NARWHALS: Niles West’s Environmentally Friendly Club

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Pre-Covid picture of NARWHALS members restoring Blue Star Woods.

By Emily Chin, Staff Writer

As climate change becomes a more urgent problem, the students in the Natural Areas Restoration We Help All Living Species (NARWHALS) club at Niles West are actively learning how to combat it. The club looks to learn more about the natural environment in the Midwest, and how to sustain and improve it.

Meeting every other Wednesday, the group has adapted to COVID-19 protocols. Even though the hands-on experience is limited because of COVID-19, there are still many opportunities that the club offers from home.

“We had guest speakers from the Chicago Botanic Gardens talk about their work, employment opportunities in the world of biology/ecology, and also the paths that they took to their current careers. We have also had meetings in which club members research and present about various environmental issues including climate change, environmental racism, land and water rights for indigenous people, vandalism and poaching in our local forest preserves, and many others,” club sponsor Thomas Jodelka¬†said.

Before COVID-19, however, NARWHALS members were frequently involved with restoration work in natural areas. Some of the work they have done consists of removing invasive plant species, spreading seeds of plants that belong, cutting down plants that don’t belong, and picking up litter.

“Before COVID, every week, we would work outside in the Niles West prairie, removing invasive species and planting seeds. NARWHALS frequently fundraises for various ecological charities, invites guest speakers, and watches documentaries. We would also do monthly workdays where would work in local forest preserves, helping to restore damaged ecological communities,” senior co-president Francine Chuy¬†said.

When asked about the lessons students can receive from NARWHALS, Jodelka says, “You might not be able to change the world, but you can certainly change your part of it. I hope that students learn about how humans have impacted our local environments and what must be done in order to restore them. Oftentimes, we only hear about the negative impacts of humans when natural areas are threatened and under constant attack. I want them to realize that something can be done about that. I want them to realize that they can do something about it and that there are many other people out there who are making a difference as well.”

The previous week NARWHALS, along with Seminar for Scholars, the Black Student Union (BSU), and Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR), held a climate strike. The strike inspired by Greta Thunberg‘s organization, Friday for the Future, hopes to raise awareness towards the growing risks of climate change and the lack of initiative taken by the government and corporations to resolve these problems.

NARWHALS members are contributing to the greater good of the Niles/Skokie community. It already has had improbable impacts on the lives of members highly interested in saving the environment. It takes just one meeting of listening and learning to understand the importance of protecting the environment.

Sophomore Mia Sarris explains the benefits of being in NARWHALS, “Personally, I don’t think environmental issues are talked about enough, so being part of NARWHALS has really helped me open my eyes to issues in my own backyard. It is crucial to identify these issues, take action, and spread awareness in our communities so we can make a difference together. Whether you want to major in environmental science or just want to expand your horizons on local issues, NARWHALS is the perfect club for you to be part of!”

Thanks to NARWHALS members, we might be one step closer to saving our Earth. The club is open to anyone and meets every Wednesday from 3-4 pm. If you are interested in joining, you can reach out to Mr. Jodelka at [email protected], co-president Francine Chuy at [email protected], or co-president Daniella Suh at [email protected]