Educational Specialist Hired to Create Programming for the Bloomingdale

Rendering of the Bloomingdale Trail at Western Avenue.

The Bloomingdale Trail, AKA The 606, is not just going to be a great transportation and recreation facility. It’s also going to be an important educational resource for students at the 25 schools located within a ten-minute walk of the 2.7-mile elevated greenway and linear park. Today the Trust for Public Land, which is managing the project for the city and the park district, announced that it has hired Jean Linsner to design and implement educational programming for the trail and its five access parks. The two-year position is funded by Exelon Corporation as part of its $5 million donation to the Bloomingdale project.

“I’m charged with figuring out how to connect teachers, students and families to the trail in new and interesting ways,” said Lisner, who has done similar work for institutions like the Chicago Architecture Foundation, YWCA, Brookfield Zoo, and the Chicago Academy of Sciences. Some 80,000 people, including 20,000 children, live within a half mile of the Bloomingdale, according to TPL. She’ll be working with the nearby schools on strategies for integrating the trail into their curriculum.

Rendering of the trail at Milwaukee Avenue.

Linsner says the Bloomingdale, which is currently being constructed on an old railroad right-of-way, is going to be a powerful tool for teaching. “Let’s say students are studying Chicago’s industrial past,” she said. “You could look at documents and photos in the classroom. But it might be more exciting for the kids to look at actual physical infrastructure from that era. They could learn about why the rail line was originally built at grade level and why it was elevated, and about the companies that depended on it. There used to be factories along the line making furniture, Schwinn bicycles, musical instrument cases, and even Lincoln Logs.”

This furniture manufacturer touted its proximity to the Bloomingdale. Image via

Last year TPL brought together a small group of educators from the area to form the 606 Teachers Network, piloting lesson plans that use aspects of the trail to teach science, technology, engineering, arts and math. A teacher from Near North Montessori asked students to write a diary from the perspective of a child from an immigrant family that was involved in building the railroad. “The kids really got into aging and discoloring the documents to look like they came from an archeological dig,” Linsner said.

Another teacher from Ames Middles School had pupils look at the process of developing a park “from gray space to green space,” and come up with their own design for a new park, she said. An instructor from Pritzker Elementary took second graders on a field trip to North Park Nature Center to let them check out a nature trail firsthand. Afterwards the kids created promotional posters for the Bloomingdale. “That project fit in with a small but powerful concept: we need to get kids outside to experience the natural world,” Linsner said.

Linsner has already started meeting with teachers from schools near the line. “We’ll be taking the lesson plans we develop and sharing them with schools across the city,” she said. These educational materials will be available on the resources page of the 606 website. “There are going to be multiple ways teachers are going to engage students with the trail, from its historic past to its exciting present and future,” she said. “We want to build as many curricular on-ramps as we can.”

  • Mcass777

    Wow, what happened to all those jobs? Kind of sad that so many lives were changed as those great companies left for who knows where. No wonder our state is so short on revenue.

  • Probably a combination of “things are just cheaper to make overseas” and the land getting expensive enough to price the factories out (which is why they’re mostly residential now). There are a lot of former manufacturing corridors in Chicago; some have left more visible fossils than others.

  • Jeff Wegerson

    Basic capitalism.

  • Capitalism doesn’t inevitably lose jobs; the manufacturing-to-services shift is something that’s happened because of technology in the modern western democratic capitalist countries, not innately because of capitalism itself.

    As manufacturing becomes more mechanisable, it uses fewer workers to do the same work and they require more education to perform their jobs — working in the Boeing factory on the south side needs a graduate degree for a lot of the floor positions, whereas the lincoln logs factories up here had a lot of workers who considered finishing high school to be ‘a lot of education’.

    The industries that stay labor-intensive, because they involve a lot of motions and discriminations humans still do better than computers (like matching pieces of fabric in t-shirt manufacturing), go where labor is cheaper, which means at this point countries that (a) have lower costs of living and/or (b) have fewer worker protections or less interest in paying a living wage to them.

    This is actually known as the Garment Paradox of Development: a lot of countries have tooled up for cheap low-end garment manufacturing, but the better they get at it (the better the garments they can make, the faster they can make them, the more responsive they can be to the companies ordering), the more expensive their services become, and then the companies chasing price go somewhere else. The countries that bootstrapped their “we can make t-shirts” skills and factory managers and skilled workers into spreading out into non-t-shirt industries have done well: South Korea, Taiwan, etc, all started out at the t-shirt rung of manufacturing. Bangladesh seems to be getting stuck there. Some manufacturers in Colombia are successfully making the change from cheapest-possible-t-shirts to on-demand, high-quality garments that can be turned around from design to US store floors in 30 days.

    Planet Money’s been doing a “ahref=””>whole series; they’re very good and listenable.

  • Adam

    The 606 area seems due for different road treatments near the entrances. Will, say, Milwaukee have different treatments for pedestrians crossing to the Leavitt entrance along Bloomingdale?

  • Tony Adams

    Excellent points. Perhaps we could rephrase Jeff’s comment of “Basic capitalism” to “Unfettered capitalism isn’t a viable system because it does not care about people (or animals or any other living thing.)”

  • Mcass777

    This is really interesting. Not sure about Tony’s comment about a system not caring for people. I think the system is picked by the people, by choice or not. The system changes as people adapt, manipulate, re tool the system to make it work for them, which of course effects other people. Look at north Korea. Eventually the system will fail the people to point where the system is changed. I think the system changes here (like on the Bloomingdales TrIail) are more subtle and less earth shattering like Elliott mentioned.

  • what_eva

    Yep, the Bloomingdale is a much more visible fossil due to elevation than the former Lakewood branch. North of Diversey, you can barely tell where it was anymore. There are a few manufacturers still along the former corridor, but otherwise, you can only tell by the slight rise where the r-o-w used to be. eg, crossing Lakewood on Barry or Wellington or the intersection of Racine/Roscoe.


City of Chicago Finally Takes Possession of the Bloomingdale

After a few months of relative quiet since the last community meeting in September, there’s some news about the highly anticipated project to build a multi-use trail and “linear park” along the Bloomingdale Line. On Tuesday of last week, years after announcing its intention to open the trail, the city of Chicago finally purchased the […]