She came to Mr. Hayward’s 4th-grade class in a Tyvek suit, hard hat, respirator, and
goggles. Trained as a geologist, Mann parent Tricia Feeley looked a bit like a space walker.
Really she was there for a series of Global Village* presentations on the land and water around
Ms. Feeley is an environmental consultant. She explained to the students that she sometimes
must wear the protective suit when involved with the disposal of hazardous materials, such as
asbestos and old storage tanks, on land to be redeveloped.
Peter G. liked this first time Ms. Feeley came to class. “That was cool.” She also showed them
photos of work sites in which the suits are a necessity. Aidan R. said, “To see the actual thing
was cool. Normally, you only see those suits in cartoons!”
In another visit to the class, Ms. Feeley talked about floodplains and erosion by water and
glaciers. She helped the students set up a glacier melting in a tub–a chunk of ice along with
sand, rocks, and mud–to recreate how erosion of the land happens over time. Of specific
interest, she talked about Oak Park 100,000 years ago and what it looked like before and after
the glaciers moved through.
Olivia N. told about another experiment they conducted. “She made a handmade thing from
a Gatorade bottle to show how soil erosion happens,” how the larger particles settle out first
when you shake the bottle. According to Ms. Feeley, this is because “when water moves fast,
it carries more sediment load.” The students were impressed by an experiment in which they
soaked pennies in a jar of salt, vinegar, and water to see the chemical reactions.
Ms. Feeley also talked with the students about various rocks and minerals. Olivia N. noted
that “some people have rock kits but don’t know how to use them, but she taught us how.” Ben
P. agreed: “Seeing the rocks close up and using a magnifying glass and how it looks was really
cool.” Ben also thought the presentations were neat since “if you want to do what she does then
you can listen to her and know that you can do it too.”
On this day, the students also participated in a game in which they had to describe their group’s
rock and then see if the rest of the class could identify which one was theirs based on the
Mr. Hayward has worked with Ms. Feeley on Global Village* projects for the past 4 or 5 years.
He noted how her presentations link to their curriculum but that “she is teaching them scientific
method as well.” By sharing her studies and her work, Ms. Feeley said, “I hope kids think
science is interesting.”
Olivia N. was impressed. “She is a very intelligent person who loves what she does and enjoys
sharing it with us.”
Check out a slideshow of photos from Ms. Feeley’s visit by Oak Park photographer Roy Phifer.
* The program is now named “Science Alliance”