Virtual Vikings give presentation to city council

Some of the names of students have been updated since an earlier publication. The Niles Daily Star regrets the error and is happy to make these corrections.

NILES — To kick off the beginning of the Niles City Council remote meeting on Monday evening, Laura Proctor was joined virtually by some of her second-grade students to give a presentation to their representatives about ideas they had to improve parks in Niles.

The students presented an idea to host a park clean-up day at Riverfront Park and planting a butterfly garden at Island Park when it is reopened to the public.

Proctor has guided the kindergarten through fourth-grade students during their project-based learning portion of Virtual Viking, as these students learn remotely this year.

“I’ve been working with [these students] since September, asking them about their interests, asking what they want to learn about and are concerned about,” Proctor said. “These children together have voiced certain concerns that made me reach out to Mayor [Nick] Shelton to ask for some help.”

Proctor explained later that project-based learning is guided by what the students are interested in.

“Once you tap into the students’ interests, you develop an essential question,” she said.

Fourth grader Aliah Russell was given a chance to speak first at the meeting about a portion of what the students had worked on.

“We want to clean up litter because we don’t want our city to be dirty. We want to keep animals and plants safe,” Russell said. “We thought about a lot of different ways to help, and we decided it would be a great idea if we could have a Niles Clean-Up Day, where people in our community help clean up litter in our city.”

Some students expressed why cleaning up parks in the city was important to them.

“We should have a cleanup day because animals are getting hurt and sick when they eat litter,” said student Hadley Recker. “One example is a plastic bag can get let in the park, blow away, and a bird can get caught in it.”

Nolan Recker also let the city council members know what the class would need to organize the effort.

“We will need gloves, bags, and we will need to print fliers so people know about the clean-up day. It will cost around $25 to $50,” he said.

While one half of the class was concerned about the litter in parks, like Riverfront Park, another group had a different goal in mind.

“Another project we would like to work on for the city of Niles is planting a butterfly garden,” said Felicity Holt. “We do not have many butterflies, and we do not have a butterfly garden in Niles. Butterfly numbers are low because we don’t have many plants for butterflies to drink from or lay their eggs.”

Holt suggested when Island Park is reopened, the students would like to plant a butterfly garden there.

Emelia Holt suggested second graders from area schools might like to help as they learn about plants in the classroom.

Matthew Proctor joined the group presentation and asked if the council members had any questions.

Council member Jessica Nelson expressed support and wanted to help the students on cleanup day. Council member John DiCostanzo commended the students on their presentation, and asked if the students would need butterflies brought to the butterfly gardens, or if the butterflies would arrive naturally if the garden was planted.

Felicity and Emelia Holt said the butterflies would arrive if they planted the garden the right size, with the right native plants. They were focused on planting milkweed for monarch butterflies, and parsley for black swallowtail butterflies.

Proctor said the butterfly garden was a particular interest to some of the students in her class. She wanted to help guide them on how to get certain things done within their community. The project was also teaching the students about how local government worked.

“[The students] did their research and figured out how to get the plants and help we need without a lot of cost to the city by asking friends and family to help share seeds from their own plants, as well as finding a grant program we can apply for that would give us milkweed plants, which many butterflies thrive on,” Proctor said.

If the project moves forward, residents may see fliers around supermarkets and community centers for a park cleanup day on April 24.

Shelton closed the presentation thanking the students for their presentation.

“Whenever we decide on the date, I’ll be there,” Shelton said.

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