Ecology news

Ecology in the Garden and On the Road

Monday, May16, final weeks of tree studies with the first grade 11:30 – 2:00. At 9:30 Kinder room 207 visits the garden to plant potatoes, explore compost, and do garden art.  HELP IS APPRECIATED. At 2:15 2nd grade Room 202 will be prepped for their river trip pn….

Tuesday, May 17, at 8:30 2nd Grade Room 202, will travel to the Riverbank Neighbors Natural Area at Berteau and the River to look for the creatures that live in the river bottom and check out the riverbank flowers and birds. This is a walking trip and help is appreciated. At 11:30 I will prep 5th Grade Mighty Acorns Room 318 for their Mighty Acorns Field Trip on Thursday. At 1:30, Kindergarten Room 209 will do the potato, art, and compost thing. Help is appreciated.

Wednesday,  May 18, 3rd Grade, Room 216 travel to Sauganash to witness the spring ephemeral display, explore and pull invasive weeds. Bus leaves at 9:30 and returns at 1:15. Join us at 9:15 by the fish tank for briefing.  Wednesday evening, 5:00 until dark is garden night. Join us!

Thursday, May 19, 5th Grade Mighty Acorns Room 318 visits Sauganash for the last time to explore and do stewardship. The fate of this and other natural areas will soon be in their hands. Join us. Bus leaves at 9:30 and returns at 12:15.

On Friday, May 20, 7th Grade, Room 305 travels to Montrose Point to explore food webs in Lake Michigan and fish for invasive gobies! Bus leaves at  9:30 and returns at 1:15. Join us!


Mr. Leki

First Week in May in Ecology

The Chicago River Student Congress, at Clark Park, last Saturday was well attended by a young and enthusiastic crowd. During the opening awards ceremony, one of our former students, Amer Dzankovic, was honored with his Von Steuben track team, for work cleaning up litter from the River Park track and field.  Amer is a senior and is headed to College at… University of Chicago on a full ride. Amer said he was drawn to UC because of its… environmental programs. Congratulations Amer!

Monday, May 2, First Grade Tree study, and Mighty Acorns prep

Tues. May 3,  7th grade garden day. Volunteer help needed.

Wednesday, May 4, Garden Stewardship 5-dark.

Thurs. 4th Grade Mighty Acorns Room 308  to Sauganash. Students will explore and take a closer anatomical look at the spring wildflowers, and two invasive species. Bus leaves at 9:30 and returns at 1:15. Meet at the fish tank at 9:15 for a briefing. Bring food for a picnic lunch.

On return, we will be planting Mother’s Day spiderplants with the Kindergardens.

On Friday, Room 302, 7th Grade is off to the Lake at Montrose Point. We will be learning about food webs, fish and fishing. Join us at the fish tank at 9:15 at the fish take. Bus leaves at 9:30 and returns at 1:30. Bring a picnic lunch.


Mr. Leki

Post Earth Day, the struggle continues

Dear Friends, 

Lovely day outside today. Three 1st Grade and three 2nd Grade classes visited the garden to get to know its flora and fauna. Second graders did two activities. One, searching the compost for the macro fauna who work at converting vegetable waste to humus: earthworms, sowbugs, milli and centi-pedes, beetles, spiders, and ants. They were all there and our students discovered, sketched and described them.

The other activity was to seek out the native flora in bloom. They found yellow violets, Bluebells, Trout Lilies, Dutchman’s Britches, Toothwort, Bloodroot, Bellwort, and Pen Sedge. Within a week or two, these flowers will be succeeded by a new wave of color. Very beautiful. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IOVJHR8Cjta1HgM8wrbf8D-3oS9pwFQsfxrQsnVHe48/edit?usp=sharing

First grade visited the trees, each tree awakening to one extent of the other. The Silver Maples have already developed their twin seeds, while the catalpas are still asleep. The first grade were taking notes to ready themselves for the Tree Olympics in June.

Tuesday 3rd grade will be transplanting their batch of seedlings: tomatoes, basil, lettuce, kale, marigolds, nasturtiums, peppers and eggplant. These will be grown a bit bigger and used by 3rd and other classes to plant in the gardens and for students to take home.

On Wednesday, April 27, 3rd Grade Room 217  will be our first Spring Mighty Acorns trip to Sauganash. They will be introduced both to our native spring ephemerals, and our lovely, yellow carpet of lesser celandine (an invasive species). The transformation from winter is startling. They will explore, sketch and journal. The bus will leave at 9:30 and return at 1:15. Join us by the fish tank at 9:15 for a briefing.

On Thursday,  April 28, 5th grade Room 319, will visit Sauganash for their last time as Mighty Acorns. They have been learning about how the fate of biodiversity, the unique plants and animals that have evolved here, depends on decisions that we make and actions we take. A future of rats, roaches and canada thistle, or a future of thousands of interdependent species forming unique local communities. Up to us. Join us at 9:15 by the fishtank. We will return by 12:15 for lunch.

On Friday April 29, both 5th grades will be taught about creating homes that are ecologically sustainable, and they will walk the school grounds to familiarize themselves with the innovations that make our school more “green”: green roof, 1,000 gallon cisterns, solar hot water heaters, bioswales, permeable pavers, giant gardens, PV panels, etc. We have a long way to go, but by giving our students this information, the direction of a livable future becomes more clear. 

On Saturday April 30, 6th thru 8th grade students and families are invited to attend the Chicago River Student Congress at Clark Park. There will be presentations and stewardship opportunities all aimed at making the Chicago River system more healthy and diverse. See attached info.


Earth Day

I usually let Earth Day pass without super special emphasis, because I don’t want to limit our care and concern to one day. I am still amazed, everytime I venture out onto the streets, at how many cars there are! In every direction! On every street. I know it’s hard but we have to stop driving (so much). Here’s the story I tell each year at this time:

I woke up on Earth Day and looked at the sky and it looked like rain. 
Maybe I should drive to work.
But, then I thought, "What the heck".
I climbed on my bike and pedaled to work through a light drizzle of rain. 
I didn't take the car.
It needed gas, and I didn't want to buy it , or pay for it. 
So I didn't.
My friend at the gas station noticed that I didn't stop for gas. 
Business was down.
He called his supplier and cancelled his order for refueling:
"Sales down", he explained. 
The gas company guy got the same message from 86 out of 120 gas stations in his region. 
He called the company HQ and said to cancel the shipment of gasoline from the Gulf Coast, "demand has dropped".
This message and others like it from around the country created a panic at HQ. 
"Cancel the drilling of new wells'', the CEO ordered. 
"Cut back on refining"
Wall Street noticed the dip in sales and production and drilling, and oil stocks dropped in price. leading to a sell off of oil stock. Much of the capital went to renewable energy. 
The oil companies felt the pinch and dialed back their support of oil friendly politicians. 
Without oil money many of these politicians lost their next election.
New people, young and old, who supported a carbon neutral future were elected. 
They passed laws that phased out oil and natural gas and oil,
and supported wind, solar and hydro power.
And that is how planet earth was saved: one decision to not drive multiplied by millions.

Mr. Leki

Planning with teachers, Vote LSC, and hope for our Oaks

Planning for garden visits

I spent the day meeting with grade level teams of teachers planning for their ecology trips and garden visits. This was a welcome invitation from Principal Rutkowski to increase student engagement with our beautiful garden. Students will do everything from raising seedlings, planting, weeding, studying the endless species of native plants, checking out the compost, artwork and music. We will be needing lots of help from parents and community volunteers to make these visits fruitful and enjoyable. I will be putting out the call for help in these Ecology Notes. These schedule is posted athttps://calendar.google.com/calendar/u/0/r/month/2022/5/1?tab=mc

Vote Wednesday (April 20th) for LSC

Please come out and vote for the LSC tomorrow. Let the Council know that you care about the school and community. You will need an ID with your address to vote.


Good News on Ancient Oaks

There was some concern that the cavity in the bottom of the bur oak by the cedar shed. The tree appears to be the same as it was when I first saw it in 1991. Base cavities are common in mature oaks. In the early 2000s we had a leading State arborist check out the tree and his assessment was that the tree was sound, with more than 275 healthy annual rings around the central cavity. He estimated the age of the tree as 350+ years, far surpassing the age of Chicago. It was a mature tree when the gently flowing, natural Chicago River flowed through what would someday be our school grounds. So this is a venerable and ancient tree, incredibly valuable and loved. Yesterday a group from CPS visited to assess the trees health and unanimously agreed that the tree is healthy and its value outweighed any risks.  Another hundred years!!


Mr. Leki

Garden Night, LSC elections and Compost!

Join us Wednesday (tomorrow) for Garden Stewardship
We are excited to get back to gardening and getting together. Garden stewardship starts at 5:00 to 6:00, I would like to gather up to talk about some goals, and rules, and to share ideas for the garden.

One of our own running for Waters LSC
Tomorrow is the Local School Council election and one of our own regular gardeners, Nathan Hunter has put his name  forward to help lead the school forward in a progressive direction. Nathan and family have been regular garden day volunteers. He has advocated strongly for the ecology and arts program as being essential parts of Waters’ uniqueness. Nathan is also a generous musician and chef, filling our garden night with the strains of his accordian, and the fragrance of grilled food.  Please vote tomorrow, in the school, and join us in the garden at 5:00. You must bring an ID with your address. 

Compost is here!
Our order for compost has arrived. Four cubic yards of mushroom compost, and two cubic yards of soil mix. We will use this compost to top up the raised beds, and improve the soil in the community gardens and common areas. Grab a shovel and a wheel barrow and help get the compost into the ground. 


Lots to do!
See you then,

Pete Leki

Garden note

Fire
We are watching the weather, the wind and the plants in the garden, hoping to get a burn done in the next week or so.  I saw that lots of Virginia Blue bells were up. That means we would have to avoid burning in those areas. It is a lucky window that opens and allows a burn in these times. It might be that this year we do a very restrained and restricted burn, if any. FYI.

Waters Garden Phenology Slide Show
Watch for these plants to emerge and flower from now until Fall.
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IOVJHR8Cjta1HgM8wrbf8D-3oS9pwFQsfxrQsnVHe48/edit?usp=sharing

First Garden Gathering???
I would like to schedule a limited orientation kind of garden meeting on Saturday, April 9, at noon, to talk over the coming year, the needs, tasks and guidelines. That way people can come in and get started whenever they are free and eager.

Tasks (quick list)
General Clean up
Clean up pile of bricks by rhubarb
Pick up litter everywhere
Dump Goji berry soils into compost
Pick up bricks wherever they are
Pick up broken fencing (branches and lumber)

Fix or Install Fencing
Check and repair all fencing
Install twig fencing by J&R hill
Fix temp fencing by S&T
Install fence around Felix's hazelnuts
Install fence around the Blue Beech
Install temporary fencing in NPlaySpace
Clean up garden patch north of cold frames
       *break old stems, fix or replace fencing,tie raspberries

General tasks
Prep S&T for Opening
Cut and herbicide unwanted woody stems (Throughout)
Re-do kiosks
Re-tie net south of sports field
Seed grass by log circle and Kindergarten
Rake parkway leaves (use as mulch)
     *pick up litter, repair fences
Prep grounds for burn
Repair any damaged raised beds
Fix table by fire pit
Remove winter protection from roses
Prune fruiting shrubs as needed and possible

Longer term individual, or group projects
Strolling the grounds after school to remind children not to destroy Nature.
Choosing a common garden plot to take care of as a project
 (J&R, Parkway plantings, rhubarb, S&T, raspberries west of Annex, berry patch by parking lot entrance)
Water barrel safety
Waters waterers
Maintain tidyness of tomato cage cage

Spider plants and big trees

Dear Friends
This week, before Spring Break,
we are looking for baby spider plants for our Kinder kids.
Do you have any to contribute? We need 40 or 50 more.
Please bring your babies to me asap.

They cut down two large trees on my block this week. One was a dead ash tree, the other was a mature Norway maple that was leaning off center. They were two of the larger trees on the block. The trees that are left are now the largest trees. I think about this, and how we lost the 107 year old catalpa on Hutchinson, and the last giant elm, and the giant willow by the river, and the beloved American elm at the end of Cullom by the river. When a big tree goes down, the remaining smaller trees become the “big ” trees. 

The elms, ash, the catalpas and willow are all fast growing trees, that were planted when this part of town was developed around 1910, when the North Shore Channel was dug.  The trees that were originally here, that were part of the old ecology: the oaks, walnuts, and hickories, they were mostly cut down.  A few miraculously remain. Four of them are at Waters school. Three others are on the parkways around the school. A few others are scattered around the neighborhood.  These trees ARE OLD. They grow slower and live longer than the planted parkway trees.  A willow and a bur oak with the same circumference will have vastly different ages. The giant willows at the river are at most, 110 years old. The oaks at Waters are 350+ years old. My neighbor applauded the cutting down of the maple and ash, and looks forward to the removal of a large backyard silver maple because it is “rotten”. We fear large trees close to our homes, and the fear of falling trees and limbs seems reasonable. But, as the fear grows the stature of our trees diminishes. The grandeur of our oaks, and the vase shaped reach of elms that once lined block creating a cathedral effect, are being replaced by lines of saplings, pruned to look like lollipops. Most will never reach maturity. 

The weird thing is that, over time, we lose our sense of what a “tree” is. Unless we go to the Forest Preserve or National Park, our idea of what a “tree” is, moves toward the weird trees shown on architectural drawings: potted plants. I think that we need to revere our older trees and use our best forestry practices to keep them healthy, alive and large. Imagine a world without the redwoods. What a loss. What diminishment. Would you like to help save the heritage trees of our neighborhood: oak and elm, willow and hickory, cottonwood and walnut. They are our local treasure. 

Mr. Leki

Ecology News for last week in March!

Emin’s post card
This Week!

1st Grade Trees
3rd Grade Sprouts 
Journal Response Fun
6th Graders River Trip Post Cards

First Grade Continues its study of the trees of Waters School. They are getting REAL good at it. Their teams already can identify our trees by bark and bloom, leaf and seed 95% of the time. By June that score will go up to 98%+. And they can sing! (listen to file below). 

Our three third grades are sprouting bean seeds to observe how germination works.  Then we will be getting to the practical work of planting seeds of vegetables and flowers for our garden and homes. Hopefully, by our frost-free date (May 10) our seedlings will be big and strong enough to transplant outdoors.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings at 8:30 (after drop off) I will be responding to field journals from 3-6th grades. This is pleasant and rewarding work (usually) and I would invite volunteers to join me for an hour. I will supply you with colored pens, coffee and… cookies.  Hope to see you.

During our 6th Grade winter river trip, we took lunch at the Evanston Ecology Center. We reviewed what we had seen and learned and then created post cards mostly to our students’ parents to let them know about our trip. Last week we were informed that one of these postcards had made its way to family in… Bosnia!!. See below. For most students it was their first time writing a post card. Some of the art work, and some of the things written were very beautiful and heart warming.


Mr. Leki

Spring

Last week we performed “The Legend of Snake and Turtle” 8 times, for Pre-K, K, 1st and 8th Grade. It is a lovely and powerful tradition. Photos below. Thanks to the parents who made this year’s performances a breeze, and to our actors: Estelle, Livy, Mila, Landon, Edie, Mahlon and Arielle.

This week we are back to trees with first grade, and doing journal response, 3-6th grade. Anyone interested in helping with this very enjoyable process, let me know. School garden work evenings will begin in mid April and we will begin inviting classrooms out for garden activities.

Stay well,

Mr. Leki

Eco News!

In this message:
1st Grade Music and Trees
3rd Grade Sprouts, and
Summer Job Opportunities for youth in the Forest Preserve

First Grade Trees and Music

Many (10?) years ago, our music teacher was Nadine Zelle. I had met her at Montrose Point where she was working for Friends of the Parks, Nature Along the Lake Program. She had this phenomenal capacity to get kids to sing. I managed to lure her to Waters and there we worked together, with Ms. Vecchioni, integrating the arts with ecology. Ms. Zelle moved on and is now working with the famed children’s singer and performer Ella Jenkins (https://ellajenkins.com/news-press.html). Ms. Zelle recently sent me a new song written by Ms. Jenkins called “Many Many Trees Around the World”. I adapted it for Waters 1st grade tree study and recorded it recently.  I owe a debt to Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Zelle for their inspiration. Also attached is 1st grade singing Chlorophyll Breakdown.

“Many Many Trees Around the World”
Chlorophyll Breakdown
What’s in a seed

On Monday March 14, Ist grade will visit the garden to do bark rubbings and observation of bark textures for different trees: sycamore, locust, ash, blue beech, river birch and hackberry. All have very distinctive bark. Any volunteer help would be appreciated. Room 210 at 11:45, Room 208 at 12:30, Room 211 at 1:30.
Our 1st grade actors will be performing the “Legend of Snake and Turtle” this week for Pre-K, Kinder, 1st and 8th Grades. 

3rd Grade Sprouts

And on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 3rd grade will be exploring seed morphology and germination using jewelers loupes and tweezers and very cooperative lima beans. They will also learn the silly song attached below.

Summer Job Opportunities

This note from our friends in the Forest Preserve. This is for youth 16 and older. So, Waters alumni, high school and college are eligible:

 We are currently hiring Youth Outdoor Ambassadors for the summer. This is a great opportunity for young people and former Mighty Acorns who are interested in nature and the outdoors or are looking to try something new. The program takes place from June to August for a total of 10 weeks. The salary is set at $13.53 an hour for up to 40 hours a week. Interested candidates should apply on the Forest Preserves website, https://fpdcc.com/about/jobs/, by March 31st. I’ve attached a copy of the job flyer in case you’re able to share this with your network.

Thanks for spreading the word.

Mr. Leki