Chicago Botanic Garden's Free Educational Opportunities for Our Youth

The Chicago Botanic Garden runs several educational outreach programs that directly involve residents of the 8th Cook County district. These unique experiences offer teen and adult participants the opportunity to expand their knowledge in environmental science and sustainable agriculture, benefit from the mentoring of Garden staff members, and receive an introduction to academic and work careers.  Click below for a short summary of these exciting programs:

Science First – is a free, four-week summer environmental education enrichment program for Chicago Public School students in grades 7 through 9. While enjoying hands-on, nature-based science activities, indoor and outdoor investigations, and exposure to Garden scientists, students improve their understanding of the scientific method and are exposed to careers in science.  Two sessions servicing a total of 40 students are offered each summer. Transportation and free lunch are provided. Applications for the summer 2016 are due on April 15.  For more information and to apply on line visit HERE. Many Science First graduates are accepted into the College First Program.

College First – is an eight-week internship and field ecology course for qualified Chicago Public High School students entering their junior or senior years. Students receive a stipend and earn college credit while studying field ecology, conducting a research project and working with scientists at the Garden.  Students also meet monthly during the school year to learn more about preparing for college.  College First graduates enjoy a 95% college matriculation rate and high levels of scholarship and learning assistance. Transportation to the Garden is provided.Applications for the summer of 2016 are due on April 8.  For additional information and to apply online visit HERE

Windy City Harvest Youth Farm – is a youth leadership program for high school students that provides a spring through fall employment opportunity for Chicago and Lake County teens, teaching them about how plants are an essential part of a healthy food system and healthy communities.  Each year, approximately 100 young people learn how to work as a team to plan, grow, harvest, and market thousands of pounds of sustainably grown produce at four farm sites.  These students become directed toward higher education and are inspired by the belief that their actions can contribute to positive change for the area’s most challenged communities. Applications for summer 2016 are due on March 18.  For more information and to apply online click HERE.

After School Matters - After receiving stipend support for Youth Farm participants for many years from After School Matters, the Chicago Botanic Garden expanded this partnership in 2014 to the Urban Garden Lab at Gallery 37 in Chicago’s Loop. The street-level Urban Garden Lab hosts year-round programming including aquaponics, hydroponics, and aeroponics, while additional rooftop garden space (Farm 37) features intensive small-scale growing in traditional containers as well as vertical garden options. Produce grown at Farm 37 and in the Urban Garden Lab is used in ASM’s culinary programs and can be sampled on Fridays during the summer at the pop-up rooftop café!

The Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship and Corps Programs  together comprise City-based education and entrepreneurial training programs for adults and transitional employment for youth and adults coming out of incarceration.  The Apprenticeship is a nine-month accredited certificate in sustainable urban agriculture in partnership with Daley College, delivered by Garden staff at the Arturo Velasquez Institute satellite campus.  Apprentices learn and practice their production skills at farm sites across the city.  To date 89% of the certificate graduates – career changers, entrepreneurs, and people with barriers to employment – have found seasonal and full-time jobs in the local horticulture, urban agriculture, and the food industry.  More information is availableHERE.

The Windy City Harvest Corps program provides opportunities for people with multiple barriers to employment and targets both juveniles (ages 17 to 21) and adults who have been involved with the justice system.  The Corps provides training and transitional employment in Windy City Harvest operation sites for approximately 30 adults annually.  Participants complete the Roots of Success job-readiness curriculum and are encouraged to apply to the Apprenticeship certificate program. Additional information is available HERE.

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