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By Children for Children

Detail of a doorway. In the Citizen Schools program and walking tour, children learn to look for "tooth patterns", or dentils, while exploring Boston’s Beacon Hill.

Two students score a bull’s eye at the "House of Odd Windows" on Pinckney Street.

If you do not know what a whale’s tail is doing on South Russell Street, why a Pinckney Street house is called the “House of Odd Windows,” or what and how long a ropewalk was, then you should pick up a booklet created by the Citizen Schools Apprentices and take their walking tour of Boston’s Beacon Hill.

Students from the third, fourth, and fifth grades of the Dever School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, undertook a project to create a family walking tour of this historic neighborhood. On Tuesday afternoons, they explored the area to discover architectural features that would capture the imaginations of young people. They hotly debated the choice of items to be included on their tour—for example, dentils above a doorway on Chestnut Street faced fierce competition from a luxury sports car parked on the street. In the end, the dentils made it into the booklet, and the Porsche did not.

The program was developed jointly by SPNEA, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and Citizen Schools, a non-profit organization founded in 1995, which offers after-school activities that involve children in projects in many communities. Chris Dore, an SPNEA teacher and Citizen Schools teaching fellow, accompanied the children on their explorations, and Jennifer Gould of the Landmarks Commission provided the background information on architecture and history.

In December, the apprentices enthusiastically led a group of parents and staff from Citizen Schools and SPNEA on the first presentation of their walking tour. Their achievement has benefited SPNEA by creating a booklet called “Odd Windows, Whales’ Tails, and Lions,” which can be given to families visiting SPNEA’s Otis House on Cambridge Street in Boston. Produced by the children in both English and Spanish, the booklet not only provides a self-guided walking tour of the Hill but also includes crossword puzzles and some federal-era recipes to cook at home.

—Nancy Joroff, Manager of School & Youth Programs

By Children for Children