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Volunteers Cleaning Nature


2017 – Present

Community Action aims to engage students in environmental activism and service initiatives across campus and the Hyde Park community. Students will partake in hands-on projects in order to promote systemic environmental change and advocate for a sustainable relationship between students, community members, and natural spaces.


Service Actions

We work with local parks and gardens to organize service events around Hyde Park. Some of our previous volunteer opportunities include:

  • Weeding and planting with MPAC, the Vernon Park Garden Project, the Logan Park Garden, Nichols Park, and the Brickyard Garden

  • Park cleanups in Nichols Park, Midway Plaisance Park, and 57th St. Beach​​

  • PSI x Hillel Zooniverse Chicago Wildlife Watch

  • Zooniverse Penguin Watch

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120 lbs

We removed 120 lbs of trash from the Midway Plaisance with local South Side students in Fall 2023

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299 lbs

We removed 299 lbs of trash from the Midway Plaisance on Earth Day 2023.

Autumn 2022 Focus:

Midway Plaisance Park

and the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council (MPAC)

This quarter, we focused our projects around the Midway Plaisance Park, in close collaboration with the Midway Park Advisory Council (MPAC). The City of Chicago has plans to drain the wetland on the Midway’s east end in order to build a playground over the wetland, a grave environmental injustice. Building upon PSI’s efforts to protect the Midway beginning during the 2021-2022 school year, this quarter, Community Action has sought to preserve the Midway both in its service events that clean and beautify the Midway’s natural environment and in its efforts to advocate for the continued political maintenance of the park.

We held five events in Autumn 2022 with MPAC


Midway Cleanup (Oct. 1)

We hosted a trash pickup, with students cleaning that area spanning from the Midway Fieldhouse to just beyond the intersection of 59th St and Ellis Ave. This cleanup also served as a recruitment event for PSI, so interested students could learn more about PSI while helping the park. 30+ students attended this cleanup, including both members and prospective members of PSI. Using cleanup materials from both PSI and MPAC, cleanup participants filled two large dumpsters with litter that had been on the Midway.


Midway Plaisance East End Improvements Community Meeting #4

At this meeting, we supported MPAC’s position that the draining of the east end wetlands is a serious environmental injustice both in its destruction of the natural habitat and in its reduction of net green space for southside residents. Along with MPAC, we also urged the Park District to reconsider the designation of the east end as UPARR replacement space in order to enhance park access across the Hyde Park area. We demonstrated to the City that their plan for the Midway’s east end is broadly unpopular among Hyde Parkers, including among UChicago students.


Midway Bulb Planting

15+ PSI members planted various types of bulbs to enhance the natural beauty of the park and add to the plant diversity of the area. This event served as a way for people to connect with the Midway Park and gain service hours. The bulbs are expected to bloom in the spring of 2023.


Midway Cleanup (Nov. 6)

We hosted a trash pickup in partnership with AOPi for the purpose of beautifying our Midway and eliminating as much trash as possible. 30 + members of both PSI and AOPi showed up to the ice rink and worked their way west along the Midway, picking up any trash they could find. Each participant picked up about one full bag full of trash, resulting in 30+ bags of waste removed from the Midway. 


Afternoon in Commemoration: Women’s Suffrage and Chicago Parks

 Partnering with MPAC, we hosted an afternoon in commemoration of women’s suffrage and Chicago parks, screening Shirley Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed and hosting a panel featuring IL State Representative Theresa Mah and Mayor Harold Washington’s Vice President for Governmental Affairs and longtime Chicago activist, Jacky Grimshaw. The event focused on the intersection between women’s suffrage and environmentalism and was attended by both Hyde Park community members and UChicago students. 


Panel discussion featuring Representative Theresa Mah and Jacky Grimshaw.


Organization and Support

We work to support local organizations and raise awareness for service opportunities.

We organized fundraisers for Growing Home, succulent sales among UChicago students, and created a service event database for volunteer opportunities in Hyde Park.

We raised over $250 by selling sustainably produced chocolate to buy 25 copies of the “Love the Earth” book for local schools. The book focuses on environmentalism and the role women can play in initiating environmental change.

We collected clothing donations from the UChicago community and sold them in Reynolds Club in a campus-wide yard sale. This encouraged our community to buy secondhand, and all profits went to the Urban Growers Collective, a local nonprofit dedicated to the development of community-based food systems.

Empty classroom

Education and Awareness


Our project group first worked with the Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP) to bring environmental knowledge into the classroom. Our work with NSP led to an established partnership teaching students about sustainability and a new PSI project group focused on this initiative—Environmental Education

In Winter 2022, we taught a lesson on sustainable agriculture for Splash! Chicago, a program that brings middle and high school students to UChicago to learn about key topics and ideas. Our lesson introduced Chicago high schoolers to the history of industrial agriculture and methods to improve and enhance the sustainability of modern agricultural systems. 

Student Awareness

The Community Action project group also hosts competitions and trivia to engage the student body in sustainability events. During COVID, we ran an iguana counting competition through Zooniverse, for conservation research on marine iguanas in the Galapagos.



We also ran a sustainability-themed mask design competition, where students submitted and then voted on designs. The winner received 5 masks printed with their design.

The winning design from Community Action's sustainability-themed mask design competition (2021).

Members of the Community Action project group.

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