Blue Island Progress

On the historic banks of the Cal-Sag Channel in Blue Island, people will see some beautiful sights these days.

Among those sights are a young bald eagle, a small orchard, all types of pollinators busy at work and, perhaps most beautiful of all, school children working and playing, laughing and singing!

Council Oak Montessori School calls 2521 Grove Street in Blue Island home. Established in 1990, Council Oak has served the children and families of Chicago’s South Side and south suburban communities for over 30 years.

With their eyes firmly on the school’s mission to nurture the best within each child, and thereby bring about a better world for everyone, the staff resolved to return to in-person learning in September 2021.

“The combination of following strict COVID mitigation practices and an extremely supportive school community has allowed us to serve our children for 31 weeks with no in-school transmissions of COVID-19 or any other illness,” said the head of school, Lila Jokanovic. “It has meant everything to us to continue to offer a high-fidelity, nurturing Montessori environment to our students. To hear the children’s voices fill the air, to see our gardens flourish and our music program thrive through the toughest of circumstances and to observe the academic and social development of the children have validated our work in a way that noother

school year could.”

Two large tents were set up by locally owned Arete Renovators in the gardens on Ann Street, which serve as outdoor workspaces.

“This has been one of the gifts of opening our doors in the fall,” said Jokanovic. “Having the opportunity to enjoy our morning work cycle in the fresh air, listening to the sounds of nature and the Blue Island trains, to enjoy the smells of things growing and watch the seasons change have had a profound effect on our life experience this year. Additionally, being able to work outdoors has played a large part in keeping us healthy as a school. We are so grateful!”

The school continues to partner with local businesses and specialists to enhance aspects of the curriculum.

Working closely with Gerry Burns of Blue Island Music, the students have been able to expand their knowledge and love of music through such enriching experiences as preparing a short performance of “Hamilton,” recording “Carol of the Bells” and learning about the inner workings of the piano.

Blue Island resident and food stylist Michele Baumann has brought the gardening program alive for the children, creating hands-on Montessori-inspired lessons on collecting and preserving seeds, building miniature hoop houses in the gardens, and using loofah gourd and herbs grown on-site to make soap. These are just a few of the ways that children have been interacting with the space.

It is gratifying to overhear students discuss their observations of their outdoor space—discussing pollinators and the life cycle of plants.

In a few weeks, naturalists from Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens will work with students in planting a pollinator garden.

Council Oak Montessori School offers Montessori programming for children ages 3 through eighth grade, and the school is now enrolling new students into its early-childhood classrooms (3 to 6 years of age).

For more information about Council Oak Montessori School, call (708) 926-9720.