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District 203 Middle School Students Present Soil Research to Naperville Officials

On Wed., Feb. 14 and Fri., Feb. 16, a small group of District 203 middle school students presented the results of their original research to officials at the City of Naperville’s Water Utility and to the Naperville Park District, respectively. Mayor Steve Chirico, City Councilwoman Patty Gustin and Park District Executive Director Ray McGury joined an audience of staff and parents who attended the Feb. 16 presentation.

The four sixth grade students, representing both Kennedy and Madison Junior High Schools, met in elementary school and shared a desire to conduct a scientific study of a real-world issue. After considering many different topics, they chose to study the problem of excessive phosphorus in ponds and streams, which leads to algal blooms that can harm marine life. Their experiment was to compare the effects of natural versus artificial fertilizers on the amount of phosphorus runoff.

With the assistance of Dr. Srimani Chakravarthi, one of their parents, the students began their research in May 2017. They consulted with several experts about how to test water, soil and grass, including Jim Holzapfel, Naperville Water and Wastewater Utility Director; Dr. Bill Bromer, a biology professor at the University of St. Francis; and Carl Gorra, Park Operations Manager (Central) at the Naperville Park District.

The students assembled trays of soil and grass and compared the effects of natural versus artificial fertilizers under carefully controlled conditions. The grass and soil quality were comparable across artificial and natural fertilizers. The phosphorus run-off levels were surprisingly low in the artificial fertilizer trays, and also, low in the tray that used cow manure as the natural fertilizer. One explanation may be that the artificial fertilizer may have been slow-release and needs to be studied over a longer period of time. The overall results suggested that cow manure may be a suitable alternative to artificial fertilizers.

The students plan to submit their research to a national competition and want to follow up with further study.

Students pose with City and Park District officials following their presentation on Friday, Feb. 16 at the Knoch Park Central Maintenance Facility. From left to right: Carl Gorra—Park Operations Manager (Central); student researchers Meera, Siya, and Diya; Councilwoman Patty Gustin, Mayor Steve Chirico, and Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. The fourth student researcher, Anjali, was not able to attend the presentation.


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Funds raised through the Naperville Parks Foundation support the Naperville Park District’s Fee Assistance Program. The Naperville Parks Foundation supports the recreation needs and desires of the residents of Naperville – encouraging health and wellness, fitness, family time, and fun. The Foundation supports the mission of making recreation of all kinds accessible to everyone across the community, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

Our Mission
We provide recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community.
Our Vision
To be a national leader in parks and recreation providing and promoting high quality experiences and facilities at a great value to our community.
Core Values
Health and Wellness, Environmental Education, Stewardship and Sustainability, Community Enrichment, Public Safety, Accessibility, Personal Growth and Enrichment.
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