Teachers Explore River-Based Education

With the 2022-23 school year underway, the Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN), the premier educational program of Friends of the Chicago River, is hosting new workshops, field trips, and presentations to help teachers and students explore the Chicago-Calumet River system to learn about nature and science.

Recently, the CRSN partnered with Urban Rivers to present a workshop for a dozen teachers in Chicago. Teachers represented various Chicago schools such as Gwendolyn Brooks Preparatory Academy Brooks Academy, Decatur Classical School, Skinner North Classical School, Waters Elementary School, and Jamieson Elementary School, but also included others from the University of Illinois Chicago, Fusion Academy, and Brookfield Zoo.

The workshop helped educators learn ways to teach about river chemistry, aquatic invasive/native species, and water quality assessment, as well as activities to get students more involved with the river system. The workshop also highlighted how the CRSN is a resource for teachers to get training and personalized assistance in river-based educational activities. Participants also learned about river habitat created by Urban Rivers at the Wild Mile as an educational resource. All teachers participating in the workshop received a free chemistry kit.

Mark Hauser, Friends’ ecology outreach manager who leads the CRSN, said “we seeded the river with leaf packs to entice aquatic organisms, which we pulled from the river; various invertebrates were examined as the teachers learned about river chemistry, and we closed with a discussion on getting students more involved with the river system. Many of the teachers had partnered with Friends in the past, and some were new to the program. We will be hosting additional workshops like this in the spring of 2023.”

During the past school year, the CRSN’s student impact totaled 13,245 via direct programming, including fieldtrips to the river with Friends’ staff and through the hundreds of teachers who have been trained to use our river curricula which is designed to meet the state learning standards. The CRSN also returned to an in-person Chicago River Student Congress, an annual student-led river conference. The next student congress event is planned for February 2023.