Workshops & Curricula

Train with Friends... gain knowledge and hone skills -- bringing the river into your classroom or your class to the river.

1. Upcoming workshops

2. Rivers Curriculum workshop

3. River Citizen workshop & book

4. Exploring Rivers workshop & book

Are you looking to enhance an existing curriculum with some additional skills, lessons, or teaching methods? Are you in need of an entire unit on rivers or water? Friends teaches a variety of workshops for all grades and skill levels. If you need help planning a Chicago River unit, or wish to use the Chicago River for your students’ studies, please contact our education staff to set up a free planning meeting.

Upcoming Workshops

How to teach about river chemistry, aquatic invasive species, and assessing water quality

Monday, October 10, 2022, 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Location: Urban Rivers boardwalk
(located behind REI at 905 West Eastman St., Chicago, IL 60642)
All teachers get a free chemistry kit
Learn more about connections between our native (and non-native) crayfish, water chemistry and water quality; and how to get your students more involved in the river. Space is limited for this free workshop. RSVP to Mark Hauser at by 10/7/2022.

“Creating a Litter Free Chicago/Calumet River System”
This teacher workshop is now on our YouTube channel.

Presented by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and Friends of the Chicago River. It is for teachers who wish to tackle the issue of litter in our river as a service-learning project with their students and for leaders who wish to remove litter along the river and in their local communities. We all have a role to play in improving the aquatic and park environments in Chicago.

You may view presentations by:
Terri Hallesy, IL-IN Sea Grant
Dr. Timothy Hoellein, Loyola University
Sharon Waller, River Park Advisory Council
Micah Zaker, Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy

For more information, contact Mark Hauser at

Rivers Curriculum, 7th-12th Grade

The Rivers Curriculum workshop is a comprehensive four-day workshop. It is presented in partnership with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the DePaul University-Lincoln Park Campus. This innovative curriculum uses rivers and watersheds as a focus for biology, chemistry, earth science, language arts, math, and geography. Each of these subjects has their own manual with lessons, assessments, and background information. The lessons are inquiry-based and hands-on, introducing students to complex river-based concepts and issues in a real world approach. Cost per teacher is $150. Available to any group of six (min) to twenty (max) teachers. Contact our education staff, for details.

River Citizen, 5th-8th Grade

  1. I'm interested in a workshop for 5th-8th grade ($20 per teacher, includes a copy of the curriculum for up to five teachers).
  2. I'm interested in purchasing a bound copy of the curriculum book. (Cost $20)

River Citizen is a self-contained unit appropriate for upper elementary and middle school. Through a series of lessons and a field trip, students take on the role of scientists and investigate a local environmental issue, the health of the Chicago River and its watershed. Students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills as they conduct research, collect and analyze data, draw conclusions, suggest solutions, and take individual action towards improving the river. Lessons include background information and assessment rubrics.

3. You may also download sections of the River Citizen curriculum book.

Exploring Rivers, K-4th Grade

  1. I'm interested in a workshop for K-4th grade ($20 per teacher, includes a copy of the curriculum for up to five teachers).
  2. I'm interested in purchasing a bound copy of the curriculum book. (Cost $20)

Exploring Rivers is a series of five curricula, one each for grade K-4th. Students explore habitats, cycles, flow and erosion. Engaging hands-on lessons and investigations connect students to the world around them. Lessons include background information and assessment rubrics.

3. You may also download sections of the Exploring Rivers curriculum book.

  • Introduction
  • Kindergarden: lessons 1-3 | 4-6 (What is a River?)
  • 1st Grade: lessons 1-3 | 4-6 (What is a River Habitat?)
  • 2nd Grade: lessons 1-5 | 6-9 (What is a Water Cycle?)
  • 3rd Grade: lessons 1-3 | 4-5 | 6-8 (Adaptations)
  • 4th Grade: lessons 1-4 | 5-7 (What Makes a River Healthy?)
  • Resources

In-service Trainings

Friends will create a unique training for your next professional development or in-service day. Possible topics include: water quality monitoring, service learning, Chicago River history, integrating language arts and science, or the scientific method. Have you got an idea for a training? Contact our education staff for details and fee structure.

Teachers learn how to integrate the Chicago River into their classrooms during a workshop with Friends

“Even on a rainy, cold spring day, my 8th graders had a truly valuable nature-education experience at the Chicago River. I never heard a single complaint, and the students could not stop talking about their positive experiences once we got back into class the next day.”

Jennifer Stubbs, Young Women's Leadership Charter School

“The river program is a highly creative, intensive way to teach students hand-on about ecology and engage them socially to preserve the quality of nature.”

Sue Groziak, Taft High School