Monday, October 16, 2017

It's Oaktober!

To Celebrate Oak Awareness Month we will be hosting 30 alumni from the Class of 1977 for a Maine East oak savanna work day.  They will be cutting out invasive species, maintaining our trail, and building us another bench for our outdoor classroom. Shortly after they leave we will be co-sponsoring an event along with Go Green Park Ridge that we're calling an Oaktober Blitz!

Oak trees are being threatened by invasive species, diseases, and are not commonly replaced. Yet oaks are a keystone species! A variety of wildlife depends on oaks to survive including 557 types of caterpillars which help feed birds and other animals. A 25 inch diameter oak tree can also intercept 3,492 gallons of storm water per year, reducing storm runoff and flooding.

This Oaktober Blitz is a citizen science effort that will document old oak communities in Park Ridge by marking, measuring, and identifying the tree species. 

Teams will meet at Maine East’s Oak Savanna (Dee & Dempster entrance) for a kickoff presentation by The Morton Arboretum. Maine East Rhythm Project (MERP) will provide some inspiration and entertainment as you arrive! Attendees will be with a trained leader and sent to various sites to document information about oak trees. Teams will be recognized for finding the largest diameter tree and also documenting the most trees.

Driving from Maine East to one additional location will need to be a part of this event (unless you're a Maine East student), so please be aware that children cannot be simply dropped off. Locations will include Northwest Park, Oakton Park, Maine East, and more!

Sign up as an individual or with a group of friends or family. Credit for service hours will be given.

AND - stop by the Maine East Oak Savanna (Dempster & Dee) any time between 8am and 1pm to pick up a FREE OAK TREE! We have 50 to give away! (c/o MWRD)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Service Learning 2016-17

This year's AP Environmental Science projects got a late start - but you know what is said...   better late than not at all!

1. Vegetable garden is being prepped and planted after a few-year hiatus.  APES students are working with the special education department on this project.

2. Digging up unwanted trees in our butterfly garden.  A group is working on a design and grant proposal for a professional educational sign.

3. Oak savanna - we've got a group working on another bench to help complete seating for our outdoor classroom by the pond in our 1-acre oak savanna. Now we just need a path that requires less maintenance and a huge work day (!) to remove the invasive buckthorn, etc.  We only made a small dent in the trail improvement this spring but a group of Maine East alumni will be helping us out in October!

4. Data collection about carbon sequestration value of trees in our oak savanna.

5. Native plant awareness and sale - May 29th from 10 - 2pm near the Dee & Dempster entrance by the oak savanna.  Here is our Facebook event for the sale.

6. Bird bath and feeder for butterfly garden - a creative design to repurpose old materials :)

7. Climate science student survey and awareness campaign.

8. And more - stay tuned...

Friday, September 2, 2016

2016 Hunger Banquet

Ecology club members worked with AP Environmental Science students (Phil Hua-Pham, Jocelyn Gonzalez, Charley Rasmussen, Rianne Parr, Faraz Hashmi, Jordimar Ariaga, Amal Sheth, Rene, Suban Chuhadry, Salman Chuhadry) to organize a fundraiser and awareness campaign for global poverty and environmental issues.   Students, teachers, and community members were invited to join either the low, middle, or high-income part of the world to experience what life is like for those of us who go without.  As you can see in the video below and Bugle article written up by a reporter who attended, this simulation made a big impact on people. There were even five children in the audience, several of whom spoke at the end about how eye-opening this was. I'm extremely proud of my students for their execution on this!

This event followed the Oxfam Hunger Banquet model to highlight the disparity in access to food and resources between low income and high income groups. This fundraiser was part of a greater effort to unite our school through one common initiative - adopting a Kenyan Village. Various clubs at Maine East worked hard to raise over $4,000.  Through this year-long effort  the Maine East Global Initiative project has been working alongside Free the Children in order to bring education, clean water, food security, and healthcare to these Kenyans in need.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sept. 20th Oak Savanna Work Day - Join us!

Maine East is having an Oak Savanna work day and new fence kick-off party on Saturday, Sept. 20th from 9 - noon to focus on ecological restoration. A generous donation by Cindy and Scott Grau helped to provide a new fence to protect this relic of the past so they will be honored at 11:30 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The oak savanna was the dominant landscape in our area before modern development but is now one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. Many years of hard work by the Maine East Ecology Club and the Oakton Community College Ecology Club continues to keep this area managed and free of invasive species. An ephemeral pond provides a refuge to a variety of wildlife, including migratory birds, and a 2013 IDNR grant funded the planting of new bird-friendly shrubs throughout the preserve. Future plans include creating a more permanent stone path and seating area for students near the pond as well as installing a wildlife camera trap. If you'd like to stop by at 11:30, students and staff will have collected native forest and prairie seeds to share with members of the community. If you come you'll also be able to see a beaver lodge that was built sometime in the last six months on our Oak Savanna pond! Lots to explore...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fundraiser & Bats Show

We are selling bird, butterfly, and bat houses for our fundraiser this year!  Check out the document below for details.  A local Park Ridge resident makes these out of cedar and only asks for the cost of materials.  All of the profits go to us!  Thanks Mr. Sigg!
Fundraiser Doc

And we recently hosted the Incredible Bats at Maine East along with the Youth Development program.  I received numerous comments afterward about how interesting and informative it was.  So much to learn about the many benefits of our native bats.  A few days after the show Daniel and Sharon Peterson were profiled along with their bats in the Chicago Tribune...  check it out!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Green Report Card and Beyond

Tom Joseph

From 2007 to 2011, the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) published a sustainability
report card for American and Canadian colleges. In 2010, 322 colleges participated in this program by submitting thorough surveys, which contain information on each school’s sustainability in regards to campus operations, dining services, endowment investment practices, and student activities. This information is provided by administrators, faculty, and staff at each university to provide a broad and relatively unbiased data set to create the
Green Report Card. This survey included terms, regulations, and recommendations from nationally recognized sustainability organizations and federal agencies to obtain specific and somewhat easily verified information. Furthermore, after each survey was administered, the SEI created a secondary survey to obtain feedback on primary questionnaire. As a result, SEI’s Green Report Card has improved with each year, leading to a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of American and Canadian colleges’ sustainability.

Three examples of SEI’s work can be seen in their assessment of the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Brandeis University near Boston. In SEI’s most recent report card from 2011, the University of Minnesota was noted for its energy conservation and use of some renewable sources, as well as its sustainable dining systems, buildings, and use of public transportation. The U of M was given A’s in all categories, matching its overall grade. Brandeis, meanwhile scored lower, mainly due to its older buildings and lack of transparency in regard to its endowment. These detractors were outweighed, however, by the university’s commitment to renewable resources, reducing greenhouse emissions, and student involvement in sustainable practices. This assessment gave Brandeis University an overall grade of a B, as a result. The University of Illinois, meanwhile, was praised for its sustainable practices and programs campus-wide. However,the university was also harshly criticized for its endowment and shareholder policies, due to its use of proxy voting, which reduced the voters’ voice. This resulted in an overall grade of a B, mostly due to the F it received in the shareholder engagement category.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute moved on to a new project after 2011, in the Billion Dollar Green Challenge.
This program encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of one billion dollars towards energy efficiency improvements. The funds for these investments come from the partner organizations’ participation in green revolving loans. Within this model, organizations’ savings from the use of energy saving measures will be use to finance loans to other partner organizations. These organizations will use the loaned funds to fund energy efficient equipment and programs, which will save them money, and will in turn be used to pay back the loans and give out further loans to others.
In a similar vein, programs are available to give grants to high schools and elementary schools to fund sustainable equipment or practices. One such organization that gives out these grants is the Green Schools Initiative.
This organization promotes the use of sustainable and energy saving products to maintain ecological sustainability and responsibility. In applying for their awards and grant, the Green Schools initiative allows small schools to engage in sustainable practices, despite their usual high costs. This program is not a loan, like the program used for universities and large organizations. This takes the pressure off of these small institutions and allows them to decrease their ecological footprint, while maintaining their economic stability. There are many other organizations waiting to give out money for this cause, it’s just a matter of applying.
The success of these programs is undeniable, as schools and organizations have consistently decreased their carbon footprint and energy costs. With this in mind, it is apparent that these programs are not just beneficial, but invaluable. If the world is to continue on the path of industry, concessions will have to be made to preserve the environment, at least for our own safety and well-being. Programs like these are a simple start towards a sufficient future, as trivial as they may seem.