from Missouri who served in different wars and participated in a guided activity focusing on St. Louis soldiers. Much of the history covered was based on the World Wars and individual soldiers’ personal accounts of their experiences in those wars and students learned how significantly our communities were affected.

Bellefontaine Walking Tour

Students participated in a walking tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum, learning about important historical families and individuals that lived in St. Louis. The cemetery is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the final resting place of many significant people in and to St. Louis, including Missouri Governor William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, William Greenleaf Eliot, the founder of our school, and Adolphus Busch many other members of the Busch family. Suffragette Virginia Minor and Susan Blow, founder of the first kindergarten in the country here in St. Louis, are also interred at Bellefontaine.

National Blues Museum & The Federal Reserve Museum

Students spent an hour in each of the two museums learning more about St. Louis’ economic and cultural history. They focused on the evolution and birth of Blues as a music form and enjoyed a concert from a blues musician who also shared information about musical styles. At the Federal Reserve Museum, students tested their knowledge about economic and monetary policy to free themselves from an escape room.

The four groups of students and their teachers met back up for lunch, enjoying time outside at either Kiener Plaza or on the Arch grounds. Then, all the students boarded buses for a driving tour of St. Louis led by professional guides. “We went through parts of the city to show historic sites and share stories that perhaps they hadn’t heard before,” said Carla Federman, JK-12 History Department Chair. The buses drove through South City, Soulard and Carondelet.

Downtown, the guides spoke about early business and how the city grew. In north St. Louis, students saw Homer G. Phillips Hospital, Fairground Park and other locations that have been historically significant to immigrant and African American communities.

This informative day helped students explore and experience first-hand the political, cultural and economic decisions that have led to St. Louis’s current status, climate and divisions, bringing to life the lessons from their classroom.

On campus, History of St. Louis students have enjoyed a variety of guest speakers this trimester.

On August 22, Lindy Drew, a co-founder of the Humans of St. Louis project, shared what it’s like to try to capture the spirit of the community through brief storytelling and photography. She challenged students to think about how the stories make them feel, see if they recognize parts of themselves in the stories, and assess whether they sound familiar or foreign. She said, “There’s a need for St. Louis to have a platform for people to get to know each other better.” The non-profit has six storytellers and volunteer editors who find St. Louisans willing to share parts of their lives. They ask subjects questions like, “What’s your greatest struggle,” “What would make a tremendous difference in your life right now,” “What has been your highest high and your lowest low.” The stories usually spark vibrant conversations about subjects as diverse as reproductive rights issues, gender identity and racism, among others, on the Humans of St. Louis Facebook page. “We want to humanize the story behind the data,” West said. She encouraged students to be open-minded and curious, to listen and to look for the dignity and humanity in each story.

An “Economics in St. Louis” panel brought executives from Bayer, Lion Forge Labs, Nine Network and Cortex to MICDS on August 30. The panel discussed running organizations — both non-profit and for-profit — in this region, the proposed city-county merger, and their perspectives on the region as a whole. Cameron Curry ’21 said, “I thought it was interesting to learn about how each person viewed the city-county merger, like how they believe it wouldn’t change their business much, but rather affects how the image of Saint Louis is being portrayed.” Caitlin Paine ’21 said, “The executives were a lot friendlier and more optimistic than I anticipated! I didn’t expect to hear about the ways they want to and do help St. Louis, how they run their businesses, tips and tricks for high-school students and young adults for entering the workforce, and general wisdom about being yourself and having a happy and successful life.” Kendal Windom ’21 enjoyed learning about the panelists’ thoughts about St. Louis, saying, “I found it intriguing to learn their perspectives on St. Louis as a whole, whether when they referenced its growth, talent, or potential. I had no idea that the city has many start-up companies or entrepreneur opportunities.”

On September 18, 11th graders gathered in Brauer Auditorium for a panel on Social Issues in St. Louis Panel, which included representatives from the International Institute, the Little Bit Foundation, the Jennings School District and Saint Louis University. The panelists agreed that the lack of affordable housing (contributing to homelessness), food deserts, the lack of public transportation all contribute to the social issues our city faces. One panelist encouraged students to think about oppression, positing that we are all oppressed in one way or another. They encouraged students to consider what changes we need that will lead to a society that’s worth sharing, and what each of us can do to contribute. One panelist said, “The world is distracted, busy and bored. Be the opposite.” Students were encouraged to continue to learn, volunteer and feel passionate about where they want to go, all while staying true to themselves. Don’t let the bigness of an issue feel overwhelming; do something. They talked about the three As that provide a richer understanding of the problems of humanity: Activism (which solves an immediate problem), Advocacy (which tackles the policies that create problems in the first place) and Accompaniment (where we walk with people in solidarity).

Students also enjoyed a Politics in St. Louis Forum that included Ian Mackey of the Missouri House of Representatives (D-87th District), Ladue Mayor Nancy Spewak, Town & Country Alderman (and former County Councilman) Skip Mange, and local reporter Jo Mannies. The panel was united in their feelings about how the city and county need to work together to promote the region. Mange said, “Whether you were for or against Better Together, you have to admit that it was good in that it at least got us all talking about a solution.” Mannies told the students, “Everything in your life is political, even if it’s just the way your family works.” St. Louis has much to celebrate, the panel agreed, but there is much to work on to improve life for all residents. The region should develop a narrative that celebrates all the positives like affordable housing, diversity and a strong professional sports environment that will be further enhanced by the incoming MLS team. Students were encouraged to get involved, and, even if they plan to leave Missouri for or after college, they can make their current community vibrant for those who come after.