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Each fall and spring The Dewey School Roots and Shoots Peaceweavers conduct a cleanup at a local Lake Michigan beach. Since much of the focus of our group's work is on water health and conservation, we feel it's important to do what we can to keep even a small portion of our coastline clean and safe. During our cleanups we (third to fifth graders plus parents and a teacher leader) collect trash and separate out recyclables. We find lots of food wrappers, broken glass and assorted pieces of trash. But most of all we find CIGARETTE BUTTS. At each cleanup we collect about 60 pounds of trash and 5-10 pounds of recyclables. We also test water quality and our results show that it's of moderately good quality. After each cleanup we send our data to the Great Lakes Coalition. Over the past year, we've noticed something disturbing: the beach seems to be getting bigger, a sad result of a drop in water levels in Lake Michigan. Our beach cleanups are among our most popular group activities. We all love being outside by our beautiful lake, and it fills everyone with a sense of accomplishment to see our full trash bags at the end of the morning.
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Our office R&S group organized a team of walkers for the Fannie Mae Foundation's annual "Help the Homeless" Walkathon. We participated in the walk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and allocated all of our funds to go to the Homeless Children's Playtime Project, which provides D.C.'s homeless children with emergency services, as well as weekly activities, healthy snacks and opportunities for play. To recruit team members, we sent out office emails, made announcements at staff meetings, hung up flyers in the staff kitchen and talked with staff members one-on-one. It was a little difficult to get people to give up their Saturday morning, so we encouraged people who couldn't participate in the walk to support our team with a donation. Some Walkathon team members also solicited donations from friends and family members through the Walkathon's website. In the end, 13 people walked in the Walkathon (which was really fun - basically a big party on the Mall), and about 10 people made donations in our team's name.
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My Roots and Shoots group and I are doing a mangrove restoration project. We were asked by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to help with it. The goal was to collect and grow red mangrove propagules that will be planted in an area where mangroves needed to be restored. First, we had to take several trips to the beach to collect the propagules. We stored them in a cooler of water until we could plant them. Next, we needed pots so we asked a local nursery to donate them. We purchased potting soil, then got together and planted all the propagules. We also participated in an environmental fair. We brought soil, pots, and the propagules. We taught the people at the fair about mangroves and let them plant some. Now we have over 75 mangrove plants. We are letting them grow and grow. We water them and take care of them. The land that our mangroves will be planted on is not ready yet. But, when it is we will work with the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to plant them. We will also monitor them and watch them grow. We hope to continue to learn more about mangroves and how they are an important part of our ecosystem here in South Florida. Summary by: Roots & Shoots member Elijah Age 11
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Our group monitors the fishing line bins that are placed at popular fishing spots in our community. We collect the line from the bins, clean, and cut it into 12-inch lenghts. We then take it to our local Ace hardware store where they send it out for recycling. This is an ongoing project that our group has been doing for about a year and a half.
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We made signs for our booth, which traveled to different events, including Jazz on the Green. It was fun because the signs showed what we wanted to say to help the manatees. We also made dioramas on manatee habitats. Everyone came up with something different, which made the creativity level go off the charts. Last but not least we went to Manatee Park. That is where the manatees go in the winter. The reason they go there is that Manatee Park is located right next to Florida Power and Light, so the water in Manatee Park is warm all the time. We spotted a lot of manatees so it was well worth the drive to Fort Myers. We did a worksheet that went along with it. The Florida government was thinking about passing a law to take manatees off the endangered list, so we wrote letters to Governor Christ to try to keep manatees on the list. Our letter really made a difference, and the manatees were kept on the endangered list. We also adopted two manatees! The project's main goals were to learn about manatees and help protect them. We had a lot of fun doing it, and everybody learned a lot so it paid off in the end. We did projects about manatees, such as making signs and dioramas. We made various trips to Manatee Park, where we got a hands-on experience with manatees. We worked very hard and in return we got great pleasure. We learned that manatees don't really have it good. They have to watch out for boats going fast in a manatee zone, polluted water and litter. They didn't do anything to us, so we should be very careful in a manatee zone. We achieved a better understanding of how manatees live, and we got a great feeling knowing we were helping manatees. We didn't really encounter a lot of challenges. We pretty much could do everything. But I have to say, writing those letters to the governor was pretty challenging. Thank you for reading my summary. Tucker Bileau Age: 12 R & S Member
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We visited a local nature preserve and learning center. We hiked a trail used that day by cross-country skiiers, followed Salt Creek and were followed by ducks. The kids were fascinated and watched the ducks swim up to them and walk across the ice to get closer. They were clearly looking for food and disappointed that the snow the kids threw into the water was not bread crumbs. We watched the ducks search for their own food in the water. We also looked at animal tracks in the snow and observed environmental restoration efforts at the preserve. Inside the nature center, we played with animal track stamps in putty, put together food chain puzzles, observed a huge collection of walking stick bugs in a cage and played games that early settlers used to play.
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We went to the Brookfield Zoo to learn about two endangered species - the wombat and the Mexican gray wolf. The zoo has a baby wombat, born in 2007 who was sleeping with her mother. The father was in a separate enclosure. While we were in the Australia House we learned about the overpopulation of rabbits in Australia as they were imported from Europe and have no nature predators. The wolf exhibit is only a few years old with a pack of wolves enjoying their heated rocks in the enclosed natural environment. The children enjoyed the excellent interactive displays in the building and went into a very dark room illuminated only by stars to listen to wolf calls.
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This is an ongoing project at the Forest Preserve. On this day we burned a brush pile we had made during our previous work days. Working with the stewards of the site, we learned about fire temperatures, fire conditions and the benefits of fire in the forest preserve. We also had a nice picnic in the snow, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows!
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We walked through this beautiful forest preserve, following a map with few details through oak savanna to a slough wetland. It was a beautiful autumn day and we saw many prairie plants gone to seed. Some of the smaller children helped to disperse seeds. This particular preserve is fairly secluded from traffic noise the further in you go and the kids enjoyed being out in the "wilds" of the Chicago Metro area.
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There is an observation platform at the Jasper-Pulaski Wetland in Indiana. We arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon and spent the next hour watching about 12,000 migrating sandhill cranes come in to the open meadow from their day of foraging in the fields. The children watched them through binoculars and telescopes, where the cranes flew overhead. The children were amazed at their size. In the midst of the sandhills was one lone, very white whooping crane. We were all excited to see that. There were also about 20 deer milling about; it was hunting season and they must have learned they would be safe from hunters in that area. Most spectacular was the mass rising of the flock after an hour of socializing. They flew in one group to the wetland to roost for the night.

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