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Just an hour south of Chicago lies the Kankakee Sands ecoregion, home to the largest concentration of high-quality black oak sand savannas surviving in the Midwest. This biologically rich region is also home to a vibrant African-American farming community with roots reaching back to freed slaves.
This region provides an opportunity to conserve connected remnant habitat through a partnership between conservation organizations and private landowners. The Pembroke community has a long history of stewarding this landscape. While conservation organizations have purchased some parcels and assembled them into large tracts, not all of the high-quality habitat will be protected with this method.
The natural environment depends on people for its continued health just as people depend on nature for their quality of life. Yet making decisions about the future of a place is often challenging when there are diverse visions for land use, livelihood, and forms of development. The Field Museum’s approach to linking environmental conservation with human well-being has emerged through over a decade of on-the-ground involvement both in the Chicago region and in the Andes-Amazon region of South America. The Museum’s Keller Science Action Center staff works with communities living near important natural areas to agree upon key principles, identify social and environmental assets, and determine priorities for the future. This process helps people draw upon their core values and community strengths to develop plans to improve quality of life and to protect natural resources. The results often inform broader planning initiatives and serve as a guide both for decision-makers and engaged citizens.
Collaborating with local institutions and experts is a core feature of the Museum approach in Pembroke Township. Staff worked closely with community leaders and content specialists to co-develop and install an exhibit titled Rooted! The Richness of Land and Culture in the Pembroke Public Library for a year. The exhibit then moved to Lorenzo R. Smith Sustainability and Technology Academy, where The Field Museum provides support for environmental education through the Mighty Acorns program. Museum staff also have trained community residents to facilitate quality of life planning while drawing upon their local knowledge and networks. These local programs complement and advance the integrative social science and ecological approach to work in Pembroke Township.
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Rooted! The Richness of Land and Culture opened in December of 2015 at the Pembroke Public Library. The exhibit was a collaboration between Field Museum staff and a group of community co-curators and tells the story of Pembroke's rich natural and cultural heritage. After a year at the Pembroke Library, the exhibit moved to its new home inside Lorenzo R. Smith Sustainability and Technology Academy where teachers and students can incorporate the exhibit into the curriculum. Download a PDF of the exhibit panels.