About the Learning Garden

Our Mission

The Learning Gardens of Oak Park is a community-wide organization committed to turning ALL of Oak Park into a Botanic garden by adding an educational overlay to all the trees, shrubs, flowers, and food that can be grown here. Our parkway trees, our front yard gardens, and our farmer's market food are a botanic garden hiding in plain sight.  Working together, we can develop this bounty and share our knowledge to create a healthier, more beautiful, and more sustainable community.  Grow with us.  

Meet Our Board

Bill Sieck - Director

Bill is the first director of The learning Gardens.  His wildly incongruous background includes aPh.D. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; 7 years working in management and social services; 25 years working as a carpenter/contractor in Oak Park; 15 years as owner of The Wood Place, a custom cabinet shop; and 3 1/2 years of study at the Chicago Botanical Gardens where he earned certificates as an Ornamental Plant Specialist, Professional Gardener, and Garden designer.  The Learning Gardens was a concept he developed after his studies at CBG to share the knowledge and joy of gardening with others and to showcase the beauty that surrounds us everyday as we walk out the door.  He works as carpenter, cabinetmaker and landscape designer providing "design integrity from the front yard to the back gate.  His motto is "respect the site, reflect the owner, reward the viewer."  There are so many front yards that now reward the viewer - we just have to learn to look - and appreciate.

Sandy Hess - Board President

I have been an amateur gardener for a long time, beginning as I “helped” my Scottish grandmother in her beautiful border.  It was a cottage garden and I always thought the magic was in the tealeaves she swirled from her teapot.  This garden has long been my template. 

I have grown plants in various gardens:  back porch pots in apartments, in Oak Park clay, on a sand dune in Indiana, and on the prairie of Wisconsin.  I have used gardening in teaching and therapeutic work with children.  Over the years, I have become pragmatic and look invariably for what works and what survives.  I try to garden also, with thoughts toward ecology, and bird, insect habitats.  Mostly I love the feel of dirt on my hands and the smell of soil.  The Learning Gardens provides and opportunity to learn, to share, and to come together as a community.

Golden Apple recipient, Sandy Noel, is an active member in the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance and the Illinois Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  She has presented workshops at Illinois state conventions for both physical educators and health educators.  Her interactive workshops provide games and activities for teachers to use in their classrooms and demonstrate how health, science, and math concepts can be taught through the multiple intelligences with an emphasis on the kinesthetic and interpersonal intelligences.

As a member of the Illinois state team of Action for Healthy Kids, Sandy works with public, private, and governmental groups to get the message out to educators that healthy, active students are better learners.  AFHK helps plan and implement health fairs and fitness events throughout the state and provides grants to school to implement wellness practices.   

As a member of Seven Generations Ahead, she is working to help provide healthy lives for our children and future generations by serving on the Fresh From the Farm Committee, which links farmers and locally grown produce to schools in Oak Park and Chicago.  She helped spearhead Hatch School’s organic garden where each student participates in planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall.      In 2010, Sandy worked with parents to plant the first fruit orchard in Oak Park at Hatch Elementary school.  Trees included – apple, peach, pear, cherry, and plum.  Students experienced their first harvest in 2013 and enjoyed a pear and apple crisp fresh from the orchard.

Gordon Waldron is a former member of the Oak Park Forestry Commission. While he was on the Commission he led many tree walks  at  block parties.

He is an attorney.  In February, 2014, he retired from his job as a Senior Trial Attorney with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Chicago, where he had worked from December, 1984.

He lives on Ridgeland in Oak Park. The parkway tree in front of his house is a sugar maple. In the summer he usually grows one or two tomato plants in the front yard.

Dan Krug is a certified arborist for the Care of Trees (a Davey Company) who has been working in Oak Park since 2008.  I am a graduate of Southern Illinois  Foresty and love working with trees.