At AGC we believe it is important for our students to learn about the rich and diverse ecological systems that surrounds us. Thanks to help from a grant, our third graders were recently able to try out their naturalist skills at Bartel Grassland just south of the city. Here are some pictures and an article about the trip. Also, a big thank you to our amazing board committee member, Tina Seaman and Openlands for helping our students have this wonderful learning experience!
Openlands’ Wetlands Restorationists Tour AGC School Group at Bartel Grassland
On May 13th, the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC), a Chicago Public Charter School, took their Third Grade students on a field trip to Bartel Grassland, one of Openlands’ restoration sites near Matteson, Illinois. It was quite a trek for the AGC school group who traveled from the Southwest side of Chicago in search of migratory shorebirds and grassland birds at Bartel Grassland, a Cook County Forest Preserve. Looking out at the 385 acres of Bartel Grassland, it was the first time many of the forty-eight students had ever seen so much natural open space. But they were well prepared for their outdoor adventure thanks to the school’s strong focus on fostering environmental stewardship, both in the classroom and outside. AGC’s quarter-acre schoolyard features raised-bed vegetable and native plant gardens, a green house, a solar panel structure and a chicken coop. Thanks to funding support from the Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grant, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR), AGC was able to take their eco-minded students out to Bartel to experience the natural environment from a new perspective.
During the field trip, the students took a guided-tour of Bartel Grassland with Openlands’ restoration specialists, Joe Roth and Linda Masters, Openlands’ Research Associate, Tina Seaman, and Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) Site Steward and ornithologist, Dick Riner. They were equipped with rubber boots and binoculars before setting out on their expedition to observe the birds at Bartel Grassland, an Audubon Important Bird Area and Illinois Nature Preserve Land and Water Reserve. They enjoyed roaming around the vast open space and getting their feet wet while keeping their eyes peeled for birds. With help from Linda Masters, Openlands’ ecological specialist, the students were able to spot and identify Bobolinks, Redwing Blackbirds, Killdeers, Mallards, a White Egret and a Great Blue Heron. The students kept track of their bird sightings on data forms. They also had a chance to peer into a water valve and monitor the groundwater level as well as see remnant pieces of the clay drainage tiles that are being disabled at Bartel to restore natural habitat and hydrology.
Since 2007, Openlands has been collaborating with the FPDCC, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Audubon and other partners on ongoing restoration work at Bartel Grassland and adjacent Tinley Creek Wetlands. As a result of these efforts, the naturally hydric soil that was drained and farmed as row-crop agriculture in the 1930s is returning to its pre-settlement condition. The students were excited to discover and learn first-hand about the native plant and animal life that is flourishing thanks to these restoration efforts. After concluding the tour, AGC Third Grader, Omar Cruz said, “I would like to come back to Bartel’s wetlands again soon to learn more about the Redwing Blackbird and the Hawk.” We hope Omar and his classmates come back to visit Bartel Grassland and continue to grow their ecological knowledge of the biodiversity there.