while our 40+ recycle captains accustomed themselves to their tasks,
including grading their own mates on the quality of the recycling,
and while the new compost captains coped with "contaminants"
(plastic, juice boxes, zip-locks, Lunchables ...)
we had visitors from the Big World,
people drawn to us because of these very kids,
parsing out how to do good in this world.
Our garden is a rare oasis of high bio-diversity,
and a continuous nectar source for insects and birds.
If you think about our local parks,
like Horner and Welles,
they are a blessing,
large and expansive.
But from a wildlife POV,
they are deserts of turf grass.
So, last week we got a message from the Field Museum
asking if our gardens could be part of a research project
that might help to determine whether monarch butterflies should be put on the endangered species list!!
This is both edifying and horrifying.
Here is the message from Adriana:
"This is Adriana Fernandez, Monarch Coordinator at The Field Museum; I am writing to you regarding our project called “A Monarch’s View of the City.” This study will guide priority- and goal-setting for monarch conservation efforts going forward.
As part of this project, our ecological technicians are visiting different land-use type sites to monitor milkweed and monarch butterflies at their different stages. We would like to know if it would be possible to get permission to monitor the gardens at Waters Elementary; we have identified this school for being heavily involved in conservation work and we would love to visit. Would it be possible for our ecological technicians to visit the school? We apologize for the short notice; we are in our last week of monitoring and we want to be sure we obtain data from diverse exemplary conservation sites. To learn more about our study, please visit fieldmuseum.org/monarchs. I have also attached some information about our research."
Here is another one, from the Society of Conservation Biology:
"My name is Becky Tonietto, I am a research fellow through the Society of Conservation Biology studying bees and pollinator conservation in urban gardens and farms.
As I'm sure you are aware, some of our most important pollinators such as honeybees and bumblebees have been in decline globally over the past few decades. However, Illinois is home to hundreds of species of wild native bees, many of which thrive in urban areas. The goals of my research are to determine which bees are supported through urban agriculture, and understand what landscape and local factors correlate with high bee diversity and abundance.
I would love to include Waters Community Garden as one of my research sites in Chicago this summer (6 community gardens, 6 farms and 6 brown fields). From late April – early October I would visit the garden every 3-4 weeks to collect bees and complete a quick vegetation survey. I do not collect honeybees, only the wild bees we find at the site. I would happily share my results of the bee survey with you, as well as any other findings to help support and attract pollinators."
Monday, we are hosting a national gathering of conservation professionals from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Here is the message from Karen Mullin:
"I am writing because I am hoping that you would be open to hosting a group of about 25 conservation professionals in your school gardens for a discussion and tour on the afternoon of Monday September 19. Kristin LoVerde from OpenLands referred me to you and your campus as an excellent example of schoolyard habitat and student learning.
US Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting their annual Schoolyard Habitat Course for conservation professionals in Chicago from September 19-23, 2016. Some of the other partners involved in the course include OpenLands, The Field Museum and US Forest Service.
I am thinking that visiting your school could be an empowering story of how a school project can grow and become a part of the fabric of the school and teaching practices."
Our composting kids will help with conducting the tour for these friends.
I sometimes wonder whether I would serve the school better by taking one more class out
to taste our produce
and sift compost instead.
But, I weigh in on the side of opening our school
and students to the big world
and all the risks and opportunities that may present themselves.
It is Sunday night.
I wanted to get these messages out.
glory of glories,
there is other news,
creeping up on us,
... like false buckwheat on a September afternoon.