A Chance Encounter in Manayunk

by Chantal Barr, JU Teacher

The students in Junior Unit have been studying the materials economy to learn about the story of stuff. This week, JU-B and JU-D students visited Manayunk as scientists to explore the Towpath and to investigate and find evidence of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. While students were in the midst of their investigation, many of them sat on the tile stoops placed along the trail.

By chance, during our this excursion, we happened to meet the artist who created the stoops! After introducing herself to us, Diane Pieri explained to students the process of making the stoops and what they represented. She walked students through the extraction of the natural materials to make the glass tiles and concrete. She explained how the tiles, Venetian glass tesserae, were then produced in a Venetian factory and how that differed from the concrete blocks produced here in the United States.

As consumers, we are now enjoying the stoops as we explore the history of the materials economy. Right along the path, we constructed our own stories of how the Sevill Schofield Economy Mills directly influenced the Manyaunk area in the 1800s and 1900s. The students left the Towpath with both a historical and modern day lens of how the materials economy directly impacts people in and around a community.