Canoe and Cleans are also Unique Learning Opportunities

Friends' Annette Anderson provides paddle safety instructions to students from Loyola University Chicago.

More than a dozen master students enrolled in the Secondary Education program at Loyola University Chicago launched canoes into the water last week for a three-hour canoe and clean event along the North Branch of the Chicago River; it was also a unique opportunity for the prospective teachers to immersive themselves in an understanding of the Chicago-Calumet River system as teaching tool.

“In the city, it can be easy to forget that nature is all around us and these trips can remind us of what an incredible resource for learning our parks and natural spaces are,” said Lara Smetana, professor of Science Education, at Loyola University Chicago, who also volunteers as a Friends canoe guide. “Moreover, there are so many fantastic resources to help teachers, families, and youth to make the most of these learning opportunities, like Friends’ Chicago River Schools Network and the Chicago Park District’s River Lab. I want our beginning teachers to be aware of these resources and be excited to access them with their future classes.”

Smetana also praised Friends for our ongoing partnership with the university: “At Loyola, our teacher education program is based on partnerships with schools and communities and it has been such a pleasure to partner with Friends of the Chicago River for paddles and canoe and cleans [over] the past several years.”

Throughout the 2022 season, Friends hosted more than 1,000 paddlers on the waters of the Chicago and Calumet rivers to create cleaner, safer rivers by cleaning up trash. They were complemented by more than 3,000 volunteers who collected litter from river-adjacent parks and forest preserves.

As this year’s paddle season winds down, planning for the 2023 paddle and canoe and clean season is already underway. Canoe and clean events are some of the most popular and immersive ways for people to actively engage in our ongoing Litter Free Chicago-Calumet River initiative.

Friends is available to take groups of 10 or more out on the river. The paddles are great for all different types of organizations who wish to experience the Chicago and Calumet rivers. To schedule an event contact Annette Anderson at