Education for (Environmental) Liberation

This blog post, written by Chicago Program Leader Nell Seggerson, is cross-posted from

In this blog, I’m going to attempt to pack the two things I think about all the time into one tidy package about the future of our communities: schools and climate change.

A motto we use (not very much but enough that I’m going to say it’s our motto) here in Chicago is “A school in every neighborhood, a garden in every yard”.


We’ve been talking about the connection between the education system and sustainable community transitions for awhile now and it makes sense to us that we should be working with schools, but mostly because schools are a resource to get more kids involved, not because we recognized why the schools need us. But as times in education shift, it’s becoming more clear why schools and community-based environmental groups need each other.

In Chicago right now, we’re in the midst of a battle for public education. It’s the modern apparatus of a 200 year movement for public education that includes the fight of slaves teaching their children to read and black organizers building freedom schools during the Civil Rights movement. But now, as the bloody hand of neoliberalism claws at one of the city’s (and country’s) last remaining public institutions the ground is being laid for a huge community uprising.

In March, the Chicago Board of  Education will release its list of school closings. So far there have only been rumors and small leaks from the Mayor’s office, but predicted numbers have been around 100 schools.

WOW! Continue reading

LETS GO Chicago announces Summer of Solutions 2013

Cross-posted from

A stiff breeze off the lakefront may have chilled our vegetation until the spring, but
an exciting fervor for planting and growing has been brewing in our solutionary
meetings with new and evolving plans for the future!

Our three main programs have reaped great success and lessons for us this past


Students showing off pickles made in the fall children’s garden class

The children’s garden remains an active staple in the ‘playground’ of LETS GO
Chicago. We maintain a fruitful partnership with the United Church of Rogers Park to help elementary school students to dig in and learn in our victory garden. Their textbooks are the raised beds in front of Koinonia house, an intentional community that is part of our home base, where they learn to identify, cultivate, know and love the land. This summer was jam packed with all kinds of fun games and activities with new kids and instructors. This fall we continued the fun pickling cucumbers and painting pumpkins ahead of the first frost. Just like perennials, the children’s garden will blossom once again in the Spring bringing with it new adventures and lessons. Continue reading

Through the lens of a Yard Sharer… Food, fire, magic, and community: Our work on reclaiming Place

Cross-posted from

By Molly Costello

With the arrival of November and all its triumphant color, calm, and hints of frost, so comes the end of our second season as Yard Sharers. We celebrated the closing of another beautiful growing season with a bonfire, soup, and hot chocolate at our friend and land lender Bob’s house. This year we were able to expand our Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network from 1 to 6 back yards and expand our gardener population from one learning program (us) to around 25 new growers.

But as things wind down in our gardens, our work on the network picks up inside! To date, we have spent most of our yard share work time outside building and maintaining the network’s material infrastructure. In line with our vision of making this network flourish and grow, however, we understand our need to develop more of the organizational elements of the network. Therefore, Nell and I have been busy working on financial goals and re-writing land-use-agreements in hope to have a sound model to share with new Summer of Solutions programs come January. Continue reading

Garden News

Cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.orgThe Eye of the Storm

With the end of the summer coming into view, our seedlings are long gone and the harvest is nearly here. The garden is full of life, and this week we’ll be completing this summer’s planned gardens. We’re currently tearing up the grass on a front lawn on the 6700 block of Ashland, so if anybody has seen the construction, yep, that’s us.

Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy garden, and we’re happy to see all manner of bugs and beetles all over the place, fighting it out to make sure nobody gets to sit around and eat the produce. We haven’t yet figured out how to keep yellow finches off of the rainbow chard, and we certainly didn’t expect to find this:

Bunny City

At least three baby bunnies have been sighted in our ‘home base’ Bosworth backyard garden, and they’re almost too cute to consider them a pest.

We’re also learning how to put new things together outside of the garden, and in the last couple of weeks we’ve built sub-irrigated planters, swales, cold frames, A-frame levels, worm compost set-ups, and reclaimed lumber raised beds. We’ve learned how to save seeds, mulch with weeds, and dumpster dive both food and materials. Maybe the most spectacular, though, was last week’s paper-making workshop:

Once a Pulp, Always a Pulp

This week we’re learning about bee keeping, so stick around for the inside scoop!

Water week in Chicago

Greetings from Chicago, fellow Solutionaries! The following is cross-posted from After Middleton’s post below, it seems there is a water conscious trend happening here in the Midwest. We are glad to be a part of it! Read on to learn about our take on water awareness and water conservation.

Molly and children in the garden during water week

The week of July 9, which focused on water issues, was so busy we didn’t have time for a mid-week blog post, but we have plenty of water-themed stories to tell. We kicked off the week by watching a documentary called Flow: For Love of Water on Monday. It’s about issues of clean water scarcity, and how the privatization of clean water sources by big business is hurting our communities and forcing people to suffer. It was shocking to see such a phenomenon taking place, but it energized our discussion of global water issues, and inspired us with stories of how communities have successfully fought for their right to clean water.

Participants showing off their complete sub-irrigated planter (SIP)

We continued to work with water Tuesday by making rain barrels out of materials that we purchased at the hardware store for about thirty bucks per unit, using large plastic trash cans. It was great fun using power tools, teflon tape, and various brass doodads to make a functional and highly economical water management solution that any home owner could easily accomplish. On Wednesday, we also made sub-irrigated planters from discarded 5-gallon pickle buckets that would have ended up in the city landfill. Instead, using pieces of copper pipe and a homemade soil mixture, we created cheap, highly efficient devices for growing huge tomato plants with minimal water usage! Check out the link to learn more about SIPs and the great work of Green Roof Growers.

Aquaponics Facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School

One of our Solutionaries, Anna Greenberg, shares responsibility for maintaining a small greenhouse and aquaponics facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School, where she is entering her senior year. Our team visited her school on Thursday, where she gave us a tour of the project and put us to work on everything from rotating compost to testing the chemical concentrations in the fish tank. It was a great hands-on learning experience to work on an aquaponics system which both produces perch, a delicious edible fish, and sustains a large number of useful plants.

Volunteering at the Center for Neighborhood Technology

We took another field trip Friday to the new CNT-Energy headquarters in Chicago, where we worked on their rain garden, which is centered around a massive elm tree. It’s a beautiful sight in the middle of the city, standing starkly between the office buildings on either side, and it soaks up plenty of excess rainwater, but the downside is the multitude of tiny elm saplings that need to be pulled out by hand.

After a couple of hours working and learning about their plants, we took a tour of the facility, which is still in the earliest stages of sustainable retrofitting but already buzzing with activity. Then we enjoyed a pizza lunch and a presentation from our partner in landscape architecture, the incredible Alexia Paul, who spoke to us about stormwater management issues in Chicago (especially relevant given the downpour that shortly followed – see her video of the rain garden in action here).

Moving dirt for the construction of our French drain

Overall, we had a fantastic week of learning and getting things done. My project team, which focuses on green infrastructure, finally completed the French Drain component of our first rain garden contract! We finished right on schedule despite the unbelievable challenges we faced, and I could not be more proud of our Solutionaries. Look out for an upcoming post all about our project (with lots of pictures)!


A Cartoon of Gratitude

Cross-posted from

Greetings Family and Friends!

It’s hard for us to believe that just a few short weeks ago we were in the midst of a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 for the Rogers Park Yard-Share Network.  With less than a week till the summer program starts, we want to stop and take some time to thank all of you for your support.

Your generosity helped us move beyond the stress of fundraising:

To the excitement of success and program launch:

And now because of your support, soon Rogers Park will look like this: Continue reading

Double your support for Neighborhood Yard Sharing!

UPDATE: As of 12:14PM today, we have raised a total of $4,079 to go toward building Chicago’s first yard sharing network! Thank you to everyone who helped us meet our goal! We cannot explain how excited we are to make this network happen and there is no way we could have done it without your support!

The fundraising window is still open through Friday at 10:42 AM CDT. All donations above the $4,000 mark will go toward making our gardens even more fun, inclusive, and community centered!  See our update about this on our Kickstarter page here. The original post continues below. Continue reading