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About Us

Established 2005

Founders and Directors:Jack and Judy Speer

Jack and Judy Speer

With backgrounds in grassroots education and community organizing, Jack and Judy left the Big City in 2002 and settled at the headwaters of the Nippersink Creek; one of the highest-quality waterways in Illinois, with a vision of helping people reconnect with the Earth.  They became volunteer site stewards with the McHenry County Conservation District, working to restore a globally-endangered oak savanna ecosystem.  Judy holds a certificate in Permaculture design from the Permaculture Institute of Australia and a certificate in ecological restoration from McHenry County College and the McHenry County Conservation District.  Judy and Jack put Permaculture into practice by integrating nature’s flows and patterns into their home and land.  They retrofitted a former hunting lodge with natural and green energy-efficient design. The gardens bear abundant fruits, vegetables, and herbs, while supporting biodiversity.  They have also been leading experiential programs in deep ecology since 1999.  They are recipients of the 2008 Chicago Wilderness Habitat Project Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award.  They are members of Midwest SOARRING Foundation (Save Our Ancestors Remains and Resources Indigenous Network Group), the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.


Greg RajskyDirector:

Greg Rajsky

Greg Rajsky has more than 20 years of experience in the management of nonprofit organizations. He is a volunteer steward with the McHenry County Conservation District and with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. He is a Certified Naturalist through The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, where he teaches a variety of courses in ecology, natural history, and the restoration and management of natural areas; he taught the 2014 summer session of Restoration Ecology at the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC) in Woodstock. He is a member of the Natural Areas Society, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County. He serves as Vice Chair on the board of Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. Greg received Conservation Leadership Awards from the the Chicago Wilderness Habitat Project in 2006 and 2008, a medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2008 in recognition of Outstanding Achievement for Environmental Awareness, and the 2010 Living with Trees Award from The Land Conservancy of McHenry County. He received his level III Reiki attunement in 2009. Greg founded True Nature Consulting in 2013 to assist local landowners in understanding and managing their natural areas.


Margaret Fox-Hawthorne


Margaret taught school for 20 years in the Harvard, Illinois school district.  For most of that time she oversaw "The Goals Program", a grant program addressing the needs of at-risk students at all grade levels who were identified as potential dropouts.  Along with her husband, she raises organically grown vegetables and fruit, as well as free range poultry for meat and eggs, a few Berkshire pigs, turkeys and bees.  She chairs the Green Sanctuary Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Woodstock.  She is a member of The Land Conservancy of McHenry County and the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, with whom she has served twice as a board member and a chairperson of their Education Committee.  She has also served on the boards of Citizens for Conservation in Barrington and Prairie Woods Audubon.  Margaret is an advocate for people with disabilities, receiving the ARC of Illinois Family Member of the Year Award for 2011.  (ARC is an organization that empowers people with disabilities.)  She has served on the Development Advisory Committee for Pioneer Center for Human Services and was co-chair and chair of the Gold Rush, Pioneer Center's major fundraising event for several years.


Holly Stephenson

Holly used to study pharmacy at Drake University until she realized she had an interest in healing the Earth with natural techniques. Her journey began at Midwest Permaculture, where she received her permaculture design certificate in 2015.

Since then, she has studied environmental science at George Williams College in Williams Bay, WI. She has experience as a curriculum designer, student researcher, and farm manager at her college where she created an experimental permaculture research garden.

Holly has taken particular interest in the application of permaculture internationally and locally and has studied abroad in Iceland and the Findhorn Ecovillage of Scotland. These trips focused on alternative energy systems, waste treatment, sustainable community development and communication, and sustainable building. On a local scale, Holly volunteers and has done water testing at the Walworth County Health Department and volunteered doing organic farming at Stonehouse Farm. In the future, Holly plans to start a sustainable landscaping company integrating permaculture, horticulture, and restoration techniques.

SMALL WATERS EDUCATION is an organizational member of the Chicago Wilderness Leave No Child Inside Initiative, the McHenry County United Way, and Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.


Serving the Chicago Wilderness Area of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin

Reconnecting People and Nature

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