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‘This Is Where’: 25 B-town Students Reflect on ‘Sense of Place’

As part of a project called “This Is Where,” members of the Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship (ASE) watched the classic 1979 movie Breaking Away. Students were looking for local landmarks they could easily identify, including the Monroe County Courthouse, Indiana University’s Memorial Union, and the quarries. This also inspired a student to show their grandpa’s video of driving through Bloomington in 1987. There were many places the students had to closely examine to know how they have changed. Students also read and discussed an article from Limestone Post Magazine by Sarah Gordon about a “sense of place” in Bloomington’s changing landscape.

ASE is in a building that is also a part of Bloomington’s changing landscape. It used to be Rogers Building Supplies’ main building in a large lumberyard, near the west side of Bloomington. As a New Tech Network high school, ASE has a shared vision for student success, college, and career readiness for all students. The students learn through Project Based Learning (PBL). “PBL allows us to work with a team which is more applicable to real-world situations,” said ASE student Jasper Osmon. Facilitators provide an entry document with criteria for the project, while engaging students with a thought-provoking question.

Students enrolled in English 11 with Ms. Rachel Bahr were tasked with capturing two photos of local places in Bloomington and writing effective descriptions of their “sense of place.” “During the project,” student Wolfe Allen says, “many students have been reminded of the significant changes to Bloomington, not only the buildings, but the town as a whole.” Students were challenged to answer the driving question, “How can I, as a resident of Bloomington, share my ‘sense of place’ in a published picture show?” This is how they defined their “sense of place.”

—by ASE student Sage Sherfick

Rachel Bahr’s Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship English 11 classes. Courtesy photos

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Carlie Asher

This is where I spent a majority of my summer nights. This is the causeway right off of State Road 446 on Lake Monroe. My older sister and I have gone countless times, collecting rocks and other weird pieces of nature. We have a bag dedicated to feathers, acorns, fossils, bones, and other things we find, but the bag is almost always forgotten and we end up shoving random muddy things into our pockets. I still find dried mud and cute shells I forgot about in my pockets. We go there not only for the fresh air and the chance to improve our rock collections but to simply be with one another. We talk about everything, from cat videos to who we are and who we wish to be. Our laughing drowns out the gross squidgy sounds of our boots smooshing in the mud. There is a spot on her porch for our gross shoes and muddy collection, and I will forever treasure that spot. When we leave, we leave not only with muddy boots and heavy pockets, we leave with new memories and a new understanding of ourselves and each other.

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Simon Smith

This is where I was raised the first four years of my life. I learned all about the land and how to live off of it. It’s where I had my first house and found a true meaning of home. My older brother Sasha and I would always gather up sticks and make weapons out of them, then fight each other. We had a field that we kept mowed, groomed, and nice. Our favorite game to play was apple bobbing because he had a bunch of big barrels around and we grew apples so we had plenty. When we lived here, we were in the midst of building a new house, but in 2004 the new house burnt down on Christmas Eve due the failure of a chimney. The house burning down was a very sad marker in my family’s lives, but it built who we are today. It forced us to move away, so we moved to New Mexico, and living there helped shape us into who we are and what we do. Now we have moved back to Indiana and still own the land we used to live on. We bought a house just up the road, so we all find ourselves down there a lot.

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Julihannah Cruz

This is where the locals called themselves Cutters when the quarries were at their peak. They would spend long hours cutting limestone. Woolery Mill is very run down, but it is a popular landmark in Bloomington. Now it’s a popular venue for festivals. Some festivals that happen are the beer fest and different craft festivals. This mill is where I made my first film and where I learned to walk again after having my ankle reconstructed. In the past year, I have walked this mill at least 100 times. It’s the place I can go if my mind just needs to clear. Although it is rustic and run down, this place is calming and freeing to my mind. On top of my stories, I have heard other stories related to this mill. It is where my teacher, Ms. Bahr, rode her first motorcycle; she was so proud! This is where my friend Jada thought she was going to get snatched up during a photo shoot. This is where my friend Jasper found a fishing tackle box. Bloomington isn’t my hometown, but I love that my classmates and I can relate to a Bloomington landmark.

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Sage Sherfick

This is where every Saturday, near the end of the year, I go cheer on the Indiana Hoosiers. The football stadium is packed full of IU fans in floods of cream and crimson. They are all anticipating another win for the Hoosiers. I sit next to my dad at every game while my dad’s friend, his wife, and their two daughters sit behind us. While watching the game, the marching band plays a variety of songs. I sing along to them while my dad is giving me the look of “Sage, you are absolutely ridiculous and I don’t know how you are my daughter.” Sitting at the games is a lot of fun. It is full of hysterical laughter and often conversing between my dad and his friend about how the game is going and if the team doesn’t do this, this, and this, then the Hoosiers will lose the game. I always love going to these games on a beautiful fall day and giving a round of high fives after the Hoosiers score a touchdown. This place makes me proud to be an Indiana Hoosier, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

***

Massimo Pisano

This is where the curbside ruins live. It’s always there, but never really seen. Never, by day, even approached — heavens forbid entered — by anybody, save for the occasional passerby who scoffs at the symbol of the city’s neglect before quickly forgetting it, freeing up space in their brain for something, anything else. Somebody must approach it, though. Somebody at night — somebody who comes out only when the cars and the people and even the animals are nowhere to be seen — somebody visits that old castle from time to time. After all, the graffiti and litter could not have been in the blueprint. I ride by it every day on my way home from school, glimpsing a quick glimpse, wondering a brief wonder, thinking an admittedly shallow thought, and forgetting it until I see it the next day. It is an unrecognized, unhonored monument to the people who live the way it exists. Covered in graffiti of circumstance, choices, or a tragic mix of both shows the true interior made undesired by most who only see the ruined exterior, leaving behind the brief encounter with the curbside ruin.

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Jasper Osmon

This is the place my friends and I wasted time on hot summer days. We would always stop at Woolery Mill on the way to Wapehani Mountain Bike Park to see who or what was back there, and act like we could take good pictures when we really couldn’t. It was never the main place for anything, but usually a side stop for everything. At one point, we found a couple hundred dollars worth of fishing tackle on the creek next to it and kind of cashed out that day. We somehow managed to never get hurt on the twisted chunks and panels of rusty metal. How we managed to not get hurt is still a mystery, the same as how we managed to reliably find stuff to do back there. Without any real reason to be there, we would always move on fairly quickly, but we always managed to find something to do while we were there.

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Wolfe Allen

This is where I go to create a variety of things, from videos to podcasts to T-shirts. The building housing Rhino’s Youth Center is one of the few buildings in town that has barely changed in appearance since Rhino’s first started 25 years ago. Yes, it’s been around so long that my dad used to go there when he was my age. He went there for the music, but I go to Rhino’s for their after-school programs where there is seldom a dull moment. I’m either making T-shirt designs, playing Jenga, drawing for Rhino’s magazine, or creating videos to be uploaded to their YouTube channel, Red Shirt Gang. Before I started going to Rhino’s, I didn’t have very many options for being creative. I spent most of my time playing video games and didn’t make very many videos because the only person that could help me make them was my younger brother. Rhino’s is a place where I can use my creativity and not sit on the couch all day. Without it, I wouldn’t be as creative, my life would be full of dull moments, and I wouldn’t be able to collaborate on video making with the other attendees.

***

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Amber Case

This is where home really became home. This place is my courtyard on the west side of Bloomington. My courtyard is important to me because it helped me change into a better person. In this courtyard, I met a lot of people. For example, when I first moved here, I would sit outside and space out while listening to mostly country music through my headphones. One day my good friend Heather, who at the time was a stranger, was standing outside with her boyfriend and daughter, Raelyn. It took me a long time to get the guts to go ask her to hold her baby because I’m timid around new people. I eventually asked her and she let me and that’s where I found my first two best friends. To this day I still see them often because they have become my support system. They talk to me about things that bother me, give me hugs when I am sad, and make me smile and laugh every time I see them.

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Reagan White

This is where I stopped in Bloomington for the very first time. It was the first week of summer 2013, and we still lived in Muncie, Indiana. My dad was job hunting across the state, and we decided to accompany him here and stop at a ranch in Brown County for a few days as our low-budget summer vacation. By the time we were passing through Bloomington, everyone was pretty hungry, and we had heard great things about this place. We decided to stop at Mother Bear’s, and while we were eating what is possibly the most delicious pizza on the planet, my dad got a call saying that he had a job interview at a Honda dealer in town. It wasn’t a high-priority job opportunity for him, so if we weren’t already in town he likely wouldn’t have gone to the interview. Because we happened to be eating pizza in the right place at the right time, though, he had the interview after lunch and ended up getting the job. This is where the decision was made to try Bloomington, and it worked. Had we not gone here on that specific day three years ago, I wouldn’t have had all of the friends, opportunities, and experience that I do today. This is where we went to Bloomington for the first time, and this is where we decided to stay.

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Dashiell Schonemann-Poppeliers

This is where I began transitioning to living in a neighborhood. A park, located only several blocks from my new house became the perfect place for me to spend my time. For me, moving into highly populated area in the city was a big change, and having a place like this park made the transition far easier. As the years passed, I spent more and more time at this park, enjoying all that it had to offer with my friends who lived nearby. It became a place for me to socialize and interact in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without it. I can remember many times playing kickball, tag, and Frisbee both after school and on weekends. As I’ve gotten older, the park has become less a part of my life than when I first moved, however it is still very important to me. I still visit the park often, meeting friends and enjoying the opportunity to be outdoors in such a fun and friendly place. This park has greatly affected how I’ve grown up and I am truly thankful for all good memories it has presented.

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Jada Peete

This is where I started to learn a lot about Bloomington when I first moved here. My family and I moved to Bloomington when I was around 7 years old, but my mom and sisters have lived here before. Everyone in my family was moving back to a city where they kind of already knew everything, but I was coming from northern Indiana, so Bloomington was completely new to me. When we were finally settled here in Bloomington, my sisters tried out Chocolate Moose, but without me. I was young, so, I thought, “maybe it’s just a hangout spot for teens and that’s why they didn’t invite me.” Then I realized once they came back that Chocolate Moose was not a place for older kids to hang but instead a place where anyone, of any age, can get ice cream. One other weekend my friends took me around to see Bloomington’s beautiful city and at the end of the day they asked me, “Want to go to Chocolate Moose?” I said yes, of course, and that summer night I finally got to experience this Bloomington tradition.

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Eli Newlin-Blackwell

This is where I would go before and after school when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I’d play games on a spare computer while my dad was working in the IU Poplars Building. I was able to understand the concepts of responsibility, leadership, and respect — all while finding my passion for video games. After showing my excitement with computers, my dad got me one for my room, and I was ecstatic, I immediately took to it. It became my newest hobby. I would play for hours a day, an unhealthy amount of screen time. Throughout the years, I met a lot of cool people on my games, and some I have been friends with for going on six years. Nearly all my money goes toward upgrading my computer when I get the chance. I know that the amount of time I spend on my computer is unhealthy, but it makes me who I am and keeps me happy. If I never went to my dad’s office, I would not have found my interest in computers, and my life would be severely altered.

***

Maris Fish

This is where I first learned to play an instrument. This is the place where I put my desire to play music to use. I was only a little girl when I would walk up to the Smith-Holden Music building with Three Epithets muraled on the side. I’d climb all the way to the top floor where it was humid and the rooms were small. But there came a time when I forgot all about the stuffy rooms and the smell of an old wooden piano up against the wall. When I would place my fingers on the keys of that piano, it echoed the sound that the world held its breath for. I had discovered the power that only musicians could hold. A power that is specifically our own. The power to make people turn on their heels in awe. The power that had held me in its grasp my whole life. One that could create an emotion and place it ever so sneakily past the ribs and into the hearts of those who are in love with music. I knew that what I held was nothing short of magic, and I never let it go. I fell in love.

***

Simon Nelson

This is where I was in the band for Bloomington High School South as a member of the pit. The BHSS band was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to go on trips, compete with other bands, and hang out with plenty of other bandmates. We mostly practiced. However, the greatest moment was the final competition of the season. There were plenty of other bands, all of different sizes, colors, and skill levels. We watched one band after another play, each and every time amazed by what they were playing and the elegant props they were using. Each and every another band played, however, our band’s sense of dread increased. “Are we good enough? How can we play against that?” The suspense that was in the air caused one of our players to have his hands shaking. We were one of the last bands to play. We went onto the field, legs feeling like jelly, minds boggled trying to comprehend what the heck their hands were supposed to do and what positions we were supposed to be in, while the pit was slowly moving our gear, fearing that one of the wheels on the instruments would fall off, that we may have forgotten a drumstick or a guitar pick. And then we finally played. We nailed the performance! It was as if sheer fear made us perform twice as well as we originally did. That was the best moment of my life, and it all started with practice.

***

Alyvia Koharchick

In my neighborhood, next to the creek down the road, there is a small wooden bench in the middle of a field in front of the forest. This is the bench that I always go to when I am in my worst times and I need to get a break. I cannot explain how good it feels to just lay back and stare at the sky when I am depressed, anxious, or really stressed out about something. This is the time I take to think about my life and try to get my problems organized inside my head while calmly breathing and watching the sunset that perfectly hits the horizon past the forest. I have gone here by myself or with my friends when we want somewhere to unwind or we need somewhere to have a deep conversation. So many thoughts and emotions have been left at the rough wood foundation that lays in the soft grass, and when you are laying there you can feel the wind all through your body as you are listening to everything outside: crickets, birds, cars driving by. Whether you are sitting on the actual seats or you are lying on your back, you can see the beautiful sunset that always comes at the evening. The trees in the field are contrasted to the sky’s colors and create an amazing scene that you would only be able to see from the bench. The bench is where I go to when I need a break … and I hope that I can go there for years to come.

***

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Randy Vaughn

July 15th was a surprisingly cool night. My mom decided to take me down to the Comedy Attic for my 16th birthday. We did not know how long the line was going to be so we decided to get there early. There was no line outside, so I had thought we could get good seats. However, when they opened the door to the main room: holy moly! It was packed. Two comedians came out before Sam Morril. That was one of the best days in my life. The fact that Bloomington has a place where people my age can go (with an adult) and have a good time with other people is amazing. This is something that I hope never goes away because this place will be a very important part of Bloomington’s history for many years to come.

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Andrew Gray

This is where I built my first Magic the Gathering deck and learned how to play the game. This is where I’ve spent lots of money on Magic the Gathering cards and Dungeons and Dragons boards. I’ve come here many times to play games of Magic the Gathering in the basement. This is where I played my first Dungeons and Dragons game and started really liking the game. This is where my dad and I have come to buy old board games such as Mastermind. I’ve also stood in line and waited for Magic tournaments. I love coming here to look through the Magic cards they have in stock, the new board games they get, and just to hang out with my friends and play games. There’s also a good place to get coffee and pastries downstairs. My dad and I love going there to get coffee and then going into the Game Preserve to look at the different games.

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Jacob Krebbs

This is where the bright orange leaves fall and I get the feeling of slightly cold breezes. This tree has stood for many years outside of my house: a beautiful testament to the back roads of Indiana and what some of us call home. I remember all my crazy mornings and crazy days starting out with seeing this tree out the window of my car. There was this one time where I just had realized I’m growing up so fast and so quickly that I forget what my home really means to me. I got up and went outside, first the backyard, then the side, and then the tree in the front. I felt how much I’ll miss this place if I ever leave. I remember standing there when a cold breeze gave me chills, but they were chills of comfort. I grabbed my phone and took a photo. I felt at peace knowing I had this picture.

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Matthew Sheetz

I always tried to play around and climb up on the bear statues when I was very young, but I could never climb them without help from my mother or father, because I was way too short. Now, at age 17, I can jump up on them without any difficulty, so I have accomplished my childhood life goal: climb up the bear without any help. It took longer than expected since I hadn’t gone to the library in over six or seven years. Plus, their appearance is something that you will always remember, especially people who grew up here. One of the statues seems like something you would picture a bear commonly doing: walking around while sniffing the ground. The other statue, however, depicts a mother bear sitting with a cub between its legs. So, the main reason why I’ve grown to like those statues is because they show bears as the peaceful creatures they really are.

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Madolyn Hodges

This is where I spent many nights of my childhood: the emergency waiting room at Bloomington Hospital. Although it was about eight years ago, I still remember each time like it was yesterday. I remember my dad waking me up in the middle of the night, “Wake up, we gotta go, he’s had another bad one,” he would say. I would climb out of bed and walk in the kitchen to see my mother on the phone while frantically searching for the keys to the car. Inevitably, we would have to reenter our house to retrieve my stuffed mouse, because the hospital always distressed me and I couldn’t be calmed without Mousy. My uncle has severe epilepsy and often would have seizures so badly he ended up in the ER. The air in the room was always heavy, and sometimes I could hear crying or squeaky wheels on hospital beds. I wasn’t ever allowed back to see him because my family didn’t want me to be scared. But often times, the injuries and the things I would see in the waiting room were just as bad. This is where I learned how much I love my uncle and want him to be safe. This is where I learned the importance of keeping the ones you love close and reminding them how important they are to you.

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Zoee Zelezny

This is where I had my first date. This is Stefano’s Cafe in Fountain Square Mall. I remember, like it was yesterday, there was an old woman working. She had a pink sun visor and thick, white, pointy glasses on. “I’m the only one working today. I serve, I clean, I cook. I’m doing just fine,” she said. Tables were scattered all over the dine-in area where a small box TV hung high up in the corner, playing the news channel. My date was fixated on the footage being played on the screen and leaned down to my ear, each time it switched to the newscaster, and mocked them playfully . We made our way to our seats, which happened to be this exact spot. The elderly lady served us our sandwiches and milkshakes. When she walked by us, she gave off an aroma of Avon perfume and baby powder. After we had eaten, we did not rush at all. We sat for hours, talking, laughing, and doing anything but staying in our shell. We stayed there until the sun went down and the sky was turning dark blue. I get a nostalgic feeling every time I reminisce on this night. This will always be my favorite place in Bloomington. 

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Laura Marcum

This is where you and I had our times together. We walked a half mile to get to Lake Griffy. My friend told me, after I changed, to jump into the water. I was scared. My thought process was, “Wow this is too high for me to jump into this shallow water.” I waited for you to show me to jump. Your friend climbed up and showed me where to jump. You got mad at me and swam to the dam area. That upset me because all I wanted to do is show you my cannonball. You assumed I would jump for him and not for you. I was too afraid to jump from that height. I assumed you were mad because I didn’t jump right away, and you got mad so I jumped in by myself. I decided to annoy you by talking to you. The only way to get your attention was to annoy you. After awhile you forgave me and we jumped in together.

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Ethan Cowles

This is the first and largest in the series of miniature waterfalls. It can be found in the middle of nowhere about an hour away from a fork in a random country road outside of Bloomington. I’ve been here only once, but the memories will stay with me forever. I remember I was at the park with friends playing basketball when a car pulled up right behind the goal. I then saw Shawna, a longtime family friend, and my friend Madison’s mom. Madison’s mom asked if we wanted to go hiking. I hadn’t seen Madison in a few months because she had just moved to the next town over, so I hopped in the back seat. We pulled off on the side of a road and searched for the slightly hidden trail. We hiked for about an hour talking and catching up on recent events, all the while getting closer to the destination that I was still unaware of. We arrived at the first small waterfall and I knew I would like this place. We passed the second, then the third, and finally the fourth. It was just outside the mouth of a huge cave with water rushing out. Looking at the picture again makes me remember the sound of the rushing water and the feeling of being free.

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Ariel Sylvester

This is one of the most interesting places that means the most to me — the Bakers’ Haunted Train. The train has been there longer than I have. From what I know, the property used to be a train station. The Bakers bought the train station and made it into something creative. The station became their home and they put Halloween decorations everywhere around it. I don’t know all the details, but I know for sure that it is a real train because part of the tracks are on my property. The man that owns the train is quite friendly and has used the train to earn money by making it into a haunted train for Halloween. On my way to school, I always peer over at the train to look at all the neat stuff they have. On Halloween or close to it, they have this huge metal pumpkin that they raise up like a flag and switch the lights on.

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Cameron Kingsley

This is where I grew up. It is home to me and many others. South Leonard Springs Road is my favorite road in Bloomington. Its beautiful, breathtaking view is what keeps me sane, day after day. That big field with very few houses gives me a sense of freedom. The wild sky is what gets me the most. Dusk is my favorite time to see it — when the sky may look as if it was a painter’s canvas, a masterpiece of an artist, only to see it turn into the starry night. I live just down the road from this place. I drive by it night and day and its beauty overwhelms me every time. This is where I learned to have pride in myself. It’s eye-opening. I’m not from Bloomington, but I have made it my home.

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Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship English 11
As part of MCCSC’s Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship — a New Technology High School — the English 11 class explores and studies literature and composition using multiple pathways as a way to enrich their knowledge and apply their learning in a variety of situations.
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