Gage Park Community Teacher Named Friends’ Educator of the Year
Solorio Academy High School chemistry and environmental science teacher Greta Kringle has been named Friends of the Chicago’s River’s Educator of the Year. Kringle’s success using the Chicago River as a teaching tool has not only helped her students learn science but instilled a sense of stewardship for the waterway as well.
“The most important thing I want students to take away from studying environmental science is that we all depend on the health of earth's natural systems and that we all play a role by existing on this earth in a sustainable way,” said Kringle, who has taught at the Gage Park school since 2013. “I do hope that my students leave class with ideas about creative solutions to environmental issues, a sense of urgency to change some of their own behaviors, and motivation to demand societal change.”
She will accept the Educator of the Year honor on March 2, 2019 at the Chicago River Student Congress, an annual water science-focused conference organized by Friends of the Chicago River. At the Congress, students attend workshops and view displays created by their peers and by professionals from local colleges, non-profits and government agencies.
“Teachers like Greta do much more than educate students about the basics of math or science,” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends’ executive director. “They bring the planet to life for their students and help them understand that they are a part of our environment and can act to protect it.”
Kringle has been bringing students to the Chicago River as part of their studies for the last two years through the Chicago River School Network (CRSN), an initiative of Friends of the Chicago River. The CRSN provides K-12 teachers the training and personalized assistance they need to immerse their students in the history, evolving ecology, and improving health of the Chicago River. Since 1996 when the program was founded, it has impacted more than 400,000 students, including thousands of fieldtrips to the river where students learn about science and nature by examining what lives in the water.
Kringle’s students apply chemistry concepts to environmental science issues such as managing waste, water quality and ocean acidification.
“Hands-on learning offers students new experiences that allow them to connect the content from our class to other parts of their lives,” she said. “I feel that students tend to hold on to the information they experience on our trips or in hands-on class activities more readily than the information they gather in other ways.”
Kringle serves as the adviser to Solorio’s Zero Waste Ambassadors club, which creates sustainability projects for the school and community. Over the last few years, the Zero Waste club and chemistry classes at Solorio have helped train and manage students, staff, and neighboring elementary schools to start a composting and recycling system. In 2017, her students planted and cared for a native pollinator garden on the Solario campus at 5400 S. St. Louis Ave. that will be expanded this spring.
As the service learning coach, Kringle has established a relationship between Solorio Academy and the Forest Preserves of Cook County, with students participating in habitat restoration trips at the Arie Crown Forest near Countryside for the last four years. The forest preserve visits and Chicago River trips are a memorable part of the Solorio student experience.
The St. Paul, Minn. native majored in chemistry at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
“I enjoyed how science classes involved mathematical problem-solving and lab and data collection along with readings and lectures,” she said. Originally, Kringle thought she may become a physician.
“Then I kind of stumbled on teaching. I liked working with young people and I liked nerding out to science, so it felt right. I love it!” Kringle said.
“The job is challenging, creative, and rewarding. I get to continue many of my passions—science, environmentalism, soccer, and service—and share them with others.”