A combined field/road trip took 54 Roosevelt Middle School eighth-graders on a journey last month to see, firsthand, sustainability in action in River Forest.

Several stops highlighted how residents, government and local businesses use environmental practices as much as possible. The tour, part of a week-long focus on sustainability for some of the eighth-graders, was also to inform them of the many options they can bring into their homes.

Students walked through the Crothers-Gee home to see how a 9,000-gallon water tank captures rainwater for irrigation, learned out about worm composting and beekeeping and sampled mint from their garden.

The stroll took them to the village’s west commuter parking lot at Thatcher and Central avenues where Kathleen Brennan, chairman of the River Forest Sustainability Commission, explained the importance of using permeable pavers to keep storm water out of the village’s sewer system.

Some students marveled at an LED light, which brightens the roadways and uses less energy.

“This is pretty cool,” said Billy Foley, as he touched the light to get an idea of how hot it was.

Julie Moller, who is also on the commission, urged students to plant milkweed and other native plants to attract butterflies.

The tour also took them to River Forest Village Hall, where Village Administrator Eric Palm told students that they could recycle their batteries and prescription drugs there. He also talked about the village’s curbside recycling program.

Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, where a pet chicken roamed the floors, pecking at the ground and the students’ shoelaces, was the last stop.

Jack Dalton, who will attend Fenwick High School in the fall, and John Lee, who will go to Oak Park and River Forest High School, liked the water tank.

“I liked how they reused the rainwater for sprinkling their garden. I never thought of that. It’s pretty cool,” Dalton said.

Dalton found the entire day interesting.

“Everything really works together. I didn’t know anything about sustainability. Now I do,” he said.

Last month, youngsters in the sustainability group also visited Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, perhaps the first sustainable planned community in the nation. They took a hayride around the property, learned about crop rotations and could use a compostable toilet, said Anna Daly, who teaches academic strategies in the special education department. The other two teachers engaged in the effort are Louisa Starr in humanities and Edgar Roman in math.

Sustainability was only one of four topics that Roosevelt students could engage in during “Compassion Counts,” a week-long service effort that focused on research, experience and service.

Other topics included accessible parks and playgrounds, which would make areas more available to students of special needs; teaching students to turn ideas into meaningful action on social, political or economic matters; and focusing on the importance and impact of human society on local ecosystems and resources.

Students selected their topics based on interest. During the last week of school teams of three students presented their projects to their classmates.

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