Dear School Volunteers!
I forgot to announce that we will be conducting the Water Cycle Necklace activity on
Thursday 2:15 Room 111 and
Friday 8:30 Room 203,
with the 2nd Grade.
If you have older kids, you have already gone through this chaos.
And I have gone through it multiple times,
like accelerating through warp drive.
I think it is worth it!
The water cycle still thrills me!
It thrills me to teach it.
This engine is driven by two, mighty Forces:
One is Gravity, pulling all, (including water in the form of snow, rain, sleet)
to its bosom.
And yet, as I ask the kids:
Why don't the oceans overflow?
The other Superhero:
lifting the surface molecules of water off the ocean,
into the air, rising,
until they cool,
form droplets and crystals.
(Break: Do you believe this story?
Is it some cult description of reality?)
2 Hydrogen, one Oxygen,
has its own destiny,
free within limits,
might end up in you, or me,
or in a hurricane,
or a mollusk shell!
the Water Cycle necklace activity will produce unique stories,
and unique works of art for all our 2nd grade kids.
It is KINETIC!
It is full of joy,
And sometimes tragedy (all beads, carefully placed on string, then bouncing randomly on the classroom floor).
Please join us, if you can.
We could use up to 30 volunteers for each class (just kidding).
Quiet and Noise
Don't forget to purchase your copy of "The Fight Between Quiet and Noise"
and a few extra for friends. We have been able to donate $650 so far to the Ecology program.
Dear Blessed volunteer friends,
I've finally scheduled the Recycling Luncheon, after being stopped by innumerable small re-cycling elves, asking about it, and slowly losing faith. So on Thursday, December 13, from 12:00 until 1:00, I will host ONLY the 8th graders, in the Conference Room. They will be out of the school on Friday, and would thus, otherwise, miss the treat.
On Friday, December 14, all the other Recycling Captains will have lunch in the Conference Room during their regular lunch time. We will start setting up and prepping at 10:00: salad, fruit, juice, and such. If anyone could make the two runs for pizza (at 11:00 and 12:00) I would be very grateful.
Let me know if you can help, and witness this charming little get together. I will share with the students the feedback they received from their teachers.
After our Riverbank workday this past Saturday, I was walking the bank with neighbor Nancy, and we spotted, on the other side, a small mammal slinking through the dry grasses. At first we thought it was a cat. But it lacked a furry tail. It was, we thought, too white for a possum. Nancy went on her way, and I, intrigued, followed the creature's path from my side, until it revealed itself clearly on a log at the river's edge: a possum, sure enough, with prehensile tail, pretty pink snout, and black tipped, frost nipped ears. I'm fond of this amazing creature, and I looked up an article I wrote about it for the Chicago Reader, many years ago. Hope you like it.
The snow and cold have slowed and quieted the land.
A perfect time for me to catch up on my post trip classes.
In fourth grade we compiled charts showing the signature species the live in each of the 5 ecosystems of Sauganash. I found beautiful photos of the flowers in full bloom and got a little kick every time the kids said, Aaaawwwww! The lesson was "Communities of Plants" and how in native ecosystems plants self-organize based on their sunlight and soil moisture preferences. So if you tell your child that you saw "Monkey Flower" (Mimulus ringens) at Sauganash, he/she could tell you that you must have been in the Slough, where that plant lives!
In 5th grade we did an analysis of our simulation game about habitat fragmentation. Our results confirm the theory that larger parcels of land (islands) closer to an intact natural area, will have higher bio-diversity. As Diego put it, "This is relevant because Sauganash is like an island in an ocean of urban development".
I am also rehearsing (accompanying) four classroom preparing for the Holiday show. This always gives me a boost! Three of the songs are in languages other than English!
The book fair is up and running and it includes copies of my picture book:
The Fight Between Quiet and Noise
for $10. A portion of the proceeds will go to Waters Ecology program.
I have read/performed the book in a number of classrooms, and that is also alot of fun. And offers a chance for a discussion of Noise and Quiet, and how one can "invite" Quiet to visit!
I spend most mornings (until 10:30), and afternoons (after 1:00) doing journal response with the Mighty Acorn journals. This is also a very relaxing and gratifying activity. If you would like to join me for a cup of tea and read journals, please let me know. I have finished three of eight classes.
Happy long week end.
On this veteran's Day, I pray that all wars end and disappear from the face of the earth.
Tomorrow I will be reading Mighty Acorns journals all day, in preparation for Report Card Pick Up Day. If you would like to help, please come for an hour, more, or less.
I will be in the Conference Room from 8:15 until 10:30.
Then I will be by the fish tank, from 10:30 until 1:00,
then back in the Conference Room.
We hope to invite the 8th Grade to the Garden on Thursday to do extremely important work to prepare for Winter AND
the moving of plants, shrubs and vines from the Snake and Turtle Garden
which, apparently, will be involved in the siting of the new Annex.
Snake and Turtle Garden was originally called the Native Edibles Garden.
Here's the posting from the kiosk:
The Garden surrounding this playground was created
in 2002-3. It was hewn out of solid asphalt.
The asphalt was removed by hand, by students, parents, teachers and neighbors, over the course of 18 months. About 4,000 square feet of asphalt was removed. This allowed 90,000 gallons of rain water per year to be diverted from the sewers, into the ground and soil, to grow flowers and edible plants. The work was joyous, exhausting, and heroic. In the future we will display images from that project and explain more about how and why our school took on this task.
We planted Concord grape vines onto the barren chain link fences, foreseeing children and parents gorging on the sweet fruit. Please be gentle with these plants, and it is wise to wait until they are very dark before eating. Also, parents, please do not allow your children to climb or cross any fences. They are there to protect the plants.
When we pulled up the asphalt we found, underneath, not soils,
but a 2 foot layer of boiler cinders. Digging up these cinders was exhausting,
and hauling them away in dumpsters cost a lot of money that we didn't have.
So we left the cinders in place wherever we could:
like underneath the path.
And we built effigy mounds,
one of a very large turtle,
being followed by a very large Snake.
To the west we piled up a hill, to create a
a special kind of dry prairie with its own suite of plants.
We covered them all with soils and planted them with plants that were edible, or produced edible fruits or vegetables.
The idea was that you could enter one end hungry, and exit the other with your appetite satisfied. There was American hazelnut and plum, black walnut, Wild cherry, Paw paw, many grapevines, raspberries, wild onions, Jerusalem artichoke, wild strawberries, and, planted on the back of Snake, Northern dropseed grass, whose seed was used as a grain plant by our native ancestors.
There are many funny stories associated with this garden's creation.
And the Legend of Snake and Turtle.
It was funded by Friends of the Chicago River,
as a pilot project to show how we can reduce the dumping of sewage in the River,
by opening the ground to accept rain water.
There is a large binder in my office documenting this project.
We are hoping that the new Annex project will include transplanting of viable shrubs and vines to a new location. Perhaps Snake and Turtle could be re-located to the North bio-swale, as part of a new children's Nature-play area.
Recycle Captain's Luncheon will be this Friday, during the students' normal lunch hour.
It will be in a location as yet to be determined.
Set up and all preps generally start at 10:00.
But at 10:30, I will be at a meeting in the Alderman's office about the addition.
So, I will not be back until 11:30. 11:45,
missing the first students.
Hmmmm. Maybe I should postpone until after Thanksgiving???
And enjoy this wonderful season,
We have (almost) finished the whole fall field ecology schedule w/o rain outs or mishaps.
I give thanks to the great grandmother earth for setting such a lovely table,
and watching over her children.
We have one more field excursion
Tuesday, November 6, from 9:00 until 1:30 to
Horner Park (west bank of the river)
with 6th Grade, Room 305
to do chemical and biological testing of the river water, and to walk through the lovely. multi-colored plant community,
as it finishes its work, before taking a winter's rest.
Please join us, including a picnic lunch.
We have been able to take more classes out to the garden,
for work, study and harvest,
thanks to the new Garden Coordinator position,
held by Ms. Peterson,
and the assistance of garden and ecology volunteers.
This week we will bring out the whole 7th grade:
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 8:30 Room 302
Thursday, Nov. 8, 10:30 Room
Thursday, Nov 8, 11:30 Room
Thursday, at 8:30 2nd Grade, Room 204,
will come out to collect beautiful leaves,
learn about the old Chicago River bed that lies asleep under our grounds,
and to harvest Jerusalem artichokes (Helenium tuberosa).
We have been given some great weather to allow us time to get in these experiences
and will continue as long as the weather holds out.
The ecology program,
with serious volunteer help has finished the 1st grade leaf paste up,
and will start doing journal response for the Mighty Acorns.
Let me know if you are interested in this very delightful task.
With the gap in my field ecology program,
I will now be schedule post-trip follow up lessons in the classrooms for 4th, 5th and sixth grade,
and I will begin weekly lessons on trees with the 1st grade.
On Friday, Nov. 23,
we will host the Recycle Captains luncheon
and I hope I can find some volunteers to help set up, serve and clean up.
I also am thrilled that I have been invited to accompany several classes in the Winter Musical performance in December.
Music makes me happy.
These days outside are achingly beautiful. Please have a listen and read along
with this Poem by Robert Frost, put to music by friend and neighbor Doug Lofstrom,
performed by our Bullfrogs Community Choir.
by Robert Frost
Oh hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the Fall
If it be wild
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call
Tomorrow they may form and go.
Oh hushed October morning mild
begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief
Hearts not averse to being beguiled
Beguile us in the way you know
Release one leaf at the break of day
at noon another
One from our tree
one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist
Enchant the land with amethyst
For the grapes sake
if that were all
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit
must else be lost
For the grapes' sake along the wall.
O hushed October morning mild
Beguile us in the way you know
Begin the hours of this day
Full moon just now rising,
Cold Moon this Moon rising
Still night still Moon rising
Full Moon at last rising
First frosts just now falling,
Cold frost, this frost falling
Still Night still moon rising
First Frost at last falling.
Old Earth just now slowing
Old Earth this Earth slowing
Still night still Moon rising
Old Earth at last slowing
Last life just now sleeping
Cold life, this life sleeping
Still night still Moon rising
Last life at last sleeping
(from Autumn Lullabye for the Moon, by Thomas Ahern)
What comes next?
For the past 10,12,15? years we have celebrated
Harvest Day at school and in the Gardens.
For Kinder, 1st and 2nd Grades,
we roast our own-grown potatoes,
and drink spiced cider,
we sit around the log circle,
under our grandmother / father oaks,
and tell the story of this mysterious season:
about how we are truly and really all One in Nature,
that the dying reappear in the living,
and bits of us exist in everything,
just as bits of everything live within us.
It is with special appreciation,
and Reverence that we will partake in this ritual
this coming Friday,
Harvest Day, October 26.
I will be scheduling the 1st grade and Kindergarten
to visit the garden to harvest potatoes this week,
explore the compost, sing songs and tell stories.
Stay tuned for those times and places.
Help would be greatly appreciated.
After harvest, the potatoes are put on trays to dry,
then brushed clean,
then washed and dried,
and then, on Thursday they can be cut and wrapped in foil.
Early Friday fires will be set,
in the pit by the log circle,
and/or maybe in the pizza oven,
to bake the potatoes.
We need about 300 portions for our young children:
hot steaming potatoes.
We will set up serving tables to butter and salt the potatoes,
purple pink, yellow and white,
then serve our students cider while they sit around the logs.
And I get to tell the story.
Please let me know if you can help with any of these preparations.
The potato beds themselves need to be carefully tilled to allow the little ones to "discover" the potatoes below. The potato patch by the sports field needs the cages dis-assembled, the straw raked away, and, again, the soil carefully loosened.
On Monday morning, Oct 22, I invite any and all to come to the Conference Room to help paste up our leaf collections for the 1st grade. Stay for an hour or more, or come as you can during the week. I will be there from 8:15 - 10:00.
On Tuesday morning 2nd Grade, Room 111, will travel to the riverbank at Berteau Street to do leaf rubbings, weather station, and observations of the flowers and wildlife. We leave Waters at 8:30, and return by 10:30. Please join us.
Wednesday night is one of the few remaining Garden nights, as 5:00 until dark shrinks in duration. Join us for the many remaining gardening tasks we need to complete, before the ground freezes. Please join our garden email list to be part of the garden community and learn what you need to know to be an advocate for green space and ecology
from our garden coordinator, Julie Peterson:
For those of you who've been out of touch with the crisis of the last week, please visit our WatersEcology.org website to catch up and sign up so you can be an advocate. We barely averted massive drilling in the garden this week, preparation to destroy the garden and the 4 ancient oaks, each of which predate our city. It took many, many students, many community members far and wide, many gardeners past and present, many creative actions, many advocates in many positions to bring together the force it took to get CPS to look and listen. Just think how hard it is to protect a place of beauty, how difficult it is to protect the undocumented, those on the fringes. Let's band together and learn more about how to protect the vulnerable and stand peacefully to protect our vulnerable earth and peoples.
Last week went from hot to cold, dry to wet,
but all the trips were "Go" and wonderful.
This week Tuesday, Oct 16, 8:30 -10:30, 2nd grade Room 203 goes off campus for the first time,
to explore the riverbank at Berteau Street. They will do leaf rubbings of riverbank trees,
and sketch riverbank flowers.
Please join us after drop off for a briefing.
On Wednesday, Oct 17, 3rd Grade, Room 202, is off for their first trip to Sauganash.
They will be using their beautiful new field journals to document their adventures. And they will be picking rare native seeds for the restoration process. Please join us at 9:00 by the fish tank for a briefing.
On Thursday, Oct. 18, 3rd grade Room 201 does ditto as above, and as above, please join us.
On Friday, Oct 19, 6th Grade, Room 310, will venture to the river to do water quality testing. Stay tuned for details because our destination may be changing.
The very best to you and sorry for this short notice.
Trips today are a go, but ... we will try to leave from school as early as possble,
closer to 9:00 than 9:30.
And we will leave Saugnash early, maybe by 12:00
(or earlier) to avoid incoming thunderstorms.
Let it be so!
We have three trips coming up this week. If you have not yet signed up with the CPS volunteer application, please do. There is a lag time to be fully approved.
Approval is required even for coming in to paste up leaves, or staple journals. Thanks for your willingness to help out.
Wednesday, Oct 10, 4th Grade, Room 308, Mighty Acorns will be off to Sauganash to explore and to learn about plant communities, and to collect seed, rare and precious. There is a forecast for rain, but stand by, one never knows what will happen or what surprises rain might bring us. Please join us at 9:00 by the Fish tank for a briefing, bus leaves at 9:30, picnic lunch at 12:15, back in the bus by 12:45, back at school by ~1:15
On Thursday, Oct 11, 3rd Grade, Room 211 will have their first Mighty Acorns experience with free exploration, practicing woods smarts, field journaling, and stewardship (seed collecting). They have learned our traveling song and are very enthusiastic about the prospects for encountering wildlife! Please join us at 9:00 by the Fish tank for a briefing, bus leaves at 9:30, picnic lunch at 12:15, back in the bus by 12:45, back at school by ~1:15.
On Friday, 6th Grade, Room 304, will walk to River Park to do water quality assessment and check out the newly created "rapids" which now connect the main North Shore Channel to the North Branch of the River is a manner accessible to spawning fish! Please join us at 9:00 by the Fish tank for a briefing, we leave at 9:15, picnic lunch at 12:15, and back at school by ~1:15.
Still much pasting to do on the 1st grade leaf collections. Let me know if you can put in some time on this. And I am still looking for an opening to have a workshop for new Mighty Acorns parents, to discuss your important co-explorer role during these field trips. Time is short!
Copies of my book "The Fight Between Quiet and Noise" are available from me at school, or at the website: www.sipipublishing.com. A portion of the proceeds will support the Waters Ecology Program.
Many thanks to all,
Last week our 5th graders picked wood reed and bottlebrush grass from the oak woods at Sauganash. It was great to see them be so comfortable at recognizing these two important grasses. Both are used to repopulate areas in the Forest Preserves that have been devastated by alien invaders, lack of fire, habitat fragmentation, etc. Our ecology lesson for this trip is about species richness on different sized islands located at different distances from a mainland. Larger islands, closer to the mainland can maintain greater species diversity (and ecological health) than smaller islands farther from the mainland. These small islands are analogies for the small and isolated Forest Preserves, adrift in an ocean of development. As species disappear, because of disease, predation, poaching, invasives, etc, there is little opportunity for re-populating these species through natural means. Imagine a pair of green prairie snakes attempting to migrate to Sauganash from Forest Glen, having to cross the Edens expressway. Not going to happen.
So our activity, collecting rare seed and transporting it to distant islands, creates a bridge, a possibility for increased species diversity and ecological health.
7th Grade was treated to a virtually mosquito - free walk through the dunes and the Magic Hedge at the Lake, ablaze with Lady's Tresses orchids, grass of parnassus, gerardia, great blue Lobelia, lakeside goldenrod, and New England aster: a rich dreamy swarm of beauty. Thanks to all the parents and volunteers who made these trips possible.
This week, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 5th Grade, Room 209 repeats the trip to Sauganash. Meet by the fish tank at 9:00. Bus leaves at 9:30, returns at 1:15. Picnic lunch, long pants and shirt. Boots recommended.
On Thursday, 4th Grade Room 307, visits Sauganash to learn about Communities of Plants: how these creatures self organize to populate specific habitats and ecosystems there. Join us to learn some of the plant names and to glory in the blue stemmed goldenrod and short's asters abloom in the oak woods. Picnic lunch. Meet at 9:00 by the fish tank. Bus leaves at 9:30, returns at 1:15.
Visit the Waters Ecology Program Website for current/historical writings, films, photos, and interviews.
Water Ecology Program Website
Friends of the Chicago River
Forest Preserves of Cook County
North Park Village Nature Center