Editorial: Barrington project shows how private foundations help shape students' lives

Many suburban school districts are fortunate to work with private foundations that help raise money for special projects and coordinate diverse volunteer programs. An effort under way in Barrington Area Unit District 220 calls attention to these efforts and demonstrates how creative and supportive communities can be in helping to meet the needs of their students.

The nonprofit Barrington 220 Foundation has announced it will provide a donation to support an outdoor science laboratory where students can work first-hand with scientific principles on a 67-acre conservation area across from Barrington High School. Our Robert Susnjara reported this week that the students will learn to monitor the health of streams, research soil composition and prairie habitat and study renewable resources.

Administrators say it could cost up to $750,000 to build the outdoor classroom. The school district has set aside $50,000 to get the project under way, but the foundation hasn't determined yet how much it will donate, because it is waiting for a more precise estimate of the total project cost. In the meantime, the Barrington Area Conservation Trust and Citizens for Conservation have agreed to help the district determine a curriculum and use for the space.

District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said the program eventually will "address science curriculum in a holistic and authentic way, and bring science to life for all Barrington 220 students."

Bring science to life.

That's a desirable goal at any time, but it is an educational imperative for today's young people, who will be in the advance guard for one of the most consequential issues of their generation, the unfolding struggle against climate change.

Mary Dale, the 220 Foundation's executive director, said the group manages its resources with an eye toward projects that will touch as many students' lives as possible. There can be little doubt that this one will have repercussions for every young person who moves through the district.

And, it's just one of two the foundation has announced. A second will provide a $27,000 donation to help the district create a "business incubator" for students in eighth grade, instilling in them basic entrepreneurial skills and interests.

It is a modern cliché that "it takes a village" to raise a child, but the Barrington 220 Foundation is showing how communities throughout the suburbs can and do put that axiom into practice.

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