A series of field study classes, honors program social media support, and year round, non-wage intern positions in several disciplines resulted when Pat Hayes, site steward from Orland Grassland, reached out to Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, President of Moraine Valley Community College and member of the Conservation and Policy Committee of the Next Century Conservation Plan Commission. The question raised was, “Is there a college partnership opportunity at Orland Grassland for students to participate in broad restoration activity for their learning enrichment and Orland Grassland’s restoration benefit?” After a series of meetings with school staff and other key stakeholders, the answer was a resounding, enthusiastic, “Yes!”
The Moraine Valley Community College Partnership Pilot was born.
All agreed to go slow with hopes of expansion over time. Better to go slow, acquire successes upon which to build, and identify that which can be improved. As a result, a multi-faceted plan emerged…
Field Study: Teachers and students are encouraged to participate in restoration ecology study and participation from the administrative level. Gretchen Bernard, Associate Professor of Biology, brought her Honors Biology class out once a month beginning in February. The first was an orientation and interpretive walk on the seasonal components of restoration activity and winter plant identification. The second was fast track participation with volunteers that included brush clearing and burning, legumes seeding and bird monitoring on the hike back. The third class focused on emerging spring invasives and the impact of invasives on habitat. This teacher is planning to get more of her classes involved next year.
College Social Media Support: The college has a Facebook page for the Honors Program. It was agreed that as students participate in aspects of the plan, their activities and pictures would be posted there. Alicea Toso, Manager of the Honors Program & Curricular Learning Communities, has posted pictures from each class outing on their site.
Interns: The college recognized various kinds of intern positions that would be a valuable experience for the students. To date, non-wage, resume-building positions are posted for 1) steward-shadowing restoration activity, 2) social media building, and 3) GIS activity as wage scouting. Looking forward, class credit opportunity is up to the teacher and it is hoped that this relationship can be developed. The intern positions are posted internally on the college site and may eventually be opened further to the 12-college consortium of which MVCC is a part. The FPCC is supportive with orientation and training resources.
Future hopes: There are two opportunities that we hope to develop as we work through the pilot. One is to develop a model that can be implemented within other community college regions. The other is to expand all segments of the model to other stewarded sites in the area MVCC services, and also throughout their 12-college consortium.
For more details and the latest photos, plus links to much more on Orland Grassland, click here.
—Pat Hayes, Site Steward, Orland Grassland, FPCC