Tag Archives: Education

University of Washington Suzallo Library

Suzzallo Library

It’s no big secret that I love libraries. Just check out my History Spy Pinterest Board.  One of my favorite libraries is on the University of Washington campus.  Also, referred to as the Harry Potter library by recent patrons, the Suzzallo library is worth a special trip to the campus next time you find yourself in Seattle.  Bring a book or some research to do though, because as you enter, the ambiance makes you want to sit and study.

It opened in 1926 and named the Suzzallo Library in 1933 after the death of former university president, Henry Suzzallo, and considered the crown jewel of his administration. The architecture is an example of the Collegiate Gothic style.

As you walk up to this magnificent library, you see eighteen statues along with many coats of arms.  While studying the history of the library, I found that the statues depicted Moses, Louis Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Goethe, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and Grotius – all chosen for their contributions to learning and culture.  The coats of arms are from many outstanding universities around the world in the early 1900s.

As you first enter the library, you’ll find the Grand staircase where you can see the worn marble treads from so many years of use by dedicated students. It ends in a beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows called the Grand Stair Hall, but my favorite part of the library and the part which invoked the Harry Potter name, is the adjacent Suzzallo Reading Room. Suzzallo envisioned a cathedral of learning, and it does have the look of a cathedral with a ceiling that’s 65 feet tall.  It has beautiful huge oak bookcases topped with hand carvings of native plants. Much of the light comes from the 35 foot tall leaded and stained glass windows. Other light comes from old brass lamps hanging from that enormous ceiling.  The students study silently in there, and I did not hear a noise above a faint whisper until a student stood up accidentally dropping a book.  All eyes immediately looked up from their studying assessing the source of that unwelcome disturbance.

Suzzallo Library Reading Room

Mysterious doors behind a locked glass wall.

There are rows of thick oak desks with quaint little lamps, and what really caught my interest was a glass wall with a locked oak door.  Behind the glass is a whole row of ornate wood doors  which have called out to me ever since to write a story about the mystery which lies behind those doors.  For those of you who have been to that library, have you ever noticed that intriguing area?

If you’ve been to the Suzzallo Library leave a comment on your favorite area, and if you never have been there, I hope you’ll take the time to visit next time you’re in the Seattle area.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

St. John’s Cathedral – Spokane, Washington

The cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is one of Spokane, Washington’s architectural jewels. Located on Grand Boulevard above the hospitals, St. John’s towers majestically over the neighboring landscape on Spokane’s south hill, and is visible from many parts of the city including I-90.  An Episcopal cathedral, it’s the Spokane Diocese which includes Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle.

The massive stone exterior is only a hint of the grandeur of what lies inside.  The first time I walked into the cathedral, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the beautiful stone detail and lace work tracery in the upper stained glass windows and the huge California redwood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The stained glass windows are breathtaking on the inside, especially on a sunny day.  Beautiful symbolic details are throughout the interior. In addition, thousands of pipes from the famous Skinner organ are in eye-catching groups in the cathedral.  There also is a carillon with forty-nine cast bells with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighing 5,000 pounds has the nickname, Big John. The carillon can be heard daily in nearby areas, and in the summer people enjoy picnics on the cathedral lawns while listening to the concerts.

Construction for St. John’s started in 1925 and is the only cathedral this side of the Mississippi designed in the style of a thirteenth century English gothic cathedral. It also has French influenced detail and is the brainchild of Spokane’s famous architect, Harold Whitehouse, who also was a member of the congregation. Donors are still needed to finish the last of the massive stained glass windows.

In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when literacy was low, stained glass windows and mosaics told Bible stories as well as local history. In that same tradition, even though literacy is much higher, stained glass windows still tell the same stories. If you go on a tour of St. John’s, you will learn the meanings of the windows depicting  biblical stories and local history.

The northwest pillar by the organ has a fascinating  cornerstone containing inserted stones – one each from the Mount of Olives, the ancient Glastonbury Abbey in the United Kingdom, the first Episcopal church in Jamestown, Virginia, and the former All Saints Cathedral in Spokane.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Cornerstone


In addition to volunteers offering tours,  there are many concerts throughout the year hosted by the cathedral.  One of my favorite Christmas memories was attending a Christmas Eve service at St. John’s and experiencing the beauty of the organ and choir in the majestic cathedral setting. The atmosphere was enchanting, and I felt as if transported to Europe.

Have you been to St. John’s?  What is your favorite memory?

History Wax Museum - Marco Polo

Wax Museums



Startling the crowd around her, my student shouted these words at the beginning of her wax museum speech. The crowds loved it, and her speech was a highlight  during one of my earliest wax museums.

Wax museums are a great way to make history come alive for students. The students research the information on a historical person or event, write and memorize a one minute speech, prepare a 3-fold presentation board giving more information, and finally present the speech wearing a period costume.

A wax museum can be adapted to any grade level. In my fourth grade class, it was a yearly history project given during Grandparents Day. Around 400 people would visit the wax museum during our 90 minute time slot. Parents, grandparents, and kindergarten through high school students would come and listen to the speeches. I was fortunate to teach in a K-12 school, and the older students enjoyed hearing the speeches and reminiscing about the historical person or event they represented when they did the wax museum.

My students loved doing the wax museums. After all their hard work with research, writing and memorizing their speeches, they transformed into little experts as they donned their costumes and said their speeches. The reward was instant with the smiling audiences and positive comments. Even with the almost non-stop reciting of the speeches, it was a highlight of the year for the class and always a huge success with the audiences.

Logistically, the students would be assigned a presentation spot about 10 yards apart from each other. They would set up their presentation boards and “freeze” in a comfortable pose. A person or small group would come and press an imaginary button on the shoulder, and the wax figure would come to life, deliver the speech, and freeze again as soon as the speech was over. This process repeated many times during the Wax Museum. The students had carefully hidden water bottles for when their throats got dry.

Here are a few pictures from the past few years. The Leonardo da Vinci characters were from three different years.


Here are the steps for a wax museum.

  1. Pick the historical event/person.

  2. Research and write a one minute speech.

  3. Revise the speech and memorize (teacher needs to edit speeches).

  4. Prepare a presentation board with more information (character/event title and dates, map of where the event happened or where the person lived, any interesting pictures or information.

  5. Practice memorized speech in front of people with good volume, speed and enunciation.

  6. Find a costume.

  7. Present the wax museum.

Whether you have a traditional class or a home school, a wax museum can work in many settings and is a great way to learn history. Have you done a wax museum? I would love to hear about your experience.

Special thanks to Veronica at captureperfection.com for the use of her pictures.



Geography Day

Geography Day – When Geography Comes Alive

The school I taught at for the last fifteen years wanted to make geography more meaningful for our students.  We came up with the idea of doing a Geography Day to highlight different places in the world.

The elementary grades have a continent they focus on throughout the year, but for Geography Day each year we focus on a particular aspect. Then we get parent help to come up with ideas for presentations and room decorations.  On Geography Day, the students come dressed in traveling type clothes and are given school passports complete with their names and pictures, and travel with their class to each elementary room to learn about the particular continents.

As an example, one year we concentrated on animals common to each continent.  Each grade asked for parent volunteers.  Some parents had ideas on how to decorate the classroom to represent the theme, and some parents had ideas of lessons they wanted to teach each class as it came to visit on Geography day. The students of each class completed a project for involvement.

The fourth grade class learns about Europe in connection with their history, so for the animal focus each student made a poster about an animal from a European country of their choice. These reports were displayed around the room. The parents came up with the animals they wanted as a focus and made a slide show about these animals.  They decorated the room with life-size paper mâché animals. Some of these animals were on mountains the parents created with classroom desks and a lot of butcher paper.


When each class came through for the presentation, they learned about the different animals, got to read the class reports, got to pet a real hedgehog, and were given a bookmark about European animals. The other elementary grades did something similar. There were many  real animals in the school that day.  The parents had fun being creative and resourceful.

Other themes we have done besides animals are dances from each continent, musical instruments, geological  features, and specialty foods.  Recently our high school sophomore Geography class has joined us for

Geography Day by giving presentations.  It’s a fun day that the students anticipate every year.

I would love to  hear from anyone with other success stories  for making Geography come alive.  Also, please feel free to ask further questions on creating a Geography Day.