Chicago River Schools Network Prepares for School Year

Chicago River Schools Network students participate in a litter cleanup this past school year.

The Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN), Friends’ premier educational program, is gearing up for another great year. We are already booking field trips and presentations for the 2022-23 school year, looking to build on the successful year we just completed.

During the past school year, the CRSN worked with 28 schools on 38 field trips and gave seven classroom presentations. We taught 1,585 students about the river; mostly at the river’s edge. We also returned to an in-person Chicago River Student Congress, our 25th annual student-led river celebration. More than 120 students, teachers, parents, and environmental professionals from across the region gathered in April along the banks of the North Branch of Chicago River at Clark Park.

The CRSN is also teaching students about environmental stewardship through litter cleanup activities, and we are finding ways to increase student access to field trips. Friends is currently receiving a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Coastal Management Program which funds litter removal along the Chicago-Calumet River system. One of the most telling stats is that Friends has achieved 875 hours of student engagement removing litter since February, the start of the grant. The grant also allows us to pay for buses to and from the river, one of the biggest barriers to student trips. The core activities of the CRSN involve field trips to the river. Getting students face-to-face with the river to experience it first-hand.

Overall, this past school year saw a total student engagement of 13,245, through direct programming and counting teachers as multipliers. “It’s fantastic to see that this program continues to create value for teachers and students alike,” says Mark Hauser, Friends’ Ecology Outreach Manager who leads the CRSN. “We are still going strong in bringing the river into classrooms and classrooms to the river. If you would like to bring your class on a trip or attend the Student Congress in February 2023, please give us a call.”

On Saturday, July 30, the CRSN and Girls 4 Science co-hosted a field exploration of the water quality and habitat at Flatfoot Lake at Beaubien Woods. More than 100 girls from three South Side high schools will explore native habitats and perform chemistry tests to assess water quality. The CRSN and Girls 4 Science have partnered together over the last 12 years to help girls in the Chicago area enter the STEM fields and gain experience with nature and science. 

Since 1996, Friends has had thousands of teachers and over 475,000 students explore the Chicago River.