In May 2009, the CHE community embarked on a Place-Based workshop to Chicago and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The goals of this ambitious workshop were to explore the history of ecology, themes of environmental and social justice, as well as the history of the built environment in Chicago and its environs. In four action-packed days, workshop participants climbed the shifting dunes of Lake Michigan that inspired early ecologists, saw environmental inequalities up-close in South Side neighborhoods, tromped around Millennium Park and the Loop, and cruised along the Gold Coast. In the process we explored what it means to read the urban landscape, and strengthened the CHE community for another year.


Saturday, May 16: For the the first time, the CHE Place-Based Workshop began not on a bus, but in a classroom. This one-day symposium introduced conference participants to one another and offered an overview of the history and environmental themes of the Chicago metropolitan region.

Tuesday, May 19: We departed Madison early under very nice skies, which stayed with us through most of the Workshop. En route to the Indiana Dunes, we watched portions of Judith Helfand's upcoming film Cooked, and were joined by Sarah Marcus who gave us an introduction to the built environment of Chicago. At the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, park service staff walked us through the natural history of the lakeshore and how it became so central to the foundation of the discipline of ecology. Later in the day we were joined by Ron Engel for an engaging discussion on the battle to save the dunes. After relaxing at a local BBQ joint, we headed to our quarters in Chicago.

Wednesday, May 20: While in Chicago, we stayed at the Arlington House International Hostel in the vicinity of Lincoln Park. After a breakfast at the hostel, our day began with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and an outstanding tour of the neighborhood with Kimberly Wasserman. We took a brief pause in the action for some much needed lunch, and then headed to Growing Home's urban farm in Englewood, where Orrin Williams and his staff talked with participants about the social aspects of food in a city like Chicago. The last stop for the day was at the site of the Union Stockyards, where Sylvia Hood Washington joined us to talk about environmental health in Chicago and to take a look at the infamous Bubbly Creek.

Thursday, May 21: The workshop's fourth day focused on the built environment, urban planning, and greenspace in Chicago. We were joined in the morning at Millennium Park by Ann Durkin Keating, who gave us historical context on the park and much of the Loop's waterfront development. After a stop at the Bridgehouse Museum along Michigan Avenue, we took a brief pause before continuing on a whirlwind tour of the loop led by CHE's own Bill Cronon. The day ended with an insider's tour of the Chicago History Museum and a reception hosted by the museum's president Gary Johnson that brought together the workshop's participants and guests for the workshop's final evening.

Friday, May 22: On Friday, we loaded up the bus one last time and began making our way back to Madison. Along the way we were joined by Michael Ebner who gave us a primer on the history of suburban development as we made our way up the Gold Coast and along Sheridan Road to the North Suburbs. Winding our way home through Evanston, Skokie, Glencoe, as well as the the campus of Lake Forest College, the workshop returned rather quietly to Wisconsin after a very full week of exploring the urban landscape.