Welcome to Waters Ecology

Dear Friends, 

I served as the Chair of the first Waters LSC in 1991  for five years. It was an intense experience, with alot of drama and alot of learning. We discovered “progressive” education* (see below for my explanation of this term) and dedicated ourselves to bringing it into Waters. Much of what makes the school what it is today is based on that very powerful and humanistic outlook. In 2000, the tides shifted and the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Law sought to replace progressive schooling with hi stakes testing, sorting and  ranking of students by test scores, and punishing schools that failed to meet arbitrarily imposed standards.  It has been a difficult task to move forward against such a head wind. But the progressive impulse still can be felt in the school. And it is largely the job of the Local School Council to defend and support that vision. 

Ecology is part of that, as is the integration of other subject areas with ecology. Children are multifaceted beings, and they need to be immersed in all aspects of human endeavor. For this reason, I urge parents and community members to consider serving on the LSC. It is an opportunity to learn, to advocate for our children, teachers and our school.  Progressive voices on the LSC can help keep our school on track, to grow and to blossom.

Applications must be submitted by 3:00 pm on Wednesday, March 9th in the school office.

Please consider!

Pete Leki


*Progressive ed is historically linked to John Dewey in the early 20th century, but there are many similar strands with many voices and leaders up to the present day. In a traditional school (like the CPS I went to as a child) the classroom and schedule were rigidly structured. Desks bolted to the floors, each child isolated, a teacher in front delivering lessons, students in their own bubbles either paying attention or not.  The class was tested on the content of the lesson, ranked, some doing well, others not. Report cards went home to deliver the news to the parents. English, math, social studies, science, and art or music (if it was offered) were stand-alone subjects, delivered on a schedule. In the progressive education model, the classroom is a learning community, the teacher is the coach. Students work in all sorts of clusters with others on projects of their own making, led by their own curiosity. The teacher checks in and assists with resources and encouragement. The resources are often from the neighborhood, from outside the school, including the experience and talents of parents. The disciplines are combined, with art being part of math and social studies part of science (for example). A report by a group of students on a historical event might be given in the form of a play, or a piece of music, or a mural. The different talents and strengths in the students were shared in the group, recognized, and celebrated. Students were allowed to venture out into the world, to engage it, to appreciate and understand its beauty and problems, and to act to change things for the better.  When parent conferences were held, they did not include grades and ranking, but the presentation of the student’s work as a portfolio, with a thoughtful conversation between parents, teachers, and students about the student’s progress and future goals. Sounds impossible? It is not. In the 90s our staff was invited to many, many conferences and meetings with other educators and schools who were implementing these methods with great success.  Our school partnered with visionary professors at National Louis University’s Center for City Schools. Over the next 10 years, the Center and its fellows published a dozen books developing theory and practice. Most of them are in our staff library. Let me know if you would like to borrow one or two. 

Below you can watch the video we made in May of 2021 that explains Waters Ecology program and its history.

The links below are still here from last school year when Mr. Leki took ecology online.

These link above go to the weekly lessons Mr. Leki used online, including video links, maps, and other resources. We’ve been hearing from parents that their children love to sing the songs and are watching the videos more than once to learn them. We’ve also heard that some waters alumni have found the videos and are enjoying them too. We love that!

Visit our new story, art and songs page!!


If you like our work, please become a supporter of Waters Ecology, by donating to and typing “in honor of Waters Ecology” Here’s the link Donations raised by Waters Today for the ecology program fund Mr. Leki’s position as Ecology Director.

Many people have donated their time, skills, and creative talent…

Thanks to our computer wizard Clayton Miller for building us a computer out of donated parts thru FreeGeek and then spending hours getting it all set up and working.

Thank you to computer gurus Bill Keller and Kevin Anderson for the computer advice and support over the years.

Thank you to Jeremy Atherton for loaning audio equipment, camera advice, and sharing music for soundtracks.

Music has also been shared with us for soundtracks by many including Andy Mitran, Pete Leki, Jeff Burris, Pete Leki, Poppy Brandes, Dylan S, Jeremy Atherton, and more.

We have many to thank for allowing us to interview them including

Leslie Borns, Steward of Montrose Point

Cordia Pugh, founder and director of the Hermitage Community Garden and Englewood Veteran’s Garden

Andrea Dennis, of Friends of the Parks

Juan Gonzalez of Drummond Montessorri

Annette Aragon, Waters Alumni, co-founder of Israel’s Gift of Hope, filmmaker, current videographer, and former Waters Ecology Media Lab member.

Marnie Ware of Prosser Community Garden at Prosser High School, CPS.

We have many to thank for contributing photographs and video footage including:

Roark Johnson, photographer

Bob Dolgan, filmmaker of Monty and Rose, about the endangered Piping Plover at Montrose Point

Alan Shortall, photographer, aerial videographer

Rogelio Gamez, photographer, for video footage

McAvoy family (Riverbank Neighbors!)

Clayton Miller, photographer.

Annette Aragon, videographer. (waters alumni)

The ecology lessons, art, and so very many songs are by Pete Leki.

And of course a big thank you to all the dedicated, hardworking, and treasured people who were part of each beautiful moment.