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Ecology Club unveils new pocket prairie at West Leyden

Students gardening
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On Monday, April 22, Leyden’s Ecology Club unveiled and planted their new pocket prairie outside the greenhouse at West Leyden High School. State Representative Norma Hernandez and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Eira Corral Sepulveda were in attendance and helped with planting, while they discussed local environmental issues. 

“This project has been in the works for almost a year, and so this is an exciting moment for our students and school community. We were happy for the opportunity to start this prairie in honor of this year’s Earth Day,” said Science Teacher Dr. Todd Veltman. 

Students began the project at the start of the school year by presenting their plan to West Leyden Principal Dr. Arturo Senteno for consideration. After receiving approval, students worked to raise funds to purchase the plants and coordinate with the building and grounds team to prepare the site for the new prairie. The goal of the prairie is to provide a space for environmental and biology classes to engage in science, for local wildlife to enjoy, and for the art/photography classes to use an outdoor studio.

“Ecology club initially began as just a place for us to enjoy nature - We would go on nature walks behind our school and see what we could using binoculars,” said student Javier Gomez. “However, we wanted something on a bit of a larger scale and so the prairie project came to fruition because of our passion to help the environment while also wanting to increase involvement here at Leyden. Gomez continued, “We couldn't be happier with how everything turned out and are so glad the Leyden community has taken such an interest in our club and prairie.”

The Leyden Ecology Club works to deepen student's appreciation of the local environment and help with local ecological projects. They take regular nature walks through the neighborhood and have documented approximately 50 bird species this year within a half mile of school property including a black crowned night heron which is on the state endangered list. The club has also helped the Cook County Forest Preserve collect seeds at the Silver Creek Prairie for its preservation work.

"I am incredibly thankful for the participation of many Leyden Ecology Club students, and for the offices of Norma Hernandez and Eira Corral Sepulveda in helping to raise awareness for the restoration of the Illinois natural environment and ecosystem,” said student Liam Fazzi.