Below is a list of Friends’ most popular lessons. Integrate these lessons into your existing curricula to contextualize and focus your students’ learning on a local natural resource. Click on the name of the lesson to open a PDF of the write-up. Lessons are organized by subject and then by grade. At the end are some resources with additional background information.
Chicago River Science Lessons
What is a River? (K-2) (166k PDF)
Students will observe models of rivers, oceans, lakes and ponds and use clues to understand how they differ.
Erosion: Natural or Unnatural (5-8) (88k PDF)
In this two-day experimental lesson students will explore: 1) how water has the power to erode, 2) how developing the land (building roads, buildings and parking lots) increases the amount of water reaching our rivers and 3) how this greater quantity of water increases erosion.
What is a Watershed? (6-12) (342k PDF)
Students will create models of a landscape. They will then make and test their predictions about the location of rivers and watershed boundaries. Students will then find their watershed address. This lesson can either be done as a classroom demonstration or by students in groups of 3-4. Lesson extension models non-point source pollution.
Water Quality Tests Explained (7-12) (99k PDF)
When doing water quality testing it is important that students understand how each of the eight parameters affects the river. This demonstration can help teachers explain these concepts in a visual way.
Chicago River History Lessons
Times Have Changed (K-2) (25k PDF)
Students will build a timeline together using pictures to represent various historical periods. This lesson includes photos that you will need to download separately:
Times Have Changed Photos 1 (597k PDF)
Times Have Changed Photos 2 (770k PDF)
I’ve Felt the Same Way (K-4) (961k PDF)
Students will hear stories from people living in four different historical time periods. Students will then match the stories to their related photo and write or draw about a time when they felt a similar way.
The Chicago River Journey Through Time (K-2) (145k PDF)
Students will create a book, which shows the changes in the Chicago River throughout time.
Rivers Through Time (3-4) (139k PDF)
Students will read or have the book A River Ran Wild read to them. They will then discuss and reflect on the messages presented in the book.
The History of Your Chicago River (3-8) (159k PDF)
In order to understand the problems facing the Chicago River and its watershed today, students must understand how the area came to be as it is now. By hearing and reflecting on the story of the Chicago River students will also start to become interested in this river and see it as not just another body of water, but one of the main reasons they are here today.
Backwards Goes It Does (5-8) (75k PDF)
or Backwards Goes It Does (9-12) (82k PDF)
Students will use the web to investigate the topography of the Chicago River watershed. Then students will make a model of the Chicago River watershed to observe how the Chicago River was reversed. This lesson includes articles and maps that you will need to download separately:
Location Article (5-8 and 9-12) (1.1M PDF)
Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal Article (5-8 and 9-12) (1.3M PDF)
Is Chicago a Swamp? (5-8 and 9-12) (440k PDF)
Reference Map (5-8 and 9-12) (153k PDF)
River Template (5-8 only) (197k PDF)
Getting a Sense of Time (7-8) (184k PDF)
Students will construct a time line using events from U.S. and Illinois History. Then they will attempt to place events particular to the history of the Chicago River within the timeline (without being given dates for them). After the Chicago River program presented by Friends of the Chicago River, students will revise their placement of Chicago River historical events.
CSO, Oh No! (4-12) (280k PDF)
Students will understand the way that the sewer systems work in the Chicago River watershed and how these systems can contribute to pollution in the river.
Michigan Avenue Bridge Lessons
A Bridge Going Up and Down (K-3) (51k PDF)
Students look at photos of bridges and sing a song about Chicago’s famous bascule trunnion bridge to understand how moveable bridges work.
A Bridge in Balance (3-5) (45k PDF)
Students will make a model of a bascule trunnion bridge. They will then balance their bridge by calculating the weight of the necessary counter weight.
The Mag Mile and Torque (9-12) (175k PDF)
Students learn about gears and torque. They then build a model of the Michigan Avenue Bridge gears and calculate the increased torque provided by the gear chain.
General Ecology and Geography Lessons
Biodiversity: Who Cares? (6-12) (148k PDF)
Students play a game that demonstrates why having a rich variety of life is important to the survival of ecosystems and how invasive species are threatening local biodiversity.
Building an Ecosystem (6-12) (36k PDF)
Students will research a variety of local and world ecosystems. Students will create a collage to represent the biotic and abiotic factors and interactions important to their given ecosystem.
What are Maps for? (5-6) (49k PDF)
Students will explore a city map, answering and developing questions. Students will apply observation, reasoning and math skills.
Lessons in Taking Action
Choices Make a Difference (5-6) (55k PDF)
Students test different “green” and conventional cleaning products and learn how they impact rivers. Students model wastewater treatment processes to understand how pollution can travel from our drains to the river.
These handouts provide additional information for you and your students.
What makes a river healthy? (89k PDF)
Brief History of the Chicago River (83k PDF)
What are the problems facing the Chicago River today? (229k PDF)
What do the water quality testing values mean? (98k PDF)
What are some basic facts about macroinvertebrates? (138k PDF)
How do I tell the macroinvertebrates apart? (99k PDF)
What are some service projects my students can do? (113k PDF)