LaGrange Park Jr. High School Helps Implement GO TO 2040
When the village presidents of LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Brookfield, Riverside, and Palos Hills came to visit with Ms. Sydney Schuler's 8th grade STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) class at LaGrange Park Jr. High School in February, they weren't there to talk. They came to listen and learn about the benefits of rooftop gardens, farmers' markets, and talking carrots.
The 167 students in Ms. Schuler's class spent two weeks learning about the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan's recommendations to Promote Sustainable Local Food, culminating in an open house to share their implementation ideas with CMAP Board Chair Mayor Gerald Bennett of Palos Hills, CMAP Board member President Mike Gorman of Riverside, Mayor James Discipio of LaGrange Park, Mayor Elizabeth Asperger of LaGrange, Mayor Michael Garvey of Brookfield, and CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn, as well as family and friends.
After hearing about the GO TO 2040 plan through her work as a docent at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Schuler reached out to Mayor Bennett to see how she could help teach students about the importance of planning for the future. She often bases her two-week lesson plans around a problem that students can solve. For example, the students were given a choice of several different GO TO 2040 recommendations and decided they wanted to help promote sustainable local food.
"I want kids to understand that they can have an impact on their world, on their community," Schuler says.
Ms. Sydney Schuler introduces Mayor Gerald Bennett of Palos Hills (Photos by Lindsay Banks)
First, students learned in class about local food production, then they went home to their pantries to calculate how far food traveled to reach their homes. Once they understood the value of sustainable local food, each student came up with his or her own ways to promote it, from ad campaigns to videos and bulletin boards to raise awareness. Some students plan to dress up like vegetables and hand out flyers about the benefits of local food in downtown LaGrange on a Saturday this spring. Others hope to set up a taste test kiosk so residents could literally taste how much delicious locally grown produce can be when compared to some fruits or vegetables that travel much greater distances.
"I learned we need to find a better way to buy locally and, more importantly, support the local economy and buy local [food]," says Lindsey, a 14-year-old who created a poster to promote local foods. Her classmate Madeline, also 14, said that she and her classmates "are going to be in charge in 2040, so we need to start thinking about how we are going to improve the world." Madeline created a power point presentation to promote community gardens for her project.
Schuler plans to continue this two-week unit in her future STEM classes, and students will have the chance to tackle other GO TO 2040 recommendations. Her spring trimester recently decided to help implement the plan by promoting biking, walking, and taking public transportation. Her classes are planning a Bike-In Day, where students will be encouraged to bike to school.
"I think it's really important to engage the young students in this type of work because GO TO 2040 is about the future, and the future is these kids," said President Gorman.
Mayor Elizabeth Asperger, Village of La Grange and CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn view a student's project.
The LTA home page has details of activities sponsored by the HUD Sustainable Communities grant to CMAP for support of community projects that advance the principles of GO TO 2040. Planning assistance and grants for local projects across metropolitan Chicago are now available through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Community Planning Program and CMAP Local Technical Assistance Program at www.rtachicago.com/applications.
An interactive map of local case studies describes projects and people that exemplify the goals and objectives of GO TO 2040.
CMAP's Local Ordinances and Toolkits program provides resources to municipalities interested in pursuing policies that are aligned with GO TO 2040 recommendations.