Partnership programs enrich
the grassland experience
Partnerships are powerful; they get more and bigger things done than one individual or organization can do alone.
Shrub propagation and nursery pilot program
Collaborators: Victor J. Andrew High School, Tinley Park; Illinois Master Naturalists, University of Illinois Extension; Forest Preserves of Cook County; and Orland Grassland Volunteers.
This project began when Laura Kirby, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Victor J. Andrew (VJA) High School, contacted Pat Hayes, Orland Grassland Site Steward, seeking ideas for a project for her students. Almost at the same time, Annette Pletcher, an Orland Grassland volunteer and Illinois Master Naturalist (ILMN), asked Pat to suggest a project for ILMNs at Orland Grassland.
Brigit Anne Holt, Extension Program Coordinator, Master Naturalists, University of Illinois Extension, provided a boost. Brigit was asked, “Is it possible to take cuttings of our native American Plum and Hazelnut shrubs, and possibly others, so VJA students can plant them?” Yes! What a great project!
The ILMN core team consisted of Brigit, Anette, and Pat; Jerry Hossli, Sr. Master Naturalist; and Dan Pletcher and Marnie Baker, grassland volunteers. Brigit and Jerry enlisted the help of other ILMNs to help take American plum cuttings at the grassland in early March 2016, to give them time to root. They took their cuttings back home and nurtured them. Some made it, most didn’t.
In the meantime, Pat reached out to the FPCC for support. Dan Spencer, the FPCC ecologist for Orland Grassland, not only approved the project but helped out on planting day. FPCC Volunteer Resources supplied metal caging material, stakes, strapping, and tools, and Genevieve Nano also came out for the day to help.
Resource Maintenance Tinley Supervisor Joe Pellegrino and two of his staff, Barry Nelson and Ed Sullivan, drove in with two pick-up trucks to help transport all the equipment that had collected in Pat’s garage: VRC metal mesh, borrowed shovels, OGV tools, wagons, rolling coolers for water transport, and even a soup pot to measure one gallon of water to pour on each plant.
The original plan called for Hazelnut shoots with root cuttings to be taken by the ILMNs early on planting day, May 5. (Hazelnuts don’t root well from branch cuttings.) Since the survival rate was not good on the plums, plum cuttings were taken again that morning. (Next year, plum cuttings will be taken in fall.) We knew from a trial the year before that plum cuttings planted directly into the soil flourished the following year.
Planting day was a huge success. The northeast corner of the grassland now is home to a shrub nursery. On a follow-up visit in September, volunteers discovered which saplings survived the summer.
MVCC students spot a birds' nest in a Bur Oak.
MVCC Honors Biology students spread legume seeds at the grassland on a cloudy day in March 2016.
On their third field study trip in April 2016, MVCC biology students watch the birdies at the grasslands
"Never doubt that
a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing
that ever has."
Moraine Valley Community College Partnership Pilot Project
Collaborators: Moraine Valley Community College Dean of Science, Business and Computer Technology, Center for Sustainability, Internship Program, Honors Program, Curricular Learning Communities; and Biology faculty; Orland Grassland Volunteers; Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Plans for a series of field study classes, honors program social media support, and year-round, non-paid internships in several disciplines took shape when Pat Hayes, Orland Grassland site steward, reached out to Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, President of MVCC and member of the Conservation and Policy Committee of the Next Century Conservation Plan Commission. Pat wondered whether there was a partnership opportunity for MVCC students to participate in broad restoration activity to enrich and extend their learning while benefiting the grassland. Dr. Jenkins' answer was a resounding, enthusiastic, “Yes!”
A 90-minute meeting in Fall 2015 involved Dr. Jenkins, Pat, the Dean of Science, Business and Computer Technology and the Manager of the Center for Sustainability. The MVCC administrators then met internally with key stakeholders. A subsequent third meeting brought together Pat, and an expanded group that included MVCC's Internship Manager; Manager, Honors Program and Curricular Learning Communities; and two members of the Biology faculty. At the same time, Pat reached out to steward colleagues and partner groups and found enthusiastic support from them.
All agreed to go slow, hoping for expansion over time. Slow growth enables acquiring successes upon which to build and identifying elements which can be improved. A multi-faceted plan emerged:
Field Study: MVCC is encouraging faculty and students to undertake restoration ecology study and participation. The first of three field study classes, led by Gretchen Bernard, associate profesor of biology, convened at the grassland in February 2016.
College Social Media Support: MVCC's Honors Program has a Facebook page; as students participate in aspects of the partnership plan, their activities and pictures will be posted there. Alicea Toso, Manager of the Honors Program & Curricular Learning Communities, already has posted photographs from each class outing on their site.
Interns: Internships provide valuable experience for the students. To date, unpaid, résumé-building positions related to the grassland are posted for steward-shadowing restoration activity, social media building, GIS activity. Awarding class credit for grassland-based student projects is up to the teacher; hopefully, this relationship can be developed.
Internship oppportinites are posted internally on the college site and eventually may be shared throughout the 12-college consortium of which MVCC is a member.The FPDCC will support interns with orientation and training resources.
We hope to develop two opportunities as we work through the pilot. One is to develop a model that can be implemented by other community college districts. The other is to expand all segments of the model to other stewarded FPCC sites in the MVCC district, and also throughout the 12-college consortium.