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Teaching Delight Through Poetry

Once a year, the residents of Uptown are delighted by preschoolers walking around the neighborhood, handing out poems they wrote. Let’s meet the teachers behind the tradition!

Episode chapters

00:00 | Intro
03:00 | Teachers Julia & Claire
34:52 | The Parklet
41:08 | Poems
43:11 | Outro

Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band, The Urban Hillbilly Quartet, on their website.

This episode was produced by Stina Neel, hosted and edited by Ian R Buck, and transcribed by Tom Fendt. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Many thanks to our guests on this episode Julia Klatt Singer and Claire Thometz; and to our poetry readers Tom Fendt, Sherry Johnson, Ian R Buck, Jeremy Winter, Melody Hoffmann, and Max Singer.

Transcript

Julia [00:00]

Magical moment: I remember somebody was talking about whether or not animals like poetry too, and then we head out into the neighborhood. We meet a woman walking this little dog, and so they ask, like, do you think your dog would like a poem? And the dog opened its mouth and like, they just put the little piece of paper and they’re like, “They do! They do like poems!”

Ian [00:25]

Welcome to the Streets.mn podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, MN. I am your host, Ian R Buck. Today we have a delightful piece for you about Poem in your Pocket Day, a celebration that takes place each year during April, National Poetry Month. Here in Minneapolis, a local tradition has popped up around it. Producer Stina Neel covered the story for us. So Stina, how did this piece come to us?

Stina [00:58]

Oh, thank you so much for asking. This story came to us from Max Singer, from Move Minnesota and also a personal friend of the pod, and he wrote us an email that said, “Hey my mom is the poet-in-residence at a local nursery school, and they do this thing called Poem in your Pocket Day, where it is poetry written by children age like two to five, three to five, somewhere in there. They do art that accompanies it, and then they go out in the community and pass it out and talk to all of their neighbors, it is so stinking cute.

Ian [01:40]

So, just to pull the curtain back for the listeners a little bit on our process, when, when somebody writes in with an idea like this, you know I present it to the whole podcast team and whoever is interested in covering that story, you know, will claim it and then make it happen. So what, what about this? Caught your attention, Stina.

Stina [02:00]

I don’t wanna say that I’m like, our chief delight cultivator, here on the podcast team, but immediately my heart warmed, it grew three sizes bigger that day, and I just knew we absolutely need to cover this.

Ian [02:15]

And coincidentally, it’s also a story that comes from your neighborhood.

Stina [02:20]

It is!

Ian [02:22]

Yeah. So, um, who are we gonna hear from today?

Stina [02:25]

So I got to sit on a call with Julie Klatt Singer, the poet in residence, and Claire Thometz, who is a teacher at Grace Neighborhood Nursery School.

Ian [02:35]

Awesome. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to hearing about all this.

Stina [02:41]

And listeners: get really excited because at the end, some of the members of the team read some of the poems featured in this year’s Poem in your Pocket Day.

Ian [02:50]

That’s my favorite part of the episode for sure.

Julia [03:00]

I’m Julia Klatt Singer and I am, um, the poet-in-residence, and the float teacher, at Grace Neighborhood Nursery School. Some of the kids refer to me as The Floating Poet. Because I, and and what that means is I float between the classrooms, helping in those classrooms. But as the poet, I’m in all the classrooms, writing poetry with each of the children.

Claire [03:23]

I’m Claire Thometz, and I’ve been with Grace Neighborhood Nursery School for quite a while. Twenty years-ish, and early early on taught both of Julia’s sons, Max and Grant, and, ah, that just delight and pleasure, and generally I’m with the older children, meaning the four and five year olds. So those who are for the most part, you know, pre-K, and ah, so I’ve had this long standing, wonderful relationship with Julia.

Stina [03:59]

So, I also want to know a quick background about the school in general, um, so like ages, how many families?

Claire [04:05]

We have about 100 spots at our school for children ranging from just under three years old until they go off to kindergarten, so, you know, five, five and a half, years old. And, one thing that really sets us apart is our poet-in-residence program, our poetry program.

Julia [04:24]

School’s been around for 60, 62 years, 63?

Stina [04:28]

Yeah

Claire [04:29]

They were, um, about a mile away. Started out, um, you know, just in, in the Kenwood neighborhood and Uptown, we’ve always been in Uptown. And then three years ago [we moved to a] new location and that’s been a wonderful partnership, ah, where the the location where we have. So, so been a part of the neighborhood. Very much a neighborhood institution. Children, families find out about this largely through word of mouth.

Stina [04:59]

So Julia, your title includes poet in residence. Can you say in your words what, what that means in general?

Julia [05:05]

What it, what it means is, um, thinking about pre-literacy skills for children. We’re a play based preschool, and so, they play with everything and that’s how they learn, that by coming in and introducing the idea of poetry to them, children are read poems, most songs that they sing are poems. They’re very, they’re very aware of what poetry does at a young age, just the playfulness and the capturing of details and the rhyming. But unlike, unlike writing story, which I had done with one of, with Grant’s class, when you ask a four year old to tell you a story, they tell you a story that they’ve already heard. You know, it’s a Disney story. It’s a, it’s a book that they’ve been read, and they already at that age don’t, have, have internalized the idea that a story is something from somebody else, not that they have a story. So poetry is a much cleaner way to start with the pre-literacy writing because they don’t have that many poems that they know by heart. They don’t see themselves as “not poets.” And so, it’s it’s really fascinating. With the 3 year olds, they are, they are just trying to tell ya something and making up words to do it and describing things in these really, like, unique and beautiful and funny ways because it’s what they’ve got to work with. And then you hit four year olds and I swear every one of them will start with a very factual idea, and then they just launch into imagination. It just twists into all sorts of other things. And by five, they are really understanding the idea of of movement and rhyme, and trying to say something and, and the five year olds are the only ones that will ever say, when I read it back to them, after scribing for them, “Ohh I didn’t want to say it quite like that. I think I want this,” and they’ll have me go back and do editing on it. And the others know, it’s like that’s just that’s what they wanted to say, they said that they’re great. So yeah, it’s really and, and that’s the whole process with learning to write, understanding how to use words, how to find words, incorporate our ideas, and then, and then make sure they’re working. I want to say it’s probably 13 or 14 years now that I’ve been the poet-in-residence. And we’ve been doing Poem in your Pocket specifically for about, eight?

Claire [07:39]

I think that sounds about right.

Julia [07:41]

Eight or nine? Yeah, you didn’t start it until a little bit into it. As I was a poet-in-residence, I just remember walking into your classroom one day and talking about that, this cool idea, and you were like, “Yeah! We should do that. We should do that with our–”

Claire [07:54]

Let’s do that! We were looping, circling around because with the older children, you know, they would write poems earlier in the fall, and then we found that coming back to them in the spring already you would just see this sort of, evolution. And so with National Poetry Month in April, Julia, you, as you said, it might have been a year or two into it, but knew, you were aware of Poem in your Pocket Day. And and we thought this, this is the perfect way to have the children come back to this poetry that that they had done earlier in the year and then Poem in your Pocket provides this great, sort of concrete form of poetry because, as Julia said, I think when children first sort of think of poems, poetry in their in late elementary or middle school, it there’s already something that can be a little intimidating about, you know, poetry. “Oh my goodness. I can’t. I can’t do” you know, they they already have, it, it already seems like something that’s challenging or or difficult. And because it just, as an art form, it’s one of those things that is held up, you know, in a certain way and yet. So introducing it to the children when they’re young, three, for, five, and you simply describe it to them in context, of what they’re doing all the time at school: playing! It’s like, making a poem is simply playing with words. You play with everything else. You, we’re in a play filled environment. And so, let’s play with words the way you are, you know, playing with everything else here. And wow, is it, as Julia, and then Julia described what happens with them. And so as I said, the concept with Poem in your Pocket where we came up with these, you know, these little pocket poems, you know, we’re literally they’re just, you know, they’re doing an illustration, they’re doing some art and then they’re writing the poem on the other side and then we literally have pockets for them, you know, Julie’s, these wonderful little hooks. You know, for them it just bridges that arc between what is in their concrete world looks abstract, which I think poetry can be for older children quite abstract in a way that can be intimidating. You start them when they’re three, four, and five, they’ve been poets forever! You know, I mean, and, and actually poets! These children are artists, they’re poets. They’re all of these things, but this allows them to perceive themselves as poets and artists at those ages.

Julia [10:18]

I think mostly it acknowledges their voice. And I will have parents, so I meet with the kids and I read them some poems and we talk about what a poem is, and then I start gathering theirs. I just sit and listen to ‘em. They, I ask them if they have a poem and they’ll be like, “Yep!” And they’ll sit down and, or stand next to me, and tell me their poems. And then at the end of the, it’s about a month that I’m in each classroom, doing gathering the poems. I put together a classroom book that then I make copies and goes home with each child. And I will have parents, you know, after every time this happens, come up to me and say, “I, you just so got my kids voice like they, it just sounds like them.” Yeah. Because just writing what they say. I’m just listening to them. It hopefully sounds like them because this is their voice. But the kids, then it gets reinforced in them what their voice is and how different all their voices are, and that there’s good in all of that. Like they love reading each other’s poems and hearing those different voices. And I think that’s such an important part of, of childhood is knowing you have a voice, and then how can you use it, and what can you do with it, and and and recognizing how your voice is its own unique thing.

Stina [11:35]

So on Poem in your Pocket Day, so already the kids have have created their poems, they’ve created the art. And then what happens on the actual day?

Julia [11:45]

We head out into the community. And when we were 20th and Hennepin, that meant going to the coffee shop, and the Ace Hardware, The Y. There’s a little clinic that we walked into. And, we find people to hand the poems to. We also, there was a, a senior high rise across the street from us. So we would go over there and hand out poems and they would know that we were coming at a certain point. So we could hand out poems to them. But magical, magical moment. I remember, and I can’t remember if it was Agatha. somebody was talking about whether or not animals like poetry too, and then we head out into the neighborhood. We meet a woman walking this little dog, and so they ask, like, do you think your dog would like a poem? And the dog opened its mouth and like, they just put the little piece of paper and they’re like, “They do! They do like poems!” and it didn’t chew it, it just held it. You remember that? Oh!

Claire [12:46]

Yes! 

Julia [12:47]

Yeah.

Claire [12:47]

That was, she talked about magical, that was in the architecture firm around the corner.

Julia [12:52]

Right.

Claire [12:43]

When the little, they had. And yeah, that dog just took that little poem and…

Julia [12:59]

Stina [13:00]

That’s great.

Julia [13:01]

Well, and then walking in to the clinic and this was with Monta’s class, you know, it’s just kind of one of those waiting rooms that are chairs set up and four people, but they’re all like 4 chairs apart and very quiet. They’re all just waiting to go in, and in we walk with 10 children asking, and the kids will walk up to them and ask, you know, “Hey, it’s Poem in your Pocket Day, would you like a poem? And and and people were like, “Sure, sure.” And then as soon as the children hand someone a poem, what they typically want to do is look at it, read it, and then say to the child, you know, “You wrote this?!” or they’ll laugh and they’ll say, “Oh, I remember that, I did that too.” And the amazing thing when we went into this clinic, it was so quiet when we walked in, and when we left six, seven minutes later, those four people plus the women behind the counter that were working, the nurse attendants, were all talking to each other and then showing each other the poem they’d gotten. And I ended up, one of the women, one of the nurses that worked there, asked if if I could print them larger poems and pictures so they could put ‘em up in their waiting room because it was just such a, a magical experience for everybody who came in and was there that day, and then to leave and just hear them all talking and laughing and completely changed the environment, and build community, was…

Stina [14:26]

Yeah.

Julia [14:27]

It’s, and it happened so fast.

Claire [14:28]

That instant creation of community, it happened all the time. When we’re out each year going into the community with these children and, you know, for the children, so this, this takes some preparation on Julia’s part, and the teachers as well, because this is a big thing for children this age, for a couple of reasons. It’s sharing something that they have made and child development tells us that this is not something that’s natural until about four or five children generally would like to keep something, especially that they’ve created or made, to themselves. And, many children give something. I, I receive artwork all the time, but, you know, and I and I won’t say that it’s necessarily the second [draft], the artwork that’s a little bit in that, you know, meets their standard, but sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not, but they generally they’re not, they’re learning how to do that. And so this is a big deal and, and so they know that they will be able to bring some poems in their pocket home with them, but these are poems to take out into the community, and that’s a really big deal for these children. But we walk into these public spaces and the coffee shop that now we’re we’re going into, I just, your your heart just, I mean it it’s a heartwarming moment because, oftentimes it’s now the new office space, you know, this is where people go. So you find people that are doing focused, maybe some are having coffee together, that you generally walk into this space for there are individuals in their own space, and you walk in and they’re not really noticed at first, necessarily, but then one of them will have the courage and, I love that courage comes from the word heart because, one of these children will have the heart and the courage to walk up to somebody. Sometimes we have to encourage them a little bit and they hand them this poem and say “Happy Poem in your Pocket Day.” And universally what happens is that these people take a look and they realize what it is and they say, “Oh, did you write this? Did you make this?” and the whole environment, like Julia said, is, it shifts and you can, it’s palpable. You can just feel it. And now everyone is connected by what has happened and it can be a force for these kids! I mean it really can. That giving something of theirs to a stranger that they don’t know, for a lot of these [kids] they haven’t done that before, you know, so.

Julia [16:49]

Watching the conversation that happens between the child and this adult, and sometimes they’re in their 20s and sometimes they’re in their 70s, you just watch them stand taller they just feel like their voice and confidence grows. And, and often the ones that are reluctant as soon as they hand one out, they can hardly wait to find someone else to give their second. So each child has eight copies that I make for them to take home and then eight copies that we hand out to the neighborhood. Yeah. And we’ve met the mailman, and then as we’re walking we have a, a route we take to the park that we’ve now met a few people along that route, and we know their names because we’ve handed them poems and talked to them. And so the kids will point out, you know, “That’s where Barb lives.” And “That’s where Kira the dog lives.” And they, they just feel a connection to the space that they’re moving through because they’ve shared part of themselves with the people in it. At Twin Town Guitars, we had gone in two years ago and handed out poems, and then last year we had headed out that direction and got there a little before 10:00, so they weren’t open yet. So the kids had gone up to the door and they’re like, “It’s not open.” And one of the employees came and pushed the door open and went “Is it that day again? Is it that day? Come in, come in!” They  were so excited to see them. And remembered from the year prior that these children, children had come in to share poems with them. So yeah, I think it’s from our standpoint handing them out is so great, but I think there’s also that buzz in the neighborhood too, that knows these children are going to be walking around with their poems to share very soon. And it’s a great thing to get poemed. That’s what some of the kids say “We’re poeming people today.”

Stina [18:41]

I love that. Um, yeah so, kind of getting into that. So streets, streets.mn is a transportation, land use, urbanism organization. So we’re like, really big nerds on community and neighborhoods. So you, you touched on it quite a bit, but how, what role does a nursery school have in the community beyond simply: it’s a place of learning for just those kids?

Claire [19:06]

Wow, I, you know, I think that where we’ve been in our previous location and now, really made an effort to, to nurture that, that connection to make the school part of the community by, as Julia said, bringing these poems across the street to, there was a senior living facility. We had them involved in other programs at our school. I think that we’ve had this little architecture firm around the corner. They’ve come and they’ve been involved with them doing things, construction things. I think that, I think a school with young children, there’s an energy that it brings and a vibrancy, and there’s an intergenerational aspect to this that is invaluable because, as Julia, you know, you have people through Poem in your Pocket that we encounter that are from 18 to 92, you know, uh, you know, everything and I think that the children, they become just it’s more, it’s the next step in their awareness of the larger world and I think that for the larger world it’s, um, “Wow! These kids look what they’re doing here.” That is, they’re hope for the future. I mean, you know, we say that and it sounds really trite, but it’s not. I mean I think that when you have these children touching the lives of people, doesn’t it just give us all hope? Where we say “You know what made our worlds going to be ok.” Because it’s, you know, these are the, these are the people. These are the people who are going to be part of a solution, or, you know. So I think that there’s a really valuable role to that larger community. And seeing these younger children what they’re capable of, and how they, you know, provides hope, and I think for the children it it it, they need that they need that connection, intergenerational connection and with all, you know, business and you know little shop and you know every, every place that they go in that community. That, this sense of community we really need in our world.

Julia 1 [21:12]

Well, I mean. And I think for, for, because they are so young, it’s the first neighborhood kind of outside of their, their neighborhood and many of them live within, you know, walking distance. So it is, the school is part of their neighborhood. And that’s always been kind of the idea around it. But now you’re creating this, the school becomes a neighbor, too, to everyone else around it. And yeah, and certainly as we’re walking to the park, because we walk over to Painter Park and to the Bryant Square Park, there’s people that we see out working in their yards and they know who we are and where we’re coming from. And the children always sort of respond to them as a group. But with Poem in your Pocket, they start to get to do things individually in the group which also I think is just, that’s how we, that’s how we create community and neighborhood: we we all share and offer and are good neighbors to each other, and and they they remember these adults we we have a few kids that will bring up the stranger danger thing. You know that they’re not supposed to talk to people, they don’t know, but what we demonstrate is even people you don’t know, you can get to know and that your neighborhood feels your life and neighborhood feels bigger and safer because you do know those people by face and by name, that you’re moving through their space and sharing it with as a good neighbor.

Stina? [22:41]

Right. Like, like going from, like being taught that like strangers are bad, to “Ok but on Halloween you can go up to their house and ask for candy like, like sometimes like, that is the only time I interact with, with tiny little kids in my neighborhood. And I’m like, I wish I could just like, be out on my porch and like, wave and say hi way more often. So, I’m really, really grumpy that I’m not going to be working from home on Thursday. Because I definitely, I hear groups. It might be, yeah. Cause Painter Park is just around the corner from me, so maybe I hear you all on Wednesdays. So a lot of the classes do get out into the community often, and you mentioned that you go to the parks. So like, what kind of activities does that typically entail?

Claire [23:32]

So we will take walks to go to Painter Park to play. They have a fabulous playground there. We take walks just because we’re going out to experience, you know, nature and fresh air around us. We recently did what we call a little architectural walk as part of, we’re doing that with construction right now with the children and building some structures and using a workbench, and so we talked, we’re talking about the buildings and and you know houses and things around us. And again at this age breaking things down and bringing it just this very concrete level. Well, when you look at a building, it’s just a combination of different shapes, and its circles, and squares, and rectangles, and, you know, diamonds. And so when we went out the other day. Ohh! You know, children who would not imagine, it’s like with poetry, “Well I can’t draw a house,” “Can you draw a shape?” You know? “Yep! There’s a shape right there.” And so it’s again, creating an awareness for them. So, so, often as, as I said, there’s a destination, maybe there’s a purpose where we’re going to be looking at houses and we have their, you know, journals with them. It’s a day in the fall when we’re going out looking to see because we’re learning about, you know, seeds. Or it’s just a day for a walk. And on rainy days we have umbrellas that are there by the door. And I think we’re, as a school, we’re very committed to having the children be outside, because we’re an urban school. You know, we don’t. We’re not set on this kind of a big 30 acre natural setting, but we really want the children to feel connected with the community, you know, sense and what’s around them so. So we do it and Julia can expand on this because, as she had mentioned, she’s with all of the classes, but for the four and five year olds, it’s all of those things. It’s a nature walk. It’s going to the park. It’s looking at the buildings and houses. It’s just being out, you know, or going around the block just because it’s a day for a walk. But I think it’s so important to the children. Because of that, increasing their, you know, awareness.

Julia [25:36]

And and we’ve done the the counting walks where you’re just out counting, you know, the, the, the trees that still have leaves on them or, or the ones, or the flowers. Or around Halloween, the kids are looking for pumpkins that they’re counting, and helping them get that awareness of the space and the community [they’re] in. And I mean what they see, just what they see as they’re moving around the block and they always see different things and they always see different things than we, perhaps, are looking for too, you know, they’ll notice the worm on the ground and then everyone to be looking at the worm and trying to figure out if it’s happy there or wants to be in the, in the puddle or in the dirt, and so there’s lots of discussion about what they find as we go and and then running into the street cleaners, and the construction people, and the movers, that are doing their tasks that they then get to ask about, you know, “How do you make all that cement spin around?” And “Where is it going?” So it’s, it’s just again a great way for them to, to see the bigger world around them, the bigger community. Last year, with the Bdé class, the four year olds, we were walking up towards the Dunn brothers at Hennepin and there was a street, a street guy who had one of those mini dozers, you know, with a big, big bucket in the front. And they were moving, I think, I don’t even remember, those pipes or piles of bricks at this point, but it was two guys and they had their headphones on and one of the kids was standing there, you know, trying to offer them a poem and, and so he, he gets his headphones off and he starts reading it and then his buddy, who like somewhere else but also through headphones like he goes like “Wait a second!” and he climbs up in the thing and then he reads the poem over the mic

Stina [27:30]

Oh

Julia [27:30]

so that the guy can hear it too. And then we all wait because they both wanted to, you know, to hear this poem together, and so just, you know, for them to stop this project they’re working on and then share this and then both like, you know, waving and giving them thumbs up. It’s just, it’s fabulous. And then he took it and like, tucked it up by the windshield so that he’d be able to see it, and remember that.

Stina [27:53]

Ohhhh aw.

Julia [27:54]

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Claire [27:56]

Countless moments like that, I mean, going back to the stranger thing for just one second, you know, remember, we’re coming out of a pandemic, you know, years where people were very isolated and including the children, and really didn’t have many interactions. And the whole, I mean, adults not seeing as many young children around and. So, you know, I think that for adults still coming out of this, you know, there are those times where, you know, we’ll have a child that will go up to somebody who’s really not, [unintelligible] interacting with another person, just really and and even when the child comes up to hand something and, they’re not really sure what’s going on, when they take the poem from the child, which they always do and they. And I get, I’m having, I have a lump in my throat right now, which is, which was what always happens. And they realize what’s happened and they’re touched by this young child. There’s a smile, there’s a, it, it ends up being this warm, you know, interaction, which that, imagine what that does for the child too, you know, with, you know, they start with this sort of situation, you know. No, you know, not being received and then it turns into this, you know, warm, heartwarming moment where somebody’s kind of been touched by something that we all really need, especially after having a period of time where people were just so isolated. So it’s, it’s those, those are even the more incredible, I, every one of them is incredible. But those were there’s somebody who really, doesn’t realize how much they need this, and then it happens to them, and then it’s, you know, that’s that’s really pretty amazing, so.

Julia [29:34]

Were, were you, was it your class that was going to Ace Hardware and the young man, probably in his late 20s, is coming out, and a couple of the kids are, “You want a poem? You want a poem?” and he’s just kind of walking. I mean, and then one of them’s like, “Do you wanna poem? It’s Poem in your Pocket Day.” And then he kind of stops, realizing that they’re actually talking to him and he takes it and he starts reading it and then he just like, he just about crumbles and he’s like, “You guys, I ok, you’re little, I know this. You’re not going to understand. My girlfriend broke up with me last night. I’ve had the worst day. I just didn’t even know how I was gonna go on. And you just completely changed my day. And you just, you’ve given me, like, hope for people again.” And you just watched him transform too, and he was just telling them, and they’re all like, “Ok. Ok. Alright.” And he wanted to go and buy them each a tootsie pop. He’s like, “I feel like I need to give you guys something for this.” And they’re like, “No, no, we’re good, we’re happy you liked our poem.

Claire [30:34]

Yeah.

Julia [30:35]

And, and you don’t know how it’s going to hit people. 

Claire [30:39]

Yeah.

Julia [30:40]

But most of them, it is that really emotional closeness, wanting to share something about their life with the child, because the child has shared something with them. Yeah.

Stina [30:50]

Ooh, I’m like a little bit teary eyed. It’s just so cute. So I’m a city planner at my day job, I work out in Chaska and we in the business talk a lot about designing for all ages of our community members from, you know, age one to one hundred and one, and you all spend a lot of time with some of our youngest neighbors out and about. So what makes this part of town, this Uptown, Lyndale area, what makes this area special? What are some elements that make this place so good for, for families to raise their kids?

Julia [31:27]

Sidewalks

Stina [31:28]

Hm-hm, yes. Nice wide sidewalks.

Claire [31:31]

And the bicycle lanes, this is much more recent, but now it’s so accessible to bicycles and, you know, you can see we have a very much a bicycling community in, you know, in our families, as Julia referenced, almost everyone’s within something like a five mile radius or you know. Definitely a neighborhood school. And so having families being able to get around by, by bicycle is, is huge. I think just that, everything is, everything’s there. It’s this, the the residential blends with, you know, the the the commercial in a way that allows you to go to the the places within the community that being able to, you know, have everything in in your life that, you know, you need to do, or want to do,  kind of, within a reasonable distance. And the lakes! You know, I mean, who can? It’s it’s. There’s access to this incredible park network that we that we have, and um, so

Julia [32:37]

And the playground.

Claire [32:38]

The playgrounds.

Julia [32:39]

Which are such such a great space for them to go. They’re they’re bigger than what we have at our school, but it also, it also is part of that community thing: we’re going to run into other children there. Usually there are other families there or there’s a there was a daycare program at Painter Park that was sometimes out with the kids too. So just in their school day alone, they they get to have some community interaction and involvement and they know that they’re in a public place. And so that means, you know, just how how you, how you are there and if they find trash, we’ll pick it up for us or point it out so that they they know that this is a space that they want to be nice and clean and good and and it’s a good it’s a good public outing for them and that too is like so important for community to have those spaces. We’ve actually, a few of the kids that are at the school are there because they’ve seen us at Painter Park. And the parents or the nanny or the grandparent be like, “What school is this? What? Where are you guys?” They’re looking for places for their kids. And so it’s a great community outreach too. But a really important part for us to be able to have access to playgrounds and parks.

Claire [33:53]

Yeah. And we’re tucked in on a residential street, but yet, you know, with just within a few blocks, you have so many different things that are accessible. And I think the accessibility is very, very important. And I think that’s what the city is trying to do with that area, is make it even more so. It has, that’s sort of a European model, which is such a great one! I mean that you can walk to where you need to go and we you can get back to, you know, we can have that, you know, contrast that with, you know, being out in Chanhassen or Chaska, you know, that’s the car is necessary. And so, trying to create this space where recreation, you know, getting errands done business, you know, all of that can happen without having to get into a car, hopefully. So.

Ian [34:53]

In a minute, we’re going to hear a few of the kid’s poems from this year’s Poem in your Pocket Day. But first, let’s take a little break in the parklet. So this week, we have a quick question, which is something that I’ve been wondering about for a while. This has to do with hand signals and brake levers for cyclists in the United Kingdom. So here in the US, most of us grew up learning our hand signals, where most of the signals use our left hand, and in particular even signaling our right hand turn. You can either use your right hand outstretched or there is the alternative version, which is your left hand held elbow at a 90° angle with your arm, with your hand facing straight up. And there’s a lot of debate on, you know, which one of those is better. Generally the using your left hand for that signal is considered to be like car oriented, right? Because you are expecting most of the traffic to be on your left side. So you’re using your left hand to do that signal. So I know a few urbanists who refuse to use that version of the signal, and they only use their right hand for right hand turns just to stick it to car culture. But I prefer using my left hand because I know that the brake levers on my bike, right, the right hand lever controls my back wheel and if I only have one hand available for braking, I would prefer it to be the one that is controlling the back wheel. Because if I suddenly slam on the brake on the front wheel then I’m going to go over my handlebars. So this all got me wondering in the United Kingdom, where of course they drive on the left side of the road, so cyclists are going to be on the left side of the road with most of the traffic on their right, do they signal with their right hands for most of their signals? Does that mean that the brake levers are reversed, you know, to kind of accommodate that risk of going over your handlebars if you slam on the brakes? And the answers, it seems to be yes to both, but for the wrong reasons. So most of their signals use their right hand, which makes sense to me because most of the traffic is on their right, but they don’t have, like, an alternative version of the left hand signal. So they use their left arm to indicate left hand turns. They use their right arm to indicate right hand turns, and they don’t have a version of their signal where they can use their right arm to indicate a left hand turn. So, that breaks down this hypothesis a little bit. Now when I looked into brake levers, I did find that in the UK they have the brake levers are reversed from what I’m used to, right? So your left handbrake lever would control the back wheel’s brake and your right handbrake lever controls the front wheel’s brake. But it seems that the history of this doesn’t have anything to do with hand signals So the history of this is that back, you know, 120 years ago when bicycles were first being developed and standardized and everything in France, the common model that was adopted had just a single brake on the rear wheel and they put the lever for that on their right hand because you needed a lot of strength in order to be able to pull that lever and it made sense for for most people with their right hand being their stronger hand. In the United Kingdom, though, the bicycles that were more common used coaster brakes, so they didn’t have any hand levers whatsoever for their brakes. But then later on when they started introducing front brakes, in addition to the coaster brakes, they put the lever for that on the right hand. And you know, and so they, so you would have a bicycle that had a coaster brake for your back and back wheel and a right hand lever brake for your front wheel. And then when, you know, people started transitioning more to having brake levers on both hands, they kept the right hand going to the front wheel and the left hand ended up being the back wheel. So it seems like they, the hand signals and brake levers lined up nicely in the UK, but not actually because anybody was thinking about it in those terms. The other goofy little detail about this is that, ah, on UK bicycles, the shifting levers don’t line up nicely with the brake levers, so your right handbrake lever goes to your front wheel, but your right hand shifting goes to your rear derailleur. And on your left hand, that controls your rear brake, but if you have shifting on your left hand then that controls your front derailleur. So it’s a little bit goofy. If you have any fun little questions like this that might take a little bit of research but can be a quick answer. You can write in to [podcast@streets.mn] and we will try to research it for you and you might hear it on a future parklet. Streets.mn is a community blog and podcast and relies on contributions from audience members like you. If you can make a one time or recurring donation, you can find more information about doing so at streets.mn/donate. All right, now let’s hear a few of the poems from this year’s Poem in your Pocket Day.

Tom [41:08]

My hand by Katie, Age 5.

My hand can pick up stuff

And play with toys.

And it can draw.

It can stand still

so you can trace it.

It is good.

Sherry [41:21]

Marshmallow and Tent Land by Kaia, Age 4.

Its marshmallow

And tent land.

Marshmallows to roast,

fire and wood. 

They go back

into their tents

after they roast

their marshmallows

and they even sleep

and snore.

Ian [41:43]

When I Bounce by Gia, age 4.

When I bounce

I think about

Movies

Books

Bouncing

And my own bouncing nature.

Did you know

You can bounce

When you are thinking.

Jeremy [41:49)

A Little Poem by Laney, age 4.

A little poem

The size of a

Sandwich

That we could eat

For snack.

Melody [42:11]

Lightning Bolt of Everything by Elian, age 5.

So paper paper paper paper

Pencil paper scissor tape pencil

Sharpener, glue stick, art.

Lemon lime pear apple cherries

And special treats. Donut with

Sprinkles on it, cotton candy on a

stick-

Flavored blue raspberry,

gumdrop.

Max [42:38]

This poem is a bee

Just waking, shaking

its wings at the sky–

now a kaleidoscope of blues-

did you know flowers will make

a sweeter scent when they know

You are near?

Bumble and buzz, go on

dive in. You, all legs

and hunger,

from dust,

you sweeten

everything.

by Julia Klatt Singer, home in your pocket day, April 2024, as read by her son Max.

Ian [43:10]

Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn Podcast. The show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution non commercial non derivative license, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it and you’re not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and The Urban Hillbilly Quartet. The poems in this episode were read by Tom Fendt, Sherry Johnson, Ian R Buck, Jeremy Winter, Melody Hoffmann, and Max Singer. This episode was produced by Stina Neel, hosted and edited by me, Ian R Buck and transcribed by Tom Fendt. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn]. Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using #StreetsMNPodcast. Until next time, take care.

About Christina Neel

Pronouns: she/her

Christina moved to the Twin Cities from the Florida Keys in 2021 and fell completely in love with the area. She works as a City and Regional Planner and spends her days biking, singing, and hanging out with her cat named California. Events Committee volunteer

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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