Monday, May 21, 2018

Arbor Day Tree Climbing Event

This year the Park Ridge foresters approached our Ecology Club about hosting a tree climbing event with them for Arbor Day.  We were intrigued and had several meetings to learn about Tim Lynch's company North Branch Tree Climbing and walk around campus to find the right oak tree for the climb. Tim is a Des Plaines fire fighter and has always been into exploring the outdoors with his three girls.  He started up this company a little over a year ago.  The tree we chose was inspected, prepared (pruned), and tested (3-hour long test climb) before the day of the event.  And we had about eight students go up in the tree that day over a 3-hour period. 

Here is a news article about the event.  And another.

And here is a photo album.

I can honestly say it was exhilarating seeing the tree from above and actually walking around in the limbs at around 40 feet above the ground. You go up so slowly and hoist yourself up using a pully system with the ropes.  Several students who went up pretty far had only planned on going up 10 or 20 feet because they said they were scared of heights.  But you learn to trust the system in a very methodical way... so by the time you're 40 feet up the anxiety wasn't really there for them.  I felt the same way!  We all came down with a huge smile throwing high fives and feeling a huge sense of accomplishment.  We all agreed that in many ways it gives you a broader perspective and respect for these mighty oak trees.  We're excited to plan this again next year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Service Learning 2017-18

Lots of great projects in APES for this year!  We may even work with Marketing students to advertise some of our events!

1. Oak Savanna Outreach - working on trail maintenance and getting a new bench for the outdoor classroom. They are also helping remove lots of invasive buckthorn.  They helped plan and host the Oaktober Blitz and are now working with the Park Ridge foresters and North Branch Tree Climbing to plan a tree climbing event for Arbor Day, April 27! There will also likely be an oak savanna work day open to all students, parents, and staff on Earth Day, April 22nd.  Follow them on instagram @MaineEast_oak_savanna.
2. Green Infrastructure in Our Community with GIS Mapping - students hope to bring awareness to storm water management issues in our community by creating an ESRI Story Map highlighting green infrastructure features.  Examples include permeable pavement, rain gardens, rain barrels, gutter diversion into gardens, bioswales, and urban tree stands. We will be working with the MWRD and looking for other community collaborators. Anyone with GIS mapping skills want to help us out?

3. Climate Change Awareness - two groups are working on this. There is a tentative plan to put together a panel discussion with students from Lake Forest HS with climate scientists and others. They are in communication with Dr. Mark Potosnak of DePaul University to serve on the panel. Date TBD.

4. Native Butterfly Garden Art Project - several artists are researching the wildlife supported by our native prairie plants near the science wing.  They will be painting stepping stones for the path that winds through it!

5. School Green Report Card - this hasn't been updated in many years! Students are updating this document and assigning our school a grade for sustainability efforts in a variety of categories (waste reduction, energy conservation, land use & landscaping, water quality & conservation, air quality, & student/community awareness).

6. Future Teachers Project - several students who plan on going into education will be creating short video lessons for our freshman biology teachers to use with their students. They will take them on a tour around campus to learn about ecosystem services in our oak savanna and butterfly garden, bat boxes and tracking, symbiotic relationships between species we're supporting, and calculation of carbon sequestration.

7. Hunger Banquet - How do environmental and humanitarian issues overlap? Students are investigating this question in different places around the globe then editing Oxfam's script to host a Hunger Banquet fundraiser at 6pm on March 20th in the faculty lounge!  Proceeds will go toward our school-wide fundraiser to support hurricanes victims in Puerto Rico.  See post from 2016 students who did this project.

8. Vegetable Garden - Students harvested our vegetables and herbs that were tended over the summer by the special education department.  They helped host a salsa-making contest in October with our CONNECT mentoring program and the Latino Club.  It was so much fun!  The service learning group is starting new seeds indoors in the next few weeks and will be filling a new herb tower that will be managed in collaboration with Foods students.
9. Bat Boxes on Campus - students will be relocating two bat boxes that were made by Evan Bierwaltes as his Eagle Scout Project in 2013.  They will also be using a tracking device in the spring to collect data on the species that flying in our area.  On Feb. 24th they will presenting with Incredible Bats at the Friends of the Chicago River Student Congress to educate middle and high school students about the ecological and economic importance of bat conservation. There will be live bats!  Join in!

10. Native Butterfly Garden Seed Collection, Sowing, and Plant Sale - see this post. Mother's Day Plant Sale fundraiser will be on Sat. May 12 from 10-2pm.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Native Butterfly Garden Seeds - Collecting, Sowing, & Selling

Students have collected over 25 species of native prairie flower and grass seeds from our native prairie garden this fall! We also accepted a generous donation of over 50 more species from Linda Walker of Wild Ones.For the first time ever we plan on trying some "winter sowing".  Here's the method we plan on using, although we might also experiment with plastic strawberry containers to see what works best.

These seeds must experience winter in order to geminate so they will be kept in these containers outside starting next week! Feel free to join the Ecology Club on Thursdays in room 302 to help get these planted. Last year we made over $600 with our native plant fundraiser. Let's hope we can make it happen again, this time with our home-grown batch!

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)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Salsa-making Competition 2017

The Ecology Club teamed up with the Latino Club and the CONNECT mentoring program to throw down a bunch of delectable salsa and guacamole concoctions for our annual salsa competition. We pulled fresh herbs and vegetables right out of our school garden located just steps from East's newly remodeled Foods classroom. Fun & tasty annual tradition!  Thanks to Mr. Roubitchek for coming over to judge - tough job.

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.