The School’s Educational Philosophy
The Fox River Country Day School is an independent day a boarding school for preschool to grade eighth grade. The school prides itself on educating the whole child through a values-based curriculum conducted in a home-like environment combining academic excellence with individual character development. As educators, it is imperative that we foster the child’s best nature in an environment that enables them to develop an appreciation, understanding, and relationship with the world around them.
The school campus rests on 52 acres, housing communities such as the oak savannah containing bur oaks, some over 200 years old. Two other communities are the calcareous seep and the forested fen, both rare wetlands housing rare and endangered species in the state of Illinois. Eight of the remaining seventeen acres of Forested Fen in Illinois reside on the school's hillside. Half of the campus was dedicated as a Natural Heritage Landmark in 1989 to protect these rare treasures, and a campus naturalist runs the Environmental Education Program, managing the property, as well as teaching students the values of nature through fostering an appreciation, understanding, and relationship with the environment.
The prairie restoration project will be an education example of how a community can think globally and act locally. The prairie is being installed for the primary purpose of creating a living classroom for the discovery of all ages. All efforts involved in creating and maintaining the prairie will be conducted by students or family volunteers. An educational display will be erected for viewers to learn about the prairie’s ongoing value to our community. The prairie will be installed in the spring of 2008 and will meet the following goals.
- Be an Accessible Living Classroom
- Classify as a Rain Garden
- Restore a Natural Habitat
- Reduce Carbon Dioxide
- Be a Model for Change
Achieving the Goals
The living classroom will be achieved through planting the prairie in a highly visited location, and through conducting the following tasks. These tasks will include researching native plants and animal habitat, purchasing plants, collecting seeds, preparing the grounds, preparing a class walking trail, planting and sowing seeds, designing an education display, and maintaining prairie community.
The prairie would also be considered a rain garden, since it will filter runoff into the ground from a parking lot and roadway. The location of the prairie in this area will improve water quality for the endangered fen wetland reliant on groundwater starting from the upland regions of campus. Rain gardens maximize the infiltrating and intake of water due to a massive root system that is on average ten times that of common turf.
The prairie is a native habitat that provides the most historically accurate environment in this area of campus. It will restore organisms to once again coexist in an area similar to how they did prior to European settlement. Arial pictures from 1933, neighboring preserves, and botanists were consulted in order to identify this area where there were previously prairie species. Despite the mental and physical benefits of a natural setting, over 300 species of plants and animals are found in prairies. Illinois has lost 99.5% of its native prairies.
Reduce Carbon Dioxide:
Prairies help solve the unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide in the air by efficiently sequestering the gas out of the atmosphere and into the ground. The deep root systems of prairie plants are continuously dieing and regenerating, which over time rates their intake of carbon dioxide out of the air better than rates of a forest of the same size in this region.
Model for Change:
The prairie will show the community an ease that they too can be advocates for rain gardens and native habitats. Prominent members of the town and city of Chicago are aware of this project, and there is reason to believe that the press will advocate this prairie as an example to the community. Also, the prairie plants will consist of a pathway through 60% grasses and 40% forbs, providing and aesthetic field for everyone enjoy.
November 2007: Students collect seed in the school's 25-acre Natural Heritage Landmark
December 2007: Students clean and store seeds
February 2008: Students begin researching native plants and animal habitats
March 2008: Students select the quantity and placement of plant plugs to be purchased
March 2008: Students rake the grounds, create a walking path, and prepare the soil
April 2008: Students purchase prairie plugs containing the local geno type from a local nursery
April 2008: Students and community volunteers plant prairie plugs and collected seeds,
May – June 2008: Students create educational design
June 2008: Educational display is erected and maintaining the prairie begins
Materials and Costs
Rakes: No Cost
Prairie Seeds: No Cost
Mulch: No Cost
Educational Display: $500
Prairie Plugs: $2,000
The completion of this project will be keeping in stride with past successes of the Fox River Country Day School’s Environmental Education Program. The community is committed to the long-term restoration of their environment since1969. Since this time, restoration projects have been ongoing. In 1989, the school committed 25 acres to become a Natural Heritage Landmark and at the same time a full time naturalist has been on staff managing the land and teaching every student an environmental education curriculum year around. The prairie restoration project continues the success of the school by supporting the school's educational philosophy, environment, and creating an educational vehicle for others to develop a lasting kinship with a healthy community and the world around them.