A life-sized stuffed bison, a replica 19th-century John Deere plow, and a skyline made of old cereal boxes: These are each on display at, of all places, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. You can check out the mix of food facts, nature and industrial achievement this weekend, when the museum opens its brand-new interactive exhibit, "Food: The Nature of Eating."
Kids get immersed into food culture from the get-go in the farming display, where they can (try to) push an old, heavy manual plow. No kidding, it probably takes three or more children for a successful ten-foot push. Also in the agriculture area is one-half of a pickup truck with a faux garden in the truck bed, a display inspired by a real Chicago vehicle (called the Truck Farm—who'dve thought?). Steps leading up to the back of the truck allow little ones get a peek inside, too. Nearby, there's a life-sized bison representing the millions that used to inhabit Illinois.
In the next room, which highlights food transportation, youngsters can suit up as railway workers and climb through an “underground” tunnel. Here, the exhibit relates the importance of the railroads in Chicago during its heyday of locomotive transportation. (At the media preview on March 21, a few school groups had a chance to check out the exhibit as well, and kids flocked to the railway tunnel. It was a sight to see.) Meanwhile, older kids and adults will probably learn a thing or two from the enormous map detailing the distances different foods travel to get to Chicago. You might think Alaskan salmon would just make the straightaway trip from Alaska to Chicago, but nope, it’s not that simple. First the fish travel to China to be filleted, then to Chicago to be eaten—a journey of 11,000 miles. Yikes.
One very cool display includes a Chicago skyline that’s made of old Life cereal boxes. The large, suprisingly accurate artwork is three-dimensional, and draws you in to read about recycling food containers. Honestly, words hardly do it any justice; you have to see it for yourself. Native Chicagoans will surely appreciate it. At the end of the exhibit, the interaction explodes at the Nature Cafe with touch-screen "plates" containing with lessons about food, and a table where kids can draw meals with erasable markers.
There’s also an outlet where kids are encouraged to make shopping lists. Here a few gems that I noticed:
- “Milk, flower”
- “Milk, eggs, candy, dairy”
- “I don’t use a cookbook, I just make my own ideas”
"Food: The Nature of Eating" opens Saturday, March 23. (And while you’re there, don't miss the amazing butterfly haven.) Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100). naturemuseum.org. Adults $9, students and seniors $7, children 3-12 $6, children under 3 free.
I happened to be perusing Kickstarter this afternoon, seeing what cool stuff Chicagoans are coming up with these days, when I stumbled upon the awesome-looking Adventure Sandwich. A "live cartoon" filmed in Chicago with kids contributing to its stories, it looks pretty awesome. The project comes from the new collective Big Canvas Films, and was co-created by writer and performer Lily Emerson. Check out the clip above or the pitch below, and give generously. I have a feeling this is going to be the best:
Co-writers and -directors of The Croods, Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco have put years into bringing their comic vision of how a family of cavepeople cope with environmental upheaval. (Hint: When volcanoes and earthquakes threaten, you move.) DreamWorks Animation’s newest 3-D film features the voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman and Emma Stone as members of the title family navigating the perils of the prehistoric “Crood-aceous Era.” The inspiration for the story came from a different idea originally developed a decade ago by De Micco and comedian John Cleese.
Sanders (who has a seven-year-old daughter) and Di Micco (the father to newborn twins) arrived in Chicago earlier this month—on the day of the biggest snowstorm the city had seen in two years. From their vantage point in a hotel overlooking the iconic Water Tower, the pair delighted in filming the falling snow with their smart phones using a time-lapse app. Once we finished talking about the weather, we got around to the matter of movies, cartoons and kids.
Brunch with the Bunny
Merrimac Park, 6343 W Irving Park Rd (773-685-3382). Thu 21, 10am-12pm; $10 per person.
Parents and children 6 and under are invited for brunch with the Easter Bunny at Merrimac Park. They’ll have all the classics: egg hunt, crafts, face painting, photos, and more.
Flashlight Egg Hunt
Donovan Park, 3620 S Lituanica Ave (312-747-6111). Fri 22, 7pm-9pm; $3 per child.
This nighttime event puts a special twist on the classic Easter egg hunt. Bring a flashlight and search for eggs in the dark.
Soldier Field Spring Egg-Stravaganza
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr (312-235-7000). Sat 23, 9am; Free.
A morning at the legendary Soldier Field? For free? I wouldn’t miss this one. There’s a huge candy hunt on the field, face painters, balloon artists and more. Plus, the first 2,000 kids in the candy grab get a special wooden egg to take home. Note: Breakfast is scheduled, however, it has sold out.
Caring Bunny at Woodfield Mall
Woodfield Mall, 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, IL (847-330-1537). Sun 24, 8am-10am; Free.
Woodfield Mall welcomes families with children with special needs to a subdued environment and a more comforting experience with the Caring Bunny. Precautions will be taken to ensure an excellent egg-sperience. For more, check out abilitypath.org.
Kids’ Table Easter Celebration
The Kids Table, 2337 W North Ave (773-235-2665). Fri 29, 3:30pm-5:30pm; $35.
Head to the Kids’ Table to whip up some Easter-themed eats. Start out with a fresh and healthy egg salad before baking some what-I-can-only-assume-to-be-tasty sugar cookies. The class is filling up, so act fast if you’re interested and register here.
Lincoln Park Zoo Easter Egg-Stravaganza
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N Clark Street (312-742-2000). Sat 30, 9am-11am; $45, members $40, kids 3-12 $30, members $25, kids 2 and under free.
Enjoy a nice breakfast before the young ones hunt for Easter eggs. Then stop for a photo with the Easter bunny, make some crafts and check out the animals. If you’re interested, register before March 26. No tickets are available at the door.
Eggcellent Adventures at the Farm
Angelic Organics Learning Center, 1547 Rockton Rd, Caledonia (815-389-8455). Sat 30, 10am-12pm; $11.
This one’s all about eggs. You’ll learn about ‘em, collect ‘em, and color ‘em. There’s even a meet-and-greet with chickens and ducks. Party time! Egg-cellent. Click here for tickets.
Doggie Egg Hunt
Horner Park, 2741 W Montrose Ave (773-478-3499). Sat 30, 10am-12pm; $10 per dog.
Horner Park encourages the dog and rabbit to put their differences aside at this Easter celebration. At their 10th annual Doggie Egg Hunt, dogs will hunt for treat-filled eggs and get a complimentary bandana. Want a photo of your dog with the Easter bunny? No worries, that's just little extra.
Bubble Egg Hunt
Bubbles Academy, 1504 N Fremont (312-944-7677). Sat 30, 2pm-4pm & 5pm-7pm; $30 per child, children 4 months and under free.
Bubbles offers a slew of things to do for their Easter party: art projects, an egg hunt, a concert, and a visit from their very own Bubbles Bunny. Fresh juice (from Peeled Juice Bar) and cupcakes (from Magnolia Bakery) will be available too. So, yeah, this sounds great. Call to register.
Easter Eggs at Ukrainian National Museum
Ukrainian National Museum, 2249 W Superior St (312-421-8020). Open Thu-Sun 11am-4pm; Free, suggested donation $5.
Check out the Ukrainian National Museum’s fascinatingly detailed Easter eggs—called “Pysanky,” a Ukrainian staple folk art. For a sneak peak on how they’re made, watch this. Better yet, head down to the museum and see for yourself.
Also: There are an abundance of events at various Chicago Park District locations. Call your local park or check out chicagoparkdistrict.com for details.
The Chicago Public Schools' recent decision to remove the graphic novel Persepolis from its curricula for 7th–10th graders has created a ripple effect that CEO Barbra Byrd-Bennett perhaps didn't intend: Many bookstores in the Chicago area can't keep the book on their shelves.
Andersonville bookstore Women & Children First sold out of all their copies of Persepolis “first thing Saturday morning,” said bookseller Lynn Mooney.
“There were numerous people who came in to the store, and everybody wanted to talk about [the book banning],” Mooney continued. “They were really energized about it, and we did sell out pretty much as soon as we opened.”
Women & Children First wasn’t the only store to feel the impact of the CPS decision. Over the weekend, The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview and Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in Printers Row also sold out of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel detailing her turbulent upbringing in Iran in the 1970s and ’80s. Although book bans like this mean good business for bookstores far and wide, none of the booksellers were particularly happy about the recent decision to forbid students the chance to read the novel in a classroom setting.
"I just don't think its necessary to censor," said Suzy Takacs, owner of The Book Cellar. "I think kids censor for themselves. When they aren't interested in something—or if something is too old for them, or too sexy for them, or if they're not interested—they just move on to something else. Persepolis is not the most violent thing kids are looking at anyway, so ... I don't think it's necessary. No one was ever harmed by reading about something."
“We’re never happy about anybody banning books—it keeps books away from people, and our whole thing is keep people reading,” said Stefan Mooreland, Unabridged Bookstore manager. “There’s so many different avenues for attention nowadays, that we want people to be reading no matter where they get their physical books.”
Meanwhile, at Women and Children First, the employees told stories of expressing solidarity with the Lane Tech students who protested CPS’s actions on Friday, despite rainy cold weather, “One of the parents was talking about her son and his experience at the Lane Tech protest,” Mooney recounted. “I had left my Saturday copy [of the Chicago Tribune] at home, and I had said I was mad at myself because I wanted to put it in our front window as a gesture of support to those students and the action they took. So the mother went up the street and found a place that sold the Tribune and the Sun-Times and brought them back to us and wouldn’t let me pay for them. We put ’em right up in our window.”
“Banning books rarely has the effect people want them to,” said Tom Flynn, Manager at 57th Street Books, where the graphic novel has long been a steady seller. As a result, the store had a lot more copies already on the shelves than most other bookstores, but they sold a lot over the weekend and ordered more Monday. “All we can do," Flynn added, "is keep selling these books and showing our support."
As of press time Tuesday, March 19, another protest by students is scheduled for Monday, March 25; this time, instead of at Lane Tech, the protest is planned for downtown Chicago. Check back later this week for details.
While St. Patrick's Day has its reputation for, um, let's say adult reverie, kids can get in on the fun, too. The Irish American Heritage Center always throws a good bash for the kids, including facepainting, Irish dancing and plenty of music.
The downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade always brings out the the Emerald Isle pride from all corners of the city, converging on Columbus Drive. And nothing says "Irish fellowship" like dying a big, shaggy dog green, right? Mayor Rahm Emanuel would appear to agree.
- This was probably our favorite story of the last we: A man's daughter loved playing Donkey Kong, but wanted to play as Princess Toadstool instead of Mario. So, he made it happen. He hacked Donkey Kong and made it so the princess rescues the plumber. And here's a great essay about why he did it.
- Here's a really heart-warming story about a teenage girl with a rare disorder, who has used a device all her life to speak. The problem was that the voice sounded robotic. Well, not anymore.
- A great headline for a story about the importance of adult themes in kids' books.
- We were just talking in a meeting the other day about half-birthday celebrations in school for kids who have summer birthdays. Apparently, that's a thing now.
- I love this story about a dad who was a toy collector—the kind who would never dream of actually opening a toy package—who decided it was more important to share them with his kids than preserve them behind plastic bubbles
Chicago Public Schools administrators created an uproar today after ordering that Persepolis, the acclaimed comic-book autobiography by Marjane Satrapi, be pulled from the school curricula—and students and teachers responded by protesting Friday afternoon outside Lane Tech High School. Despite cold rain, a crowd of about 60 people gathered with signs to draw attention to the decision. Lane Tech junior Cooper Staszak, admitted they hadn't read Persepolis, "but I'm just against the premise of banning books."
Written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi, the memoir reflects on her experiences as an Iranian girl growing up during the tumultuous late ’70s, when a restrictive religious regime took control of the country and, among other things, forced all women to wear a hijab (head scarf). Given its that the book is a highly acclaimed coming-of-age story and has never been challenged in the U.S. before, the decision took many by surprise—including the Chicago Teachers Union. “The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran,” CTU rep Kristine Mayle said in a statement. (The 2007 Oscar-nominated animated film adaptation, rated PG-13, was also banned in Iran.)
Talk of book banning is a surefire way to rile up a lot of people—and although CPS officials insist they've done no such thing, they do have themselves to blame for not being clearer about their intentions. Over two days of mixed messages, a series of emails sent to Chicago Public School employees suggested that the acclaimed book Persepolis should be pulled entirely from the school system. Initial reports—yesterday, from a retired teacher's blog that covers CPS, and again this morning on The Beat and other comic-book news sites—quoted an email from Lane Tech's princpal, in which he wrote that an official "stopped by my office and informed me" to confirm, by today, "that Persepolis is not in the [school] library" and "that it is not being used in any classrooms." But by early afternoon Friday, not long after the Chicago Tribune reported the same thing, Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarified that the book would remain in school libraries (although perhaps not in too many classrooms).
"Let me be clear: We are not banning this book from our schools," said Byrd-Bennett's statement, which CPS spokespersons provided to Time Out Chicago Kids. At the same time, she confirmed the edict to ban the book from any lesson plans for seventh graders: "It was brought to our attention that it contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh-grade curriculum. If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms."
That qualified ruling doesn’t quite put Persepolis in the clear. Although it remains on school-library shelves for now, “We are also considering whether the book should be included, after appropriate teacher training, in the curriculum of eighth through tenth grades,” she wrote. In other words, CPS still isn't sure if the book can be taught to high-school sophomores.
The confusion and back-pedalling about the library ban did little to quell the frustration and outrage felt by some students. When interviewed earlier today at the protest, Lane Tech senior Katie McDermott told us, "If this doesn't get resolved, we are shooting to have an in-school protest with the books in the library. ... Obviously, it'll be peaceful. We have contacted a blogger who is willing to give us 100 copies of Persepolis, so we will have a bunch of copies for the students to read if they haven't read it."
Staszak told us, when asked why it was important to fight on behalf of seventh graders who aren't old enough to attend Lane Tech, "Well, I mean, who else is gonna do it?" McDermott followed up with a longer answer to that question: "I wouldn't say, 'on behalf of the seventh graders.' I would just say, 'on behalf of the CPS Education System in general.' I think it's time that the student's voices are heard, and since the younger kids aren't able to really be eloquent enough with what they're saying, we are the voices for those people that can't talk."
The furor comes at a time when relations are still tense between CPS officials (and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) and the teachers' union. Adding fuel to the fire, union rep Mayle speculated about the motivations behind the Persepolis censorship: “We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this—at a time when they are closing schools—because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues. There’s even a part in the book where they are talking about blocking access to education. So we can see why the school district would be alarmed about students learning about these principles.”
Speaking from her current home city of Paris, author-artist Marjane Satrapi told the Tribune, “It’s shameful. I cannot believe something like this can happen in the United States of America.” Told of reports that some adults objected to depictions of torture in the book, Satrapi scoffed. “These are not photos of torture. It’s a drawing and it’s one frame. I don’t think American kids of seventh grade have not seen any signs of violence. Seventh graders have brains, and they see all kinds of things on cinema and the Internet."