In-Class Presentations

River Interpretation

Our staff can visit your classroom to talk with your students about history, science, or an upcoming field trip. It's a wonderful way to start your Chicago River unit.

1. K-2nd grade

2. 3rd-4th grade

3. 5th-6th grade

4. 7th-8th grade

5. High School

In Person Presentations

A Friends staff person, intern or volunteer will come to your school to share the history of the Chicago River with your students and answer their questions. Programs are between 30 to 120 minutes long, and can be tailored to your class length. We can also assist you as you teach a classroom lesson (perhaps as a precursor to taking a field trip to the river), talk about macroivetebrate collection, discuss water chemistry, judge a science fair, or participate at a school festival.

To schedule a classroom visit please contact our education staff. We also do presentations for non-school groups; e.g. universities, churches, scouts, historical societies, museums, and environmental organizations.

Distance Learning

If you would like our staff to give a virtual presentation to your class or group. Classrooms can also opt for live discussions and Q&A with Friends’ staff. To schedule a virtual classroom presentation please contact our education staff

A wide range of educational offerings are also available to you on our YouTube channel, such as presentations about river-related issues and “virtual field trips” recorded at river-edge sites.

Kindergarten through Second Grade

History of the Chicago River (K-2)

Students take an imaginary journey in a time machine, travelling to important places and times during the Chicago River’s history. The animated presentation allows them to “visit” with people who lived long ago as they journey through time.

Great Pre-trip lessons:
What is a River?
Times Have Changed

Great Post-trip lessons:
I've Felt the Same Way
The Chicago River's Journey Through Time

Third and Fourth Grade

History of the Chicago River (3-4)

Students create a map of ecological and cultural change along the Chicago River using images depicting life through the past few centuries. By working together, students develop an understanding of how this area developed and changed from the 17th century to today.

Great Pre-trip lesson:
Rivers through Time
Connecting Land and Water

Great Post-trip lessons:
Connecting Land and Water
I've Felt the Same Way
The History of Your Chicago River

Fifth and Sixth Grade

History of the Chicago River (5-6)

Students track and discuss the many changes in the Chicago River watershed over the past several hundred years. Students follow the population growth of the city of Chicago and its effect on the river. Students gain an understanding of how natural areas were replaced by farms, and how farms disappeared to make way for our modern urban expansion. The quality of the Chicago River also ties into the story.

Great Pre-trip lessons:
What is a Watershed?
Erosion: Natural or Unnatural?
What are Maps for?

Great Post-trip lessons:
Choices Make a Difference
More with Chicago River Maps

Seventh and Eighth Grade

History of the Chicago River (7-8)

Students uncover what natural resources and amenities helped fuel the birth and rapid expansion of the greater Chicago area. By filling in their own timelines, students track this amazing development and its impact on the Chicago River.

Great Pre-trip lessons:
Getting a Sense of Time
What is a Watershed?
Water Chemistry Tests Explained

Great Post-trip lessons:
Backwards Goes It Does (5-8)
Who Lives in the River?
Think! Beyond the Banks

Ninth through Twelfth Grade

History of the Chicago River (9-12)

Historic photos, maps and diagrams illustrate the fascinating and disturbing history of the Chicago River. From the post-glacial world, through European exploration and exploitation, to the modern city with a troubled (albeit cleaner) river, we examine the history of the city of Chicago and its ties to the river that bears its name. A discussion of current problems facing the Chicago River and how students can become involved is included.

Great Pre-trip lessons:
What is a Watershed?
Water Chemistry Tests Explained
Macroinvertebrate Bingo

Great Post-trip lessons:
Backwards Goes It Does (9-12)
What Does Stream Flow Tell Us?
Think! Beyond the Banks

Photo by gopho.

“You taught us tons of things and helped us with our understanding of the Chicago River.  Your presentation actually inspired me to try to be more active with our ecosystem, specifically my neighborhood.”

7th grader, Chicago Jesuit Academy