Student Environmental Education and Development Studies


SEEDS Project Descriptions

Founded in 1950, St. Monica School was awarded academy status to become St. Monica Academy in August of 2007.  This designation by the Archdiocese of Chicago recognizes a ground-breaking educational initiative by St. Monica Academy and the world-renowned Chicago Botanic Garden, who have partnered to create Student Environmental Education and Development Studies (SEEDS).  SEEDS is a comprehensive curriculum that introduces environmental, project-based studies throughout all subjects and grades, Pre-K through 8.


The 2007 launch of the SEEDS curriculum for St. Monica Academy came about after two years of communication between the leaders of St. Monica Academy and Parish, the Chicago Archdiocese and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  In-depth research, think tanks, continuing teacher education and curriculum study and development enabled St. Monica Academy teachers to create a comprehensive outline of content areas and standards they wished to cover with the new environmental curriculum.  From this outline, Chicago Botanic Garden curriculum experts, Dr. Charlotte Bryant, Dr. Jennifer Schwarz Ballard and Ms. Anna Viertel created two 6-8 week project-based units for each grade.  SEEDS is designed to capitalize on each age group’s natural curiosity and comprehension. Lessons are anchored in ecology and environmental science, with extensions into language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts and religious studies. 


The SEEDS curriculum project represents a pioneering effort.  The Archdiocese of Chicago is the first U.S. archdiocese to undertake an environmental education initiative of this magnitude.  The partnership between a Catholic school and a plant science/conservation non-profit to create a new curriculum is, in itself, ground-breaking.  Over the next three years we will introduce the SEEDS curriculum in various stages to our students at St. Monica Academy.  As our teachers work in concert with our Chicago Botanic Garden curriculum experts, we’ll see what works well- in the classroom, greenhouse and open air- and we’ll identify necessary changes.  With the successful implementation of the SEEDS curriculum at St. Monica Academy, we are establishing a model for other Catholic and public schools in Chicago and throughout the country.   


St. Monica Academy Mission

St. Monica Academy students thrive in a Catholic

educational setting that fosters creativity, instills strong

moral values, encourages independent thinking and prepares

them to claim their places as stewards of God’s creation.”


In our endeavor to provide the highest quality education possible, while addressing environmental concerns, the mission of St. Monica Academy supports the appeals of our church leaders, who have long advocated the importance of good stewardship and the prudent use of the world’s resources. Often referred to as the “Green Pope,” Pope John Paul II was a champion for the environment throughout his lifetime.  In 2002, he asked us to “think of the world’s children when we reflect on and evaluate our options for action. It is love for our children that will show us the path that we must follow into the future…It is not too late. God’s world has incredible healing powers.  Within a single generation, we could steer the earth toward our children’s future.  Let that generation start now, with God’s help and blessing.”  At a youth rally in Loreto, Italy in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI petitioned 500,000 young people:  “Before it’s too late, we need to make courageous choices that will recreate a strong alliance between man and Earth.  We need a decisive ‘yes’ to care for creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk making the situation of decay irreversible.”     


SEEDS presents a rare opportunity to simultaneously design a curriculum and a supporting natural landscape, which establishes a national standard for outdoor, project-based education.  As each lesson is written, an area of the 3.39 acre St. Monica Campus will be designed to support the curriculum.  In turn, as site innovations are made, new ideas for SEEDS curriculum are born. 

This integrated curriculum will prepare students for a host of new jobs in green industries and inspire them to discover and engineer concrete solutions for the global environment.  In bringing to our students an awareness of the world they will inherit, we are also preparing them to succeed in it. 


The current SEEDS draft contained herein was introduced in January, 2008.  As the teachers work with our onsite SEEDS Coordinator Ms. Anna Viertel and Chicago Botanic Garden professionals to implement SEEDS, spring projects will begin, followed by an evaluation period.  Over the next three years, the Garden will work with the St. Monica faculty on professional development, resource identification, and classroom implementation to make the SEEDS curriculum an integral part of the St. Monica Academy culture. 


The pastor of St. Monica Parish and Academy, Fr. Ted Schmitt, has been a driving force in establishing the Chicago Archdiocese’s first environmental school and gratefully recognizes the support and encouragement we have received from Francis Cardinal George and Vicar General, Fr. John Canary.  Led by our dynamic academy principal, Mr. Ray Coleman, our gifted St. Monica teachers are fully invested in the SEEDS curriculum and the educational atmosphere they are creating for the future stewards of God’s good earth.