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Fifth Grade’s Architectural Photography Trip

By: Fifth Grade Teachers Annie Menees and Todd Valdez

October 17, 2014

Fifth grade recently embarked on a photography field trip to downtown St. Louis to experience the architecture of their great city. In art class, the students have been learning how to compose a photograph and used these skills to capture images of the architectural elements that inspired them. These elements included famous buildings, sculptures, landscaping, and other architecture that captured their imaginations.

The first stop on the journey was the Old Courthouse. Throughout the 19th century the Old Courthouse served not only as a house of justice, but also as a public gathering place for pioneers planning their westward trek across the plains. The centerpiece of this building is the iron-framed dome, which was the forerunner of many similar domes on government buildings throughout the country. The students were able to walk through the rotunda and take in the structure and art that is visible all the way to the upper tiers of the dome.

The fifth graders then took the short walk over to Kiener Plaza and the May Auditorium Fountain. The fountain provides the focal point of the plaza and, with the backdrop of the Gateway Arch, is a popular photo opportunity for all visitors.

Right across the street from the plaza is the Wainwright Building, a 10-story red-brick landmark office building. Built in 1890 and designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, it was among the first skyscrapers in the world.

On a walk through Citygarden, students interacted with sculptures, fountains and pools, and a waterfall, all of which provided plenty of artistic opportunities for the young photographers. Across from the garden, the students were able to observe the Serra Sculpture in front of the Civil Courts building. The seven 40-foot panels and one 50-foot slab were put into place in March 1982 and have been a source of dissention among St. Louisans since that time.

The students then visited City Hall and Union Station, walking briefly by the newly renovated Peabody Opera House. Built in 1904, City Hall’s architecture is one of a kind. The Missouri pink granite that contrasts with pink-orange Roman brick on the upper floors and buff sandstone trim, stained black from the industrial revolution, make it one of St. Louis’ most beautiful buildings. As students walked into Union Station, they were asked not to say a word while they pretended to go back in time to when it was a bustling train station. The spectacularly detailed Grand Hall kept them all speechless.

On the way back to the cars, the students walked through the Soldiers Memorial. Two museum galleries contain a collection of military-related objects of both local and national historical significance. Items include photographs, posters and printed materials, uniforms, flags, medals, firearms, edged weapons, and a range of war-time memorabilia from both the battlefront and the homefront. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the site for the Soldiers Memorial building on October 14, 1936.

Upon returning from this informative trip, the fifth graders developed their favorite pictures to use in a photography contest. They also will use the information and ideas from the trip as the foundation of their next writing project.

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