URBAN PLANNING FIELD TRIP MEETS FOUNDER OF A DC INSTITUTION

Honors courses are an exciting way for students and teachers alike to dig into a topic of interest outside of the traditional Field curriculum. Field teachers George Foster and Jack McDermott '08 took advantage of that opportunity this year, putting together an honors course on urban planning. Sim City: How Urban Planners Actually Build Your World meets each Thursday during SHAM to look at how neighborhoods, cities, and regions are formed, improved, maintained, and prepared for the future. 
 
Yesterday, the students in Urban Planning Honors (as it's known for short) had the opportunity to take an after-school field trip to the U Street area to put some of their theoretical learning into practice. The class picked a two-block radius and each student chose a building or business within that area—everything from the CVS to U Street Music Hall to the Lincoln Theater to Ben's Chili Bowl. On the field trip, students created an architectural planning sketch and talked to passersby or business owners about the history of the area.

One highlight, Jack reports, was the stop in to longtime DC institution Ben's Chili Bowl, where the treat du jour was even better than a half-smoke—founder Virginia Ali (wife of the restaurant's late namesake, Ben Ali) stopped by! The class was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk with her about her experience in the U Street area and all the changes to Shaw over more than 50 years. "Ben's was one of the only businesses able to stay open" during the uprisings after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Jack explains. "And it was one of only three businesses in the area to survive to today—along with Industrial Bank and Lee's Flower and Card Shop."
 
To wrap up their trip, students will make posters featuring their chosen building and its history, using the skills they've learned in class. Field students are lucky to have access to a city with such a rich history as they study! 
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