Teachers and Students, Join us at the Chicago River Student Congress

Students from Lane Tech High School at the 2022 Student Congress held at Clark Park alongside the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Hundreds of high school environmentalists from dozens of schools in the city and suburbs will gather February 25 for the 26nd annual Chicago River Student Congress.

The Congress is open to all teachers and students throughout the Chicago-Calumet River watershed. 

The annual event – held this year at DePaul College Prep High School along the North Branch of the Chicago River – is a water science-focused student conference organized by the Chicago River Schools Network (CRSN) of Friends of the Chicago River. The Congress offers workshops on environment-related topics and features student presentations with a focus on river-related issues.

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“The Chicago River Student Congress is a student-led conference about river issues that provides a rare opportunity for students from different schools to learn from each other,” said Mark Hauser, Friends’ ecology outreach manager. “Through the CRSN, we offer teachers ways to integrate the river system into their classrooms in ways that challenge students academically with hands-on learning opportunities at river-edge sites; we’re growing students’ knowledge of science and nature and nurturing their potential as environmental stewards.”

Also at the Student Congress, Friends of the Chicago River will present the 2022 Educator of the Year award to Lynette Thomas of Kenwood Academy High School for her creativity, student education, and community engagement in the CRSN. 

With the Chicago-Calumet River system as a teaching tool, the CRSN enriches academic courses with river-based learning for students, helping them grow a life-long sense of stewardship for the river.

Since its founding in 1996, the CRSN has engaged more than 473,000 students and teachers in science, language, and history activities at river locations, north and south. In 2022 the CRSN’s student impact totaled over 14,000 people via direct programming, including field trips to the river with Friends’ staff and through the hundreds of teachers who have been trained to use our river curricula which is designed to meet state learning standards.

The CRSN is also one of Friends’ most diverse and inclusive programs. Public schools represent 90% of CRSN participants. A five-year analysis of the CRSN conducted by Friends in 2019 found that 69% of schools served were Chicago Public Schools, with 53.1% of students from low-income families. Over that same period, students served were 37.1% Latinx, 29.6% Caucasian, 20.6% Black, and 7.3% Asian.

Also at the Student Congress, our partners at the River Park Advisory Council will also present their Be the Change You Want to See award recognizing outstanding high school students.