Earth-friendly fun

A new after-school program encourages students to learn about the environment

"I think teaching our children to be environmentally conscious is so critically important," says Chicago Public School CEO Arne Duncan. "It's going to take a new generation of leadership to step up and really do the right thing. Those skills, habits and values are probably harder to learn later in life."

The Chicago Department of Environment is sponsoring 19 high schools and three elementary schools in the city to teach students about the environment over three quarters devoted to land, water and air. The program will run through the end of the school year.

According to the Department of Environment spokeswoman Sarah Beazley, the pilot program will encourage students to create action plans to make their community more environmentally friendly. Among other group projects, students will study the impact of emissions from idling school buses and how to divert storm runoff to water plants.

As part of the program, Pete Leki, the ecology program coordinator at Thomas H. Waters Elementary School in Chicago, plans to have his pupils create sculptures of human figures holding water jugs out of recycled materials. These sculptures will then be placed around the fieldhouse to collect rain water for storage and use in the fine arts and performance magnet school's acre-sized garden.

"The garden is their laboratory," he says. "We work to teach (pupils) ecology and nature through the arts."

In a statement about the program, Duncan says that this shows the importance of after-school activities in all schools.

"They give students an opportunity to apply some of the knowledge they learn during the school day, and hopefully enjoy themselves doing it," he says.

For more information, visit the Chicago Public Schools' Web site at

Colleen Freyvogel, Medill News Service



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