What We Do

Ecological Restoration

Ecological Restoration seeks to increase biodiversity and resilience to habitats degraded by human impact. The practice of restoration not only benefits the land, but also the volunteers. Small Waters Education directors Jack and Judy Speer have been leading groups in stewardship of an oak savanna, one of the rarest and most endangered ecosystems on earth, since 2003. This site is part of the Alden Sedge Meadow, protected and managed by the McHenry County Conservation District, and the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

focus box for ecological restoration - brush clearing
Savanna restoration - before removing invasive shrubs
Brandow Cemetery, Harvard, Illinois

Volunteer restoration days are held monthly on the third Saturday. Special restoration days can be planned to fit the schedules of you or your group. The activities include removing invasive plants, collecting and sowing native seed, and learning about the plants and animals.


students playing the zone and sector game
food forest permaculture

Permaculture is a system for designing sustainable human landscapes using nature’s patterns. It is based on the ethics of care for the earth, care for people, and sharing the surplus. It combines the best of traditional wisdom with modern science to turn problems into solutions and empower people to become more responsibly connected to the cycles and flows of nature. Small Waters Education has introduced Permaculture to many groups through workshops, classes, presentations, and hands-on projects.

Deep Ecology

drumming circle, under oak tree
focus box for deep ecology- grapevine portal

Deep Ecology explores our intrinsic interdependence with the evolving web of life and our identities as humans in the unfolding story of the universe.  It involves our whole selves: mind, body, heart and soul.  Small Waters Education leads celebrations of the Aphelion and Perihelion: the far and near points in earth’s orbit around the sun.  These are opportunities to connect with nature’s cycles and align with nature’s patterns for insight and inspiration.  

butterfly chrysalis

Pollinator Gardens

Pollinator Gardens are springing up all over as people become aware of our interdependence with the creatures (mostly insects) that pollinate 80% of flowering plants and 35% of food crops. Small Waters Education helps create and maintain pollinator habitat gardens at schools and public places throughout McHenry County and educates those who want guidance in creating their own gardens. We incorporate up-to-date research on how native bees, butterflies and other insects have co-evolved relationships with native plants.

Teaching children about pollinator gardens
Pollinator garden at Westwood School, Woodstock IL
first grade children in pollinator garden
monarch butterflyu caterpillar feeding on milkweed

We develop and teach best management practices to successfully integrate beautiful native plantings where we live, work, learn and play. We organize volunteers who learn about native plants and insects while helping maintain school gardens. Join Neighbors Helping Pollinators to keep these gardens beautiful and bring home plants and seeds for your own garden.

bumblebee on baptisia plant

Small Waters Education
15820 Illinois Route 173
Harvard, IL 60033