Imagine a place to sit and write about your experience in a prairie; the Big Bluestem and Shooting Star, Common Mountain Mint and Culver’s Root, Asclepias tuberosa, known as Prairie Milkweed, which is the plant monarch butterflies need to lay their eggs. Imagine a place to sit and draw a monarch flitting about, searching for nectar or warming in the sun. Imagine identifying insects teeming in prairie plants. Imagine this place. A simple log and a sundial measuring the passage of time, all centered along a busy street with airplanes overhead and school bells ringing. Imagine a quiet respite as you experience the once great prairies that covered much of the midwestern United States.
I told you a little bit about the Churchville Middle School’s Diversity and Prairie Gardens earlier this week when I spoke about our garden club’s meeting. This morning, I had the opportunity to see it as part of a dedication/ribbon cutting ceremony at the school. It was rewarding to hear those involved, from the writing of the grant to its being awarded and the actual work that was done. I was impressed by the circle of supporters that included school and park district, forestry district, foundations, faculty, parents, our garden club and especially students involved in this project aimed at moving children “toward environmental citizenship”.
The log above is part of the diversity garden, which is near the schoolyard prairie. It was provided by the park district and is one of several forming a circle providing places to sit. A sundial will be its centerpiece, its base constructed by industrial arts students. It was amazing as we all filtered from inside the school to the diversity garden, the skies heavy and threatening rain, the students walking with a purpose toward the logs where they promptly sat. It struck me that the students from Churchville have already claimed the space as theirs. Some of these youngsters have already moved toward environmental citizenship.
Illinois is known as the “prairie state”, and for good reason. Before settlers to the area, there were some 22 million acres of native plants. Only 2,00o acres remain today. This little prairie is to me a living, moving, breathtaking outdoor museum and classroom. I was impressed to learn that more than 50 species are catalogued here, with many more not yet recorded. What a remarkable environment this already is for not only students here and now, but those to come.
Imagine. Nestled in a bustling area of traffic and noise and busyness, sits a little bit of Illinois prairie and a center for honoring our diverse populations. Adults who care and children who have an opportunity to learn and grow in a simple way surrounded by a complex world.