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Fourth Grade Meets the “Painted Ladies”
By: Fourth Grade Teachers Taylor Berns and Amy McMullin
Residents and visitors of Lafayette Square may have noticed some unique activity buzzing about the neighborhood on Friday, September 29. The Rossman fourth grade class had arrived for their traditional art-inspired field trip, and students were scattered on the sidewalks sketching Victorian homes, hunting for architectural details and taking in the unique, beautiful sights of the neighborhood.
Prior to our trip, fourth graders studied the history of Lafayette Square and what influenced the architecture in the area. They were amazed to discover that most of the neighborhood was destroyed by a tornado in 1896, and they were fascinated by how the city has been rebuilt over time. After studying photos of the “painted ladies” and other iconic houses in the area, students quickly noticed what makes these homes distinct and striking.
“They’re so colorful,” a student remarked as he gazed at a picture of particular lavender, yellow and navy blue house.
“And so close together!”
“Also, are they three stories tall?” a curious student inquired.
By the end of our research, all of the students could note how different the houses of Lafayette Square are from the ones they are familiar with, and they couldn’t wait to see the architecture in person.
Fourth grade was bustling with anticipation on the day of the field trip. Upon our arrival at Lafayette Square, the students bounded out of cars and jumped right into a scavenger hunt they had prepared for with Art Teacher Mrs. Spangler. Like detectives, they scrutinized the houses, seeking out architectural details such as dormer windows, mansard roofs, turrets, columns, and cupolas. It was remarkable to hear the students’ conversations as they pursued each item on the scavenger hunt checklist.
“Look! There are rosettes in that cornice!” a student shouted to her team.
“I found a finial on top of a steeple over here!” another student announced, sounding like a true architect.
Once the teams checked each item off their scavenger hunt lists, it was time for an even greater quest that many of the students have looked forward to for years: choosing a house to sketch. Each student was given the opportunity to choose their “own” house, which they studied in greater detail, sketched at the site, and will later develop into a unique, detailed watercolor drawing in art class. During this time, Rossman students were scattered on the sidewalks like tiny tourists in awe of grand, historical monuments. They were consumed with sketching, writing notes and taking in the scenery. In some cases, neighborhood pets, children and homeowners caught the attention of our fourth graders and made the experience even more personal.
Just as the students’ hands were beginning to ache and stomachs were starting to growl, we assembled as a class for lunch in Lafayette Park, St. Louis’ oldest public park. Our gathering place was a picturesque spot near a pond full of majestic swans and lively geese. The children ate and chatted in the sunshine, sharing stories of the day with their classmates. Fortunately for our students, Lafayette Park also boasts a tremendous playground not far from our outdoor dining area. The fourth graders enjoyed a well-deserved extended recess and let out a sigh when the whistle blew to signal the end of the trip.
We all headed back to school with a fresh perspective on our city, a new appreciation of architecture and an abundance of inspiration for writing and art.