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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.


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.


Denice Beck

Denice Beck was fortunate to grow up in McHenry County at a time when many kids spent long summer days playing outdoors. Through exploration of nearby fields, ponds and woods, they learned the intrinsic value of open land and became acquainted with the beauty and rhythm of nature. Although there has been an increasing disconnection between society and the natural world since that time, Denice is thrilled by the vibrant environmental community that thrives in McHenry County today. Love of nature and curiosity about the interrelatedness of life inspired her to major in Biological Science at Mundelein College, Chicago (now Loyola University) and is also the thematic basis for her work as an artist.

As the Volunteer Coordinator for McHenry County Conservation District since 2007, Denice has worked to help people discover meaningful activities that will get them outdoors to restore health to the environment, as well as our local human communities. Believing that strong, heartfelt connections will encourage people to live gently on the Earth, she supports and works with environmental and social justice initiatives and agencies that promote understanding, healing, compassion and responsibility toward all living things.

SMALL WATERS EDUCATION is an organizational member of 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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