PETE LEKI | Ecology Program Director | firstname.lastname@example.org
Waters has a unique field-based Ecology and Environment program for grades K – 8. The Ecology Program is integrated with Waters’ Science Program. In Fall, Winter, and Spring, students participate in a nature-based field experiences that focuses on integration, restoration, and exploration. The students are introduced to nature in a way that fosters a personal connection to our natural areas. Volunteer parents and community members are active participants in the field visits, as well. Students keep field journals to write and draw about their experiences. Even the youngest students take part in authentic field experiences.
Waters School gardens, both native and agricultural, are used to ground our students in natural processes of food production, the transformation of flower to seed, the interaction of plants with insects and other animals. The garden boasts infinite variety or form in nature, and so, too, lends itself as a source of artistic inspiration. It is also a place for teachers to teach, to read, to sing and to talk quietly surrounded by beauty. Our new website www.watersecology.org contains a trove of up-to-date information, including historical photos and films.
The Ecology Program covers 3 areas of environmental interest:
1. Field-based Studies
Students partake in 3 field-based trips per year to do hands on environmental stewardship and restoration work, and explore nature in natural areas across Chicago. The field work done by third through fifth graders is part of the region-wide Mighty Acorns program, whose vision is "to build an environmentally literate next generation that has the know-how and inspiration to take care of nature in their communities, resulting in a healthier planet."
2. Recycling and Conservation
Students play a major role in the in-school recycling of paper, cans and bottles. Each classroom. grades 1-8 have two recycling captains that are responsible for high quality conservation of our waste. Food waste from the cafeteria is sorted into composting and recyclable materials. Waters is piloting a commercial composting program to turn all food waste and even lunch trays into soils. All garden waste is composted and is then used for the planting beds.
For the past 10 years Waters has been retained by CPS to mentor other schools in the composting of lunchroom waste. More than 70 schools have taken workshops at Waters to experience our model of resource conservation.
Waters also conserves water by employing two 500 gallon cisterns to capture rainwater from off the Annex roof, and other out buildings. The school grounds themselves captures rainwater diverting it from the sewage system, doing our part to prevent combined sewage overflows. Waters also has a 1.2 kilowatt solar energy array mounted on the south wall of the main building. We would like to add to this on site production of energy as grants become available.
3. School & Community Gardens
The Waters Garden is both a food garden and a native plant garden, with 300-plus year old Burr Oak trees. It is the home base for the Waters Ecology program and is also used as a research site by local scientists and conservationists. It is a natural playground for the students and a community gathering space for garden potlucks, drum circles, campfires, and more. It is cared for and maintained by students, parents, and many dedicated community volunteers who pull weeds, pick berries, haul dirt, and plant their vegetables. Much food is produced and shared within this community and also with local food banks.During the growing season, from March to November, there are regular Wednesday night garden nights, from 5:00 until dark, where volunteers work together to accomplish the task list set out by our Garden Coordinator Julie Peterson. After work we often share food, fire, and music to celebrate our community.