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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Grooming Environmental Stewards in High School

May 25, 2016 05:23PM ● By Gelasia Croom

Photo courtesy of Apples and Honey Photography

At Mather High School (, on the northwest side of Chicago, an afterschool garden program is connecting students to nature. The Mather Greenhouse and Garden is one of eight pop-up victory gardens managed by the Peterson Garden Project (, a local nonprofit with more than 1,000 families growing food throughout their network. Focused on education and community outreach, it also teaches kids how to grow the food they eat at their community cooking school.

       The Mather program affords young people an opportunity to unplug, experience nature, learn where their meals come from and understand and protect the natural systems that produce our food, water, clean air and energy, with support from Nature Works Everywhere grants from The Nature Conservancy. The grants also give students a chance to address environmental challenges facing their communities, such as urban food deserts or lack of green space.

       Food grown by Mather students will help feed hungry people around the city and is distributed through the Peterson Garden Project. A majority of the seedlings that Mather students grow are sent directly to Peterson’s community gardens and a small portion of the food they grow is donated to a local café that serves the homeless.

For more information on school gardens and their benefits as well as how to sign up for a grant or to volunteer, visit and

Gelasia Croom is the media relations manager at The Nature Conservancy in Illinois. She can be reached at [email protected].