Teens Deepen Connection with Nature

Photo: Students meet with Mark Hauser (left), CPS stewardship coordinator Xochyl Perez (second from left), and Margaret Frisbie (center right).

High school students from several schools on Chicago’s South Side spent the day at Kickapoo Woods alongside the Little Calumet River last week with Friends’ Ecology Outreach Manager Mark Hauser, deepening their connections with nature and increasing their awareness of our natural areas through hands-on learning.

For the special day, Hauser, who leads our Chicago River Schools Network, worked with Chicago Public School stewardship coordinators affiliated with Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) as part of our Inside, Out & About program which promotes and encourages the use and stewardship of natural areas as well as outdoor wellness activities. 

"The CIMBY youth are amazing students,” said Hauser. “They have dedicated their summer to improving their communities, their environment, and themselves through service. I enjoyed spending time with them as they explored the Little Calumet River at Kickapoo Woods. I am constantly inspired by the younger generation so willing to better their world."

The students learned how to conduct water quality testing and assess the quality of natural areas. They also took a tour of Kickapoo Woods where they learned about the Little Calumet River and saw a special wildlife project of Friends, a bat maternity colony, installed by Friends in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. They also encountered some wildlife including white tailed deer and saw coyote tracks, both which are prevalent in the forest preserves.

CIMBY works with over 500 9th-12th grade students from the South Side of Chicago to improve natural sites and to bring science lessons to life. CIMBY is a joint program of The Field Museum's Action Science Center and its Youth Conservation Action program and the Chicago Public Schools' Service Learning Initiative.

Nestled alongside a one-mile stretch of the Little Calumet River, Kickapoo Woods is 240 total acres of sand prairie and riparian forest teeming with wildflowers, tall grasses, sugar maples, cotton woods, bass woods, oaks, black cherries, and American elms. Learn more about Kickapoo Woods, and plan your visit, by listening to episode 2 of our Inside, Out & About podcast that includes interviews with June Webb, the site steward for Kickapoo Woods and the 2016 Spirit of the River honoree; Liza Lehrer, assistant director of the Urban Wildlife Institute; and Friends’ Josh Coles, director of the Bridgehouse Museum and an expert in flora and fauna.