Blessed volunteers and supporters,
Here we are at the beginning again,
and I am grateful that we are not beginning from scratch.
Yesterday I posted my self by the North entrance to see the Kinder gardeners enter on their first day.
I don't know who looked more stressed out, kids or parents.
My little grandchild Salim was among them.
The kids approached the threshold of the entrance hall,
glancing back back at Mom and Dad, another step, another glance,
It looked like they were nervous flies approaching a spider's web.
Then they took that last (first) step into the building.
I thought about the courage in these tiny people,
going forth into the unknown.
Then they realized that their feet wouldn't move!
The floor tiles had been removed, but not the adhesive!
It was crazy funny to see the moment of shock on their faces until they realized that they could move their feet, with concentration and effort.
Hey maybe this is going to be fun!
I saw that same bravery in the lunchroom, where I was making a pitch for kids to sort their lunch waste, and you see these tiny people holding their food trays or lunch boxes, searching for a place to sit, guided by our kindly lunchroom helpers:
"What room are you in??"
"Who is your teacher?" Bewilderment.
"He's in our class! Come sit over here!"
Ahhhhh, safe haven. It is amazing thing to witness.
My program is not officially CPS, but a school sponsored strand that has, like bindweed, woven itself into every corner of our school life.
But the way it runs, how it manages, what is required, is up to us.
Parent and families learning together, growing together, working together was one of the most important pieces we designed in, long ago, to make this thing work. It puts the wind in our sails.
So, I am going to describe to you the most immediate tasks, at each grade level, for which I would be very grateful for your help.
At Kindergarden, I will be visiting to explain the recycling and composting systems. Soon we will do our first garden trip to dig potatoes, meet and greet the bugs in the compost, and check out the flowers of Fall.
At 1st Grade, we will commence our year long study of the Trees of Waters School with a leaf collection of eleven native species. You would not believe the potential for chaos in this activities as kids stuff their leaf in an envelope, carefully write the names on the front sheet, avoid or fail to avoid stepping in dog waste on the parkway, float unheedingly toward traffic on Wilson, and lose their pencils.
After the three classes have finished, volunteers empty the envelopes one by one and prepare them for drying and pressing. After a few weeks the leaves are mounted and brought tho the classroom for labeling. This takes alot of time! But you will start to recognize the leaves, and you will be amazed to compare these new young scholars to the tree wizzes they will have become by next June! Stay tuned.
At 2nd Grade our students have their first off-campus adventure in ecology, traveling by foot to the Chicago River at Berteau. This 5 block section of riverbank has been restored and managed by Riverbank Neighbors and Waters School for the past 25 years, is exceptionally beautiful and rich in plant and animal life. The kids will have their first "trip journals" for use in documenting their experience. It includes a map that is filled in as we make our way through the streets, space for weather station data, they will do leaf rubbings to learn the family of trees that inhabit the bank, and they will ID and draw a sampling of the Fall bank flora. With your help, I hope. Stay tuned for date of trip and journal prep.
3rd through 5th Grade are Mighty Acorns years learning about the ecology of our native woodlands, wetlands and prairies at Sauganash Prairie Grove. This ecology program is our oldest, most developed, and most dependent on engaged, interested and trained parent leaders.
For that reason, I have a special workshop for incoming potential volunteers, mostly parents of 3rd graders. But all and any are welcome. In Mighty Acorns, parents lead small groups of kids into the wild. They have the task of keeping the kids safe from the rigors and potential hazards of the wild, but also they are the counselors who help the group make decisions about where to go, what to do. They are the teachers who help the kids to stop, open their field journals, and represent, in art, and in words, what they are experiencing and discovering. They lead them to where I will be waiting to organize our stewardship work. In the Fall, this involves ID-ing and picking rare and precious seed. Parents will take part in all these activities themselves, as co-explorers and learners. This model is at the core of the kind of education Waters' committed itself to way back in 1991 (always striving, never arrived). Our students are learning through engagment with this real, beautiful, and challenged world.
Practically speaking, preparing our 3rd grade Mighty Acorns involves three separate classroom lessons from me, and the preparation of some 90+ new journal books that the kids will carry for the next 3 years. There is alot of taping and gluing of maps, oak leaves and binding labels, songs and poems. These books become personal treasures for the kids and their families, packed with their impressions and writings. Stand by for a date for this task. Third grade trips don't start until the 2nd part of October. 4th and 5th already have journals and experience under their belts. I will post the whole ecology schedule very soon.
6th Grade returns to the Chicago River to study how it works in relationship to the Lake and the sewer system in our giant megalopolis. I prepare Green Field journals that they will use all year. The covers have a map of the "old river", meandering prairie stream, and the new, channelized river, conveyor of more or less treated sewage. Our first trip is a walk to River Park West, where the old river falls into the channel. Here we will conduct a series of chemical and biological tests that grade the water for quality. Much help is needed for prep. And if you yourself, are interested in these tests, I would be happy to give a training. This will be the first year that we will test for fecal coliform bacteria with the use of petri dishes, agar and colony formation!
Grade 7 visits our beloved Lake, using the CTA for transit, and the Corinthian Yacht Club for our HQ, as we introduce our students to Lake and Dune ecology. I prepare Blue Lake Journals for use throughout the year. Ms. Ballasch teaches lessons on the Great Lakes drainage, the geology of Lake formation, the glaciers, etc... all in graphic novel form. These books are beauties, and the trips a perfect joy (usually).
Grade 8 works with me in the garden doing all the regular garden tasks of weeding, composting, wood chipping, log splitting, fence building and repair,
but also harvesting, prepping and sharing garden produce, from berry juice to mint tea, pizza sauce to wheat berries. These garden sorties occur almost weekly in between my field trip season, and they benefit greatly from additional adult supervision. I am working on the schedule with our 8th grade staff.
I will announce all the specific work dates and workshops in the upcoming weeks.
We are still enjoying our Wednesday evening garden worknights. You may have noticed some summer improvement like the new fencing and chips at the south end of the bean, and the giant net for catch soccer balls. Thanks to our gardeners for their mighty efforts. We will be installing pavers to support our outdoor sink and "kitchen" on the east side of the big shed. Worknights often end with shared food, fire and music. Next week, Garden night will start at 5:00 with a drum circle organized by Mr. Bradford. Join us!