Thursday, January 20, 2011

Southeast CPS Students Restoring Lake Calumet Forests and Wetlands

The CPS Service Learning Initiative is proud to be a long-time partner of the Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Project. You may not have heard of it before now, but CIMBY carries the distinction of being one of the oldest environmental service-learning projects in the City of Chicago. It started small, back in 1998, by helping three southeast side high schools adopt natural areas in Chicago’s Calumet region where they performed cleanups and ecological restoration to improve the health of the native ecosystems. Now, CIMBY boasts the participation of students and teachers from 11 Chicago Public Schools high schools, who are working at 10 natural areas in Calumet!

CIMBY’s mission is to help strengthen and connect the human and natural communities on Chicago’s South Side by engaging high school students in ecological stewardship and locally-focused, real-world environmental science education – not only in the field, but also in the classroom and through a series of five annual in-depth workshops that bring together students from all participating CIMBY schools. CIMBY also places more than a dozen students each year in paid summer internships with local environmental organizations.

CIMBY’s 11 high schools have all put in at least one fall workday at their adopted site, where they have performed a range of tasks including cutting down invasive shrubs with hand saws and loppers, collecting and spreading native seed and collecting data on the health of the site’s plant communities. A few of them got to catch frogs or see white-tailed deer for the first time. And many of them roasted marshmallows over their brush pile fires! Most of the schools will make two or three more visits over the course of the winter and spring of 2011, for a total of about 500 students contributing more than 3,000 hours of service to advancing the health of Chicago’s small but unique patches of rare and wonderful nature.

If you happen to be out at your favorite south Chicago forest preserve or other natural area this winter or spring and see a group of determined-looking high school students chopping away at brush, you’re probably witnessing CIMBY in action. If you have time, stop and ask them to tell you about the work they’re doing. They’ll probably be thrilled to teach you about a couple of the invasive species they’re tackling. And let them know you – and mother nature – appreciate their hard work.

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