Julie Peterson

Ms. Julie Peterson


Masters of Science in Education Northwestern University 2000

Bachelors of Science in Physics Purdue University 1997 Additional studies in Environmental Engineering

Teaching Certification: Professional Educator’s License, endorsements in High School Physics, High School Chemistry, and Middle School Science.

Julie’s been an organizer for environmental and social justice in Chicago for 17 years.   She’s also a longtime teacher, restorationist of native plant communities, is one of the leaders of Riverbank Neighbors,  has held various roles in the Ecology Program for over 15 years, and was the founder and main organizer of Beyond Today.

Her background is in education, science, and environmentalism.   Back in 2000, while a CPS high school physics and environmental science teacher, Julie taught a colloquium that studied and drafted the initial design for the classroom gardens, prairie, and riverbank at Northside  College prep.   This lead to her connection with the community at Riverbank Neighbors and Waters School, where she’s been collaborating with Pete Leki and other neighborhood leaders ever since.

Julie’s work at Waters has included co-ordinating volunteers and garden night,   directing student environmental films, native seed collecting, student groups visiting the garden, coordinating composting conferences, and other ecology initiatives based out of the Waters Garden community.

Julie founded an environmental and social justice group, Beyond Today, which was a split off of Riverbank Neighbors for people who wanted to do activism along with their gardening.  Julie was the main organizer for 10 years (2003-2013) and co-led the group with Pete Leki and other neighbors. She organized educational events, town hall meetings, film showings, vigils, petitions, parades, and their work was covered in the media.  Julie’s work with Beyond Today focused on pesticide reduction, environmental justice, sustainability, and resiliency. Julie organized and moderated over 50 moderated environmental conversations with special guest leaders (green dinners), and supported the Waters Ecology program, the garden, and Riverbank Neighbors with complementary efforts.

She founded the Waterside Co-op in 2005, located across the street from the garden, a few doors from Sunnyside and Campbell.  She managed the co-op for 8 years, until 2013.   The house served as affordable housing for Waters garden interns and community members and  as a community center and meeting space for Waters Garden, Riverbank Neighbors, and Beyond Today.  This massive, rambling 100 yr old Victorian house was host to three years of summer interns, two years of Waters School Media lab, and the Riverbank Neighbor seed bank. It was full of music, intellectual and non-intellectual debate.

Julie served on the Board of the Great Lakes Bioneers  and was Chair of Alderman Pawar’s Environmental Transition Team and Coordinator of the Green Council from 2010 to 2013.

Julie has been a presenter at a number of conferences including Wild Things and Bioneers, and been interviewed on CANTV and the Heartland Radio show.  She’s been recognized with newspaper articles for her work in the fields of environmentalism, social justice, standing up against rape, and some projects she did with students as a high school science teacher.

Ms. Peterson has some expertise to offer in the areas of drinking and waste water treatment, toxic waste site remediation and regulation, lead issues, air pollution control, industrial pollution control, and environmental risk assessment.


Julie’s the mother of a young, 4 1/2 year old child who knows the names of the flowers in bloom at any one time. She is likely to also someday have a non-traditional bio.