MR. LEKI | Ecology Program Director
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 experience that focuses on education, 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 draw pictures or collect leaves for their journals.
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 recycling of paper (recycling captains run the show) and conserving our waste. Unfinished food from the lunch cafeteria is responsibly thrown into bins and added to the large compost in the garden, where it is turned into soil after months and months. The soil is then used for the planting beds.
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. Gardeners from all over the city come to pull weeds, pick berries, haul dirt, and plant their vegetables. The plots are free, but there is a wait list (contact Arunas for more information).