Our Active Demonstration Site: O’Keeffe Garden
O’Keeffe Garden Sustains the Community; MELA Promotes Virtual Learning
Gardening is changing the lives of teens on the Southside. MELA members are engaged in virtual learning about sustainability on this website. And MELA members will gather at the Morton Arboretum for the first time for their 2011 conference on February 17.
All of these items made news at the Annual Members’ Meeting September 15 at Cantigny Gardens.
Featured speaker Emily Kenny, science teacher at O’Keeffe School at 70th and Merrill, spoke about the development of the garden and how it has engaged the teens who formerly had little to do and no opportunity to interact with nature on a daily basis.
“We cannot tell you what a difference this garden has made to the lives of students and to the entire neighborhood,” Kenny said. “The kids protect this space and are dedicated to it.” They have learned about sustainability in nature, she said, as well as teamwork and community.
The city lot, owned by Neighbor Space, has been the garden for eighth grade students at the school for several years. The students maintain it year round under the guidance of Ms. Kenny.
In recent years, the garden had become overrun with weeds in spite of the students' effort to keep it maintained. Knowing of MELA's interest in creating a sustainable site, Neighbor Space Executive Director Ben Helphand suggested the collaboration with O’Keeffe.
The site now includes raised vegetable beds, a butterfly garden, a memorial garden to a student who was murdered in 2006, garden art, benches, and tables for the students and neighbors to play games. To learn about the sustainable practices utilized in this garden, click here.
Guidance for this project was provided by Lynn Bement, The Organic Garden Coach, Pam Wirtz, Grace Landscaping, and Grace Koehler, Pizzo & Associates. Many MELA members contributed, including: Midwest Trading Horticultural Supplies, Midwest Groundcovers, Lurvey’s, Care of Trees, and The Mike Nowak Radio Show.
The project is funded in part by a grant from The City of Chicago Department of the Environment.