A Principal Visits

Dear Waters Community,

The other morning I was at the garden helping one of the waterers wrangle the long garden hose. I saw a tall man walking and stopping on the sidewalk along the perimeter of the garden. He stopped, read the signs, looked in, craning his neck. Finally, I asked if he had any questions about the garden. He introduced himself as the new Principal of another nearby CPS school. He said that his school community wanted to start a garden and they told him: “You have to see Waters School Gardens”. So, that’s what he was doing. But he told me that he had no idea that our garden was so big, so rich, and so incredibly beautiful. I gave him a tour and told him some of the history of the garden: its small, heroic beginnings, its historic location on the bed of the old Chicago River, anchored by our ancient oaks, and the energy and creativity of our struggling community that converted 1.2 acres of asphalt to garden by hand!
One of the last things he said was something about how the mixture of garden boxes filled with flowers and vegetables, with the exuberant growth of native plants was just breathtaking.
That was an angel’s message at a time when the worth of the garden is being challenged by some in the school community.

Do you have a message that you would like to share, to help save the garden and ecology program? Here are excerpt from some messages I have received:

“I am so sorry to read this… My heart crumbles. Your ecology program was the thing that made us choose Waters and neighborhood all the way from Venezuela.” Alicia M. parent

“… we consider the school and gardens a community treasure, a wonder held in common. Our kids played on the playgrounds (several iterations). We shared in the raspberries, we hear the Scouts and neighbours at the fire pit singing songs, we play on the turf field on weekends, we marvel at the raised bed gardens and the variety of growing things, we are in awe at the centuries-old majestic trees in the South gardens.”  Eric C. neighbor and parent

 “For us the ecology program has been the stand-out experience at Waters, and not being able to fully participate in that was one of our great sadnesses during the 18 months of remote learning. However, the remote classes with Mr Leki were a highlight of remote learning, and proved to be the spark for many family outings, as Ewan and I walked the streets of the neighborhood trying to identify the tree species that he had learned about in class, or went to the Waters garden to draw plants and leaves. Upon return to in-person learning Ewan has loved being part of the Mighty Acorns and we are excited for him to continue with that next year. Growing up in the city with so many outdoor spaces covered in concrete or plastic, this early exposure to nature is vital for our kids. Childhood nature exposure is associated with increased self-esteem, and better quality of life as children, along with improved mental health in adulthood.” Jeremy A, parent and neighbor

“I’m writing because I was alarmed to hear that the Waters School Ecology Program budget is being cut by 30%. I’m a neighbor of Waters and a community development professional. Although I don’t have children, I moved to the neighborhood twelve years ago because of the school and the gardens. I work in many cities across the country, helping communities to develop sustainably and equitably. I’m often in touch with school districts and principals. I can tell you that the Waters School Ecology Program is a gem and would be the envy of many other cities. It provides the sort of experience that kids will identify later as their favorite part of school, one that supported them academically and personally. For the neighborhood, the gardens function as a community hub, a place that adds immeasurably to quality of life. The numbers of families who benefit from the gardens far exceed those who volunteer or whose kids attend Waters.” Ellen S. neighbor 

Please join us:
Save the Garden! Save Ecology! Celebrate the Garden Community
Saturday, July 9, 10:00 until Noon

Bring food, drinks and musical instruments, soccer balls, volley balls and frisbees.
If you are not able to join us, Please send us a message of support that we will share with the LSC and the Principal.

Thank You,
Mr. Leki