May has been an especially hopeful month this year with all of our young people getting involved in making a big difference for the environment. In Oak Park and River Forest, local schools have been busy planning, researching, and planting their native plants to support biodiversity and learning.
Dominican University recently put in a large swath to support its honeybee hives as well as the larger environment and community. The students in the junior honors seminar Darwinian Thinking Across the Disciplines sparked the project to support the local ecology and was a way for students to enact what they had learned.
Mrs. Burn’s Kindergarten class at Lincoln Elementary in River Forest has been intensively involved in all aspects of their garden, including researching and selecting what plants to use to support birds. Her classes have been doing Project Feeder Watch over the years so adding a native plant habitat is a natural extension because birds need insects too.
After learning that IL was 60% prairie prior to European settlement, but now only .01%, Holmes’s 2nd Graders helped to put in their Pocket Prairie habitat garden to provide resources for pollinators, many of which are experiencing population declines. The native garden is located near the edible garden to help with pollination and pest control.
Other schools in the area are expanding their gardens and adding on and using them as part of their Outdoor Education initiatives, which makes sense as research lets us know that being outside and studying the natural world is good for students’ bodies and minds.