COOL Summer Learning Experience Reflections

Hi Backyard Geographers, Julie here!

This summer, I was the Geographic Society of Chicago’s intern for the COOL Summer Learning Experience (CLE) in Waukegan, Illinois. Never having heard of Waukegan or CLE, I thought it would be a great chance to explore a new area, learn how to ride the Metra, and keep my GIS skills sharp. Little did I know, I’d leave at the end of the summer having met some amazing students who, might I add, were more proficient in GIS in eighth grade than I was as a freshman in college.

Each year since 2008, this summer education program has provided students with science-oriented experiential learning opportunities, and since 2012, the Geographic Society of Chicago (GSC) has been a part of that mission. In working together, CLE and the GSC are able to provide students with opportunities including field trips, GIS, and this year, improvisational comedy.

I was assigned to help the eighth and ninth grade students, and our main task was to create Story Maps (an interactive presentation-style technology from Esri) to display how Waukegan’s harbor has changed through the years. Story Maps are great tool to bring GIS and mapping to a broader audience beyond those already familiar with these technologies. With this in mind, our final product was three separate Story Maps on the past, present, and future of the harbor. We did this by gathering waypoints of local businesses near the harbor with our GPS units, and conducting interviews with the owners. We uploaded not only our data, but also photos and the information from the interviews to our Story Maps. The Story Maps were also made possible by a technology guru who went by the name of Turtle as well as a helpful volunteer named Dave.

 There are many teachers, staff members, and volunteers behind this operation, but the leader of the pack is the caring and benevolent Ms. Coyote (Barbara Waller), who insists that everyone at the camp, including both staff and students, goes by a “nature name.” The concept of nature names had a way of bringing everyone together, and I was excited to be dubbed “Otter.”

At one point, the students were to give presentations on potential career they would like to pursue. As the students were practicing their presentations, their teacher Ms. Butterfly (Kimberly Waller) and I noticed that some of them could use a confidence boost. Once Ms. Butterfly found out that I enjoy doing and teaching improvisational comedy in my spare time, she decided that we could use this to help the students relax and feel confident in what they were saying. I watched their confidence blossom each time we did improv, which translated to them feeling more capable in their speech-giving as well as in their GIS skills. 

The community engagement that CLE fosters is unlike anything I’ve seen before; with these students being knowledgeable on their community’s history, it supports them in paving the way for their community’s future. If you are interested in learning more about COOL Summer Learning Experience and its mission, find its website linked here: https://www.clewaukegan.org/

 

Julie

Undesign the Redline

 

Hello Backyard Geographers!

I come to you today to share the “Undesign the Redline” exhibit, which is currently being displayed in Evanston at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. I heard about this exhibit through word of mouth, so I mistakenly thought that it was about the CTA’s Red Line. Instead, it delved into Chicago’s history with redlining, a practice used by banks to deny loans to minorities and devalue areas based on the presence of people of color via color-coded maps. It is necessary to note that, while redlining and its effects are highly visible and impactful in Chicago, it is a ubiquitous problem, and has been since the conception of redlining maps in the 1930s.

A primary takeaway of the exhibit was the way in which racism became purposefully encoded into everyday structures and systems through redlining. “Redlining embodies a process that transformed explicit racism into structural racism […] The structural situation created by these programs largely remains the same” (Undesign the Redline, 2019). And indeed, these structures and their impacts continue on; the exhibit included four superb maps that centered on mobility, education, economic security, and health & wellbeing. The connection between redlined areas and these categories became apparent as the redlined maps were layered over present day data on these categories, allowing the viewer to see that, for example, mobility is incredibly low in previously redlined areas (see map gallery above).

The second photo shown in the gallery above is a 1939 map of the “Homeowners’ Loan Corporation Residential Security Map,” which shows small yellow push pins. These pins are placed by visitors to indicate where they or someone they know lives. This exhibit encouraged visitor participation, from providing sticky notes and pens to post questions and comments on the panels, to asking thought-provoking questions of its audience. One of the questions was “How might redlining play a role in shaping the experiences of people in your community?” This question correctly assumes that redlining shapes the experiences of people in their communities, and leaves it to the audience to use the information they’ve gleaned from the exhibit to give their answer.

On one wall, there was an in-depth timeline of racism in the United States, which showed how the U.S. moved from slavery into current manifestations of structural racism. These panels, shown in the gallery above, give necessary context to see those present day manifestations of racism, like the racial wealth gap. In the past, it’s been said that this wealth gap is due to differences in education, employment, and income. These factors have some bearing, but do not affect the wealth gap with as much gravity as intergenerational wealth, something that non-white communities have been deprived of. This disparity resulting from intergenerational wealth (or lack thereof) leads to the following: “[…] Whites have a median net worth ($111,740) nearly 16 times that of Blacks ($7,113), and over 13 times that of Latinos ($8,113)” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).

In the present day, redlining has morphed from its original shape; this is not to say, however, that redlining in its original form has been completely eradicated. A current example of redlining’s presence can be seen in recent days as Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the United States House Financial Services Committee. He was being questioned by Joyce Beatty (D – OH) when Beatty commented on Facebook’s practice of withholding certain information from particular communities based on redlining. “[…] You are redlining or using zip codes to eliminate people from getting information,” (Webb, 2019). Beatty’s comment manifests a present-day use of redlining that is more covertly racist than denying people home loans based on race.

This exhibit had a wealth of information on practices beyond redlining used to systematically oppress minorities, including blockbusting, predatory banking, contract buying, and speculative investment, all of which are shown in the gallery above. These policies are explicitly racist and were intended to be so from the beginning; when classifying neighborhoods, words like “Foreign Born,” “Relief,” and “Negro” would be used to describe the residents and subsequently redline them, causing disinvestment. “Any threat of foreign born, negro, or lower population? If so, indicate these by nationality and rate of infiltration like this: ‘Negro – rapid’” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).  Aside from the overtly racist language used, surveyors were instructed to describe the “rate of infiltration” as though people of color were the enemy, and committing a crime by residing in certain neighborhoods.

Although this exhibit mainly focused on presenting and outlining the history of redlining and other discriminatory practices, there were also suggestions to remedy it. “Redistributing, regenerating, and recirculating needed resources” (Undesign the Redline, 2019) were all listed as ways to un-design redlining, as the title of the exhibit stated, and reinvest in disenfranchised communities. It is possible that the suggested solutions were kept vague in order for viewers to engage with the concepts and potentially think of their own solutions, writing their suggestions on the space provided at the end of the exhibit.

The only thing that I would change about this exhibit is its accessibility; it was so well done that I would love to see it in schools and libraries all over Chicago, rather than being tucked away on the third floor of Evanston’s civic center. In fact, my friend and I were looking for the exhibit and asked multiple people if they knew where the exhibit was, only to find out that most people didn’t know it existed. This being said, I absolutely recommend taking a day trip to visit. As a practice in thinking geographically, take notice of who is occupying certain spaces while in Evanston, and conversely, who is not occupying them. In thinking like a geographer, perhaps you can use some of the information from this blog and WE’s Undesign the Redline exhibit to contextualize your findings.

 

Enjoy your visit!

Julie

 

Undesign the Redline was produced by WE, a social impact design studio. Check out their website for more information on their work and projects. http://www.designingthewe.com/

 

 

Works Cited

“Undesign the Redline.” 4 Oct. 2019, Evanston, IL, Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Webb, Kevin. “Ohio Congresswoman Rips into Mark Zuckerberg, Calling It ‘Appalling and Disgusting’ That He Failed to Answer Questions about Facebook’s Civil Rights and DiversityProblems.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 23 Oct. 2019, www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-joyce-beatty-facebook-diversity-race-congress-2019-10.

Divvy Into Spring

by Emily Speelman

With the range of temperatures in 2017 thus far, Chicago has had several spring-like days and citizens are returning to one of their favorite warm-weather past times: biking. While many Chicago citizens have their own two-wheeled transport, both locals and visitors alike take advantage of Divvy, Chicago’s bike share system. Since it’s establishment in 2013, Divvy has grown in size and service, making it the third largest bike share program in North America (behind Washington D.C. and New York City).

Photo: Divvy Bikes

Divvy is owned by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and operated by Motivate, which owes the majority of U.S. bike share programs. Currently, Divvy has over 580 stations docking around 5,800 bikes throughout Chicago and the nearby suburbs of Oak Park and Evanston. Bike share programs are designed for short-range or one-way trips lasting no more than 30 minutes, making it great for commuters or visitors on the Lake Shore Trail. To begin riding, riders must first purchase a 24-hour pass (9.95 plus tax) or a Divvy membership (varies). Then undock the bike, ride, and re-dock it at any Divvy bike dock in the service area. While passes last 24 hours, bikes must be docked every half hour to prevent additional fees.

One of the primary goals for Divvy and other bike share programs is to connect to other transportation methods, such as connecting to a CTA bus line or a Metra train line. Since its establishment, Divvy has been widely popular in Chicago. In a statement by the Mayor’s office at the end of 2016, Divvy was near (and since surpassed) 10 million trips in less than four years of operation. With the additions of Evanston and Oak Park, Divvy covers the largest geographic area of North American bike share programs.

Photo: DNAInfo

The majority of Divvy docks are located outside of CTA stations, in the Loop, and along the lakefront. According to the Mayor’s 2016 report, the most popular stations in 2016 were located at:

  1. Streeter Dr. & Grand Ave. (Navy Pier)
  2. Lake Shore Dr. & Monroe St.
  3. Theater on the Lake (Fullerton Beach)
  4. Lake Shore Dr. & North Blvd.
  5. Clinton St. & Washington Blvd. (Ogilvie Station)
  6. Michigan Ave. & Oak St.
  7. Millennium Park
  8. Clinton St. & Madison St.
  9. Canal St. & Madison St.
  10. Canal St. & Adams St. (Union Station)

As Divvy grows in usage and popularity, they have introduced a number of discount memberships to ensure more people are able to use the bikes. Many Chicago corporations have a Divvy partnership and students are eligible for a discounted annual membership fee. Most recently, Divvy established the Divvy for Everyone program in 2015, a discounted annual membership for qualifying customers based on their household size and income. This is a one to two year discount membership starting at $5. This also allows for memberships to paid for by cash, eliminating the requirement of a bank or credit card that is needed for 24-hour passes and most annual memberships. More information on this program can be found below.

As the weather gets warmer, consider trying out this bike share program for a fun new way of seeing the city.

Photo: WTTW

See all the current Divvy stations here.

 

More Information about Divvy:

About Divvy: https://www.divvybikes.com/about

FAQ about Divvy and Bike Share: https://www.divvybikes.com/how-it-works/faq

Divvy for Everyone: https://www.divvybikes.com/pricing/d4e

Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Department of Transportation Announce Divvy Bike Share to Hit 10 Million Rider Mark in Coming Days (December 29, 2016) : https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/bike/news/2016/december/mayor-emanuel–chicago-department-of-transportation-announce-div.html

Explore the Philippines at the January 17 Travelogue

THE PHILIPPINES: The Most DIVErse Underwater and Above

presented by Lynn Funkhouser

(Photo  Credit:  Brian  Siegel) Lynn  Presenting  at  the  Diving  and  Equipment  Marketing  Association  in  2016                                         

The Verde Island Passage (VIP) has been scientifically proven to have more diversity than elsewhere.  Surprisingly, Luzon Island has more species of mammals than anywhere else on Earth!  Lynn will explain the reason for this diversity, as she shows you amazing critters and pristine reefs in The Philippines.

Lynn Funkhouser, inducted into the inaugural Women Divers Hall of Fame, is an internationally published photographer, author, presenter, environmentalist, adventuress, and leader in dive travel.  She has photographed over 261 islands in the Philippines.  As an environmentalist, Lynn is committed to making a difference on this planet through her images and presentations.

1 p.m.
Tuesday, January 17 
Chicago Cultural Center, Renaissance Court, 78 E. Washington Street

This event is free and open to the public. There is no cost for attending the presentation.