AUDIENCE QUESTIONS for PETE LEKI from H.e.a.r. Chicago Talk, February 2015

Pete created the Gardens and Ecology Program at Waters Elementary. He offered a poetic description of the Waters program's foundation and growth, accompanied by an evocative montage of photos. 

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Questions about Starting and Maintaining Ecology Programs in CPS
  • What is the way to initiate a project like this today since we're not in a time of possibility like 1990 was?
  • What is a "critical mass" of involved people to keep this going?
  • How can we make the environment a "must have" rather than an "add on"?
  • What advice would you give someone trying to support an environmental ethic at school?
  • How do you carve out time and resources when our schools are increasingly strapped for both on all fronts?
  • What does someone need to know in order to do this in their own neighborhood school?
  • What support or partners would other schools need to transform this way?
  • Did you have to do anything outside the conventional paths to protect your gains at Waters? What were these efforts?What was the most important lesson you learned as you grew? What was the one biggest obstacle?
  • How fantastic would it be if every school had at least one teacher focused on integrating ecology into the curriculum! How can we make that happen?
  • How many schools are there in CPS and how many people (teachers, community members) are there like you?
  • What did it look like (physically, in terms of activities, nature of relationships and collaboration) one year in...two years in...five years in...ten years in?
  • How did you engage very busy, even overwhelmed parents and teachers to build take time and effort to build a community?
  • It's possible to do all this amazing stuff, clearly, because you did it! --but how come more people are not doing it, or are not succeeding?
  • How did teachers help one another (or get help from the outside) in leveraging student benefits to also get academic success from the program?
  • Forging cultural competence: how does it complement conservation?
  • Why didn't the principal want to talk about increasing test scores?
  • Do you get paid--and does it go on without you?
  • Will the work continue without your involvement? If so, how?

Questions about Changing School Culture
  • Garden and field ecology were elements in a whole constellation of change at Waters--what is their special or unique role?
  • What is the role of this work in engaging and empowering immigrant parents (a la Logan Square Neighborhood Association in A Cord of Three Strands)?
  • Who are those active at Waters? Progressive white folks or low-income people of color?
  • Did you get pushback from parents? Teachers?
  • As the school became more positive, functional, performing, did more middle-class families join the community to the detriment of the families who had been there, as has happened at other Chicago schools?
  • What is the current community perception?
Questions about Connecting to the Future
  • Any external or other kinds of evaluation about your journey and its impacts?
  • How important is a "vision" for a different world to the kids?
  • What ways can you connect what happens in your garden to the big broad ecological issues of our times for your community?
  • Is there an environmentally focused high school that Waters graduates are encouraged to attend?
  • What do you think would move your students from getting excited about good and gardens to getting excited about a career?

Questions about Logistics/Further Program Information
  • What about the long winters? Greenhouses? What are some other options for winter?
  • What is your involvement at the school today? How much time did the project take to complete? What does the garden look like today?
  • What were the nuts and bolts of these--did you apply for grants? Have an ally in CPS/City of Chicago?
  • Who keeps the garden going all summer?
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