Field Trip: Power of the Press Fest

There’s a letterpress printing shop in Detroit that I have been wanting to checkout with the kids. I found out the shop offers a free tour and fee-based workshops to the public. It’s called Signal-Return and I thought it would be a great field trip to connect with our history and literature studies.

Signal-Return also offers art exhibitions and poetry readings.  Next month, I am hoping to schedule a tour of the letterpress workshop for the kids. I think it would be a great field trip for the kids to learn more about letterpress printing and how it can be used in an art form.

I think the teens would really enjoy attending a workshop to learn how to use the letterpress. Mj really loves creating art. She also enjoys writing stories so this would be a great way for her to express herself artistically. Elijah loves reading and learning about machinery. A Signal-Return workshop would also be a great learning experience for him in this aspect.

Homeschool Edition
Signal-Return in Detroit is a letter print shop.

Power of the Press Fest

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a Signal-Return event. The print shop hosted a festival called “Power of the Press Fest”. The festival, held April 5-9, celebrated “traditional printing, visual and literary arts” (

I thought the “Power of the Press Fest” would be an enriching learning experience for all four children. It would give the teens an opportunity to watch a demonstration of letterpress printing and also learn how other artists use letterpress printing as art. And for the toddlers they could have more of a hands-on learning experience by creating art.

Power of the Press Fest
Power of the Press Fest was held in Detroit’s Eastern Market.


Letterpress Printing Demonstration

Power of the Press Fest
Power of the Press Fest letterpress printing demonstration.

Elijah and I viewed a letterpress printing demonstration. We examined a 19th century ruling print machine. Elijah found the complexity of wood engraving very interesting. “I didn’t even know you could engrave wood with a printer.”

wood engraving
Wood Engraving
history of wood engraving
History of Wood Engraving
Elijah (seen in the back left) examining the letter printing demonstration.


Vintage Typewriters

Zhen enjoyed viewing the vintage typewriters. She was so excited to try typing on a typewriter all by herself. A staff member was kind enough to help Zhen with the typewriter. Two other little girls watched as Zhen pressed each key on the typewriter. I think they were amazed to see the letters printed onto the paper. Being part of the technology age, I know the girls are not accustomed to seeing letters print onto paper right before their eyes.

vintage typewriter
Vintage Typewriter at the Power of the Press Fest.
Power of the Press Fest
A staff member helps Zhen with the typewriter. Zhen was all smiles.


What Democracy Means to Me

Also at the vintage typewriter table, there was a typewriter reserved for people to type what they feel democracy means. This was a great teachable moment for Elijah because he is currently studying U.S. Government. He has been learning about our American government and democracy. He was eager to share his definition of democracy.

Homeschool Edition
Elijah was eager to share his definition of democracy at the Power of the Press Fest.


Sandpaper Monograms

Our last activity was making sandpaper monograms. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) had a “Make Art” table for visitors to create their own monogram design. I think all four kids loved this activity the most.

sandpaper monogram
Zhen coloring her monogram design.
Homeschool Edition
Elijah and Zhen working on their art designs.

The first step for creating their monograms was to sketch their design on scratch paper. Elijah googled his design idea so he had a reference on how to create it. Michala wasn’t sure what to make at first. I suggested to create a design which described how she felt. Zhen made green grass, blue sky, and a sun. Zechariah didn’t completely understand what to do so I helped him out. 🙂

Second step was to draw the design onto the sandpaper, using the sketch as a guide. The kids had to press their crayons down hard to ensure the design would show up onto the cloth.

The third step was to iron the sandpaper design onto a piece of cloth. The kids were amazed at how their creations easily copied onto the cloth. I think this would be a great activity for the toddlers to do again at home. Of course with an adult handling the iron.

sandpaper monogram
Elijah designed Subzero from Mortal Kombat, one of his favorite video games.
sandpaper monogram
The last step of creating a sandpaper monogram is to iron the design onto a piece of cloth.


Looking forward to next year’s event!

We enjoyed our time at the “Power of the Press Fest”. I know the kids enjoyed creating art. We didn’t get to attend any lectures related to freedom of speech, but I hope the things we did experience were still an enriching learning experience. If we are able to attend next year’s festival, I will make it a point for us to attend a poetry reading or freedom of speech lecture.

sandpaper monogram
Sandpaper Monogram: Elijah’s final design of Subzero.


Thanks for reading!

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