Successful School Year for Chicago River Schools Network

Students from Schurz High School study water quality by sampling macroinvertebrates at Lechowicz Woods in May 2024. Photo by Mircea Arsenie.

We celebrate another impactful and fun academic year for our Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN). By empowering teachers within the Chicago-Calumet River watershed with the knowledge and resources to teach about local ecology through workshops, presentations, and field trips, our total CRSN education outreach benefited more than 25,000 students over the course of this school year. The CRSN trains Chicago-area teachers in river education, inspires curiosity and stewardship in students, and fosters the next generation of environmental leaders to take action towards a healthy, climate-resilient river system for all.

Since 2010, the CRSN has averaged 70 field trips each year (excluding the pandemic years of 2020-22), inspiring thousands of Chicago-area students to be environmental justice leaders, biologists, artists, chemists, natural resource restoration workers, and river stewards.

The 2023-2024 academic year for CRSN was a great success. 

  • 367 teachers participated in the program using Friends’ River Curriculum to teach their students about river science, history, and nature.
  • Friends’ CRSN staff conducted 56 field trips to the river with over 2,365 students testing water quality, picking up litter, and catching macroinvertebrates.
  • The CRSN also visited 16 classrooms to talk about the river, educating over 435 students.

Moreover, planning for the coming 2024-2025 academic year is off to a fast start with many teachers already scheduling trips to the river for the summer/fall.

Friends’ Education Manager Mark Hauser said that this year he anticipates more opportunities for the CRSN to grow positive relationships between the Chicago-Calumet River system and the countless students and teachers surrounding it.

Core to the CRSN are popular field trips led by Hauser, who brings students and teachers to the river’s edge to conduct water-sampling tests and to wade into the water to learn about its aquatic life.

“The real joy this past year has been in reconnecting with many teachers and schools that we haven’t seen at the river since before the pandemic,” said Hauser. It’s nice to see their dedication to the program, even as many teachers have switched schools in the past few years.”

Teaching opportunities such as these continue to inspire Hauser, who has dedicated 17 years to Friends, working to educate young people about the importance of river ecologies and the ways in which biology, chemistry, and time spent in nature can play a big role in water advocacy.

Since its founding in 1996, the CRSN has engaged more than 500,000 students and teachers in science, language arts, and history activities at river locations, north, south, and west. Designed to provide teachers with the tools they need to meet Next Generation Science Standards, the CRSN provides K-12 teachers with the training and personalized assistance they need to teach students ways to investigate real world issues and create service-learning projects that work to solve everyday problems facing the river and our communities.

CRSN resources include lesson plans and activities centered on the Chicago-Calumet River system. Learn more about the Chicago-Calumet River system from Hauser by watching our “Chicago River Talks” series on our YouTube channel.  To arrange a field trip or in-classroom presentation, educators should contact Hauser at