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CEEP Newsletter: Winter 2013

The Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP) is a part of Environment, Culture, and Conservation (ECCo), a Division of Science at The Field Museum.

Photo: Lisa See Kim

Dear CEEP teachers and friends,

We hope you’ll enjoy this winter edition of the quarterly CEEP e-newsletter. Here you’ll find Signs of the Season, Earth Force Youth: Community Change Makers, Workshops and Events, and Classroom and Educator Resources, and General Program Updates.

With your support, our programs have grown this school year to include over 3,400 students and 128 teachers in Chicago and northwest Indiana! Programs such as Mighty Acorns, Earth Force, and CIMBY would not be possible if it wasn’t for your support, hard work and dedication. Thank you for your work and we look forward to seeing you and your students out this winter and spring.


Alison, Laura, Angie, Jessica, and Betsy

Photo: Bob Fila

Signs of the Season

Keep your eyes and senses open this time of year for:
  • Squirrel nests in the trees overhead, praying mantis egg cases near the ground, goldenrod galls in the prairie, and shelf mushrooms on logs and trees all around!

  • Birds! Including flocks of overwintering birds, bald eagles rebuilding nests, owls calling in the forest, and birds of prey like kestrels hunting for prey.

Photo: Angie Viands

Earth Force Youth—Community Change Makers

“I like getting my hands dirty to help the community and make a garden” said Jaime Sandoval, a 7th grader at Arnold Mireles Academy, to explain why he participates at the Exchange Street Garden. The amazing work that youth at Arnold Mireles Academy have been involved in to turn an underutilized flower garden into a vibrant vegetable garden is just one example of all inspiring work Earth Force students are doing throughout the region.

LaJuana Jackson, teacher and coordinator of the after school Green Team, has been leading Arnold Mireles Academy youth in a variety of projects, from planting native plant gardens to creating and distributing green cleaning agents. During the past several years, her group worked with the organizations Centro Comunitario Juan Diego and NeighborSpace to create a community vegetable garden to supply fresh food for residents of the neighborhood and a local food pantry. Learn more about their work on the Exchange Street Garden by watching this short video.

The Field Museum’s Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP) engages 7th and 8th grade students in community environmental action in the Calumet region via their partnership with the national non-profit Earth Force. Earth Force engages young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future. Since 2002, CEEP has been training teachers in the Earth Force six-step problem solving process and supporting classrooms by connecting them with Field Museum scientists and professionals working on environmental issues in Chicago’s Calumet region. By increasing knowledge around local environmental issues and taking learning outside the boundaries of the classroom walls, we’ve fostered a connection to the Calumet region and encouraged youth civic participation.

Thirteen groups are currently working on Earth Force action projects with a few more likely to join soon. Their work will be on display at the Environmental Leadership Summit at The Field Museum scheduled for Friday May 31st. 

Watch this short video shot at last year’s Ford Environmental Student Summit to learn more about the summit and hear youth speak about their experience in the program.

To learn more about Earth Force visit at The Field Museum visit

Photo: Laura Milkert


Photo: Laura Milkert

Workshops and Events

Looking for educator events, opportunities for your students and/or training on curricula that gets your students outside exploring nature this winter season?

  • Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest provides young people with an opportunity to learn about endangered species and express their knowledge and support through artwork. Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2013. For complete contest requirements check out,
  • Chicago Wilderness Wild Things Conference is a day of inspiration, education and connection.  Join the 1200 kindred spirits of naturalists, scientists, educators and community leaders as they present and discuss their work, findings and questions at the Wild Things conference on February 2 at UIC—on-site registration is available. Learn more
  • Tracks, Scats and Habitats, an Entice Workshop at Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook, February 9, 2013 from 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Join us in this exploration of animal signs and how they relate to habitats. We'll show you how to incorporate the topic into your lessons and provide resources to help you do so. Although targeted to preK-6 grade teachers, other educators are welcome but may need to adapt the materials as appropriate. CPDUs available. Registration closes at 8am on Thursday, January 31st. Make sure to register for this workshop!
  • Field Museum Film: Join us at The Field Museum for a showing of the film “Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh” on February 26th at 5:30pm.  Less than 50 miles south of Chicago sits is the site of the Grand Kankakee Marsh or what was also known as the “Everglades of the North” - one of the largest wetlands in North America. With interlocking wetlands, prairies, savannas and woodlands it was home to some of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet. Come learn about its complex and biodiverse history as well as learn from a panel of experts on the Kankakee region. February 26th at The Field Museum, West door 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.  Doors open: 5:30pm Film: 6:00 pm.

Photo: Laura Milkert


Photo: Lisa See Kim

Classroom and Educator Resources

Looking for natural science resources for your classroom this winter? Check out the following links for easy-to-use classroom tools:

  • Take the Field Museum with you! The N.W. Harris Learning Collection at The Field Museum gives educators the chance to take the Museum’s collection to their classroom. Use materials from the learning collection to engage students in scientific practices, develop critical thinking skills, and pique curiosity about Earth’s natural and cultural diversity. With over 400 unique Exhibit Cases (mini-dioramas) and 70 Experience Boxes (hands-on kits) to borrow, your options are endless!
  • Looking for a fun way to incorporate nature into history and social studies lessons? Take a look at the 11-modula, standards aligned, middle school curriculum If Trees Could Talkproduced by The Forest History Society.
  • Tree identification can be a fun and challenging activity for students during the winter season. Check out the IDNR Illinois Trees Agency Resourceson local tree species.
  • Interested in empowering your students to explore their neighborhood? Check out What’s Good in My Hood? This 5 unit workbook leads students through an investigation of what is and what is not good in their neighborhood and how it affects the food, water, and shelter sources they depend on. 
  • Online interactive activities for teachers: Check out various interactive online activities and lesson plans for K-12th grade teachers in natural science and other subjects provided by PBS:
  • Get Dressed for Winter: Preparing your students for outdoor exploration in the winter can be a chilly task. Here is a video, Get Dressed for Winter, with tips on how to properly dress children for the outdoors during cold weather. 
  • Why are you going outside in winter? Want to make the case to your school principal or other administrator of the learning benefits associated with outdoor educational activities for your students? Take a look at the article Classroom without walls: Outdoor education is an old concept that some say needs a grand revival by the Vermont Burlington Free Press.

© The Field Museum


Photo: Lisa See Kim


Photo: Laura Milkert

General Updates

  • Message from The Field Museum President:
    "Since becoming The Field Museum President in September 2012, I am impressed by the work of teachers who help bring The Field Museum to life for their students. With your help, our Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP) helps turn science into action for students by providing hands-on learning experiences and getting kids excited about nature in their own back yards. Your work helping students take care of local natural area assets and the Calumet region’s important biodiversity is inspiring and has an important impact on local natural areas as well as student skills and content knowledge."

    Richard Lariviere, President of The Field Museum
  • CEEP launches a 2nd and 3rd Grade Pilot Program: This school year six 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms are participating in the newly designed Leave No Child Inside Pilot Program. This program aims to get students outdoors and excited about learning about natural science in their own neighborhood by exploring the plants and animals in their neighborhoods. Please contact Alison Paul at if interested in being included in future programming for early elementary aged students.
  • Mighty Acorns teacher featured on Chicago Wilderness Blog:  Check out an interview with 4th grade teacher, Angel Avalos of Gallistel Language Academy, who was recently featured on the Chicago Wilderness blog for his continued work to get his students outside and learning about nature.
  • Staff changes: This past fall Jessica Cañas joined the CEEP team as the Urban Conservation Educator in charge of the Mighty Acorns program and Ford Environmental Leadership Internship summer program for high school students. Jessica’s skills and experience are a great addition to the CEEP team—from her community organizing and educator skills that were sharpened while working on Chicago’s south east side with the South East Environmental Task Force to her time working in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer where she worked with the Municipal Environment Unit, coordinated a women’s group and started a girl’s soccer team. Jessica is a familiar face around the Field Museum, having first worked with us while in high school as a Biodiversity Explorer and we’re happy to have her back and working with our student programs.

    Alison Paul, who formerly worked with our Ford Environmental Leadership Internship and the Mighty Acorns program, took on the management of the CEEP team in mid-October. 


Mighty Acorns
Jessica Cañas, Chicago

Betsy Quail, Northwest Indiana

Earth Force
Angie Viands

Laura Milkert

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See past CEEP newsletters