A Splash of 2022’s Education Efforts

The Friends of the Fox River (FOTFR) education team was in full steam in 2022 leading field-based learning experiences throughout much of the Fox River Watershed.  Schools from Richmond down to Yorkville and many in between #filledtheboots splashing in their local stream for water quality data collection and stewardship efforts.

A FOTFR Education History Lesson

From FOTFR’s beginning days in the early 90’s, providing students with an immersion experience of collecting water quality data has been a staple. At first it involved citizen volunteers and a few champion teachers. In 1999, we created the Fox River Watershed Monitoring Network that partnered with local organizations and agencies that were providing outdoor education services. Teachers were formally trained and the network grew to over 100 sites, including 32 schools. In 2009, a grant enabled FOTFR to provide a dedicated educator to host classes in the stream and their classroom. That service has been maintained, and thanks to our donors our influence has grown. This year, FOTFR has established its first full time employee, Jenni (Schiavone) Kempf . Jenni began and excelled as an independent study high school student focusing on the Fox River. Later she joined FOTFR as a network coordinator and educator, and now holds the new position of Director of Educational Program Operations. Our education program will be growing.

Friends of the Fox River (FOTFR) works to build a watershed community of caretakers. Our learning continuum follows a model of providing an awareness that leads to a deeper understanding, which develops a sense of appreciation that can lead to action. FOTFR educates on many levels, but youth is our primary focus. For many of our students, their time with Jenni is their first time in a stream, and for almost all of them it’s their first time seeing how diverse the  life in the stream actually is. It is exciting, and opens the door for significant learning opportunities. These lessons are effective in building awareness and often life changing.

Stewards of their Streams: 2000 learner experiences!

This program is the flagship of FOTFR education. We provide the opportunity for students to walk and sample a Fox River tributary near their school. Students collect data for chemical and biological analysis and describe the physical habitat.  The data over time shows trends about each particular stream’s health. This exploration can be important to discover problems in the short term. In some cases students’ observations in the stream have resulted in a professional level investigation that has led to protective action.

Responding to requests from watershed schools, FOTFR offers a menu of educational activities and tailors field trips to meet the needs of teachers and students. This year we served up new lessons and activities about litter collection and analysis and dam removal.. 

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FOTFR Educator Katelin discusses macroinvertebrate collection technique with u46 sixth graders at Poplar Creek in Elgin

A new partnership with the U46 science department formed, and we piloted ten 6th grade field trip experiences at Poplar Creek on the Elgin High School Campus. This collaborative effort included high school students leading activities with the 6th graders in conjunction with enrichment provided by FOTFR.  Thank you EHS staff and students!

Enrichment Programs: 1500 learner experiences!

FOTFR is in its second year as a contractual partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Dundee Township.  Traveling to 8 sites on a rotational basis, educators created field experiences for learners with limited access to outdoor spaces.  We also conducted programs in conjunction with two library districts, and several scout groups.

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This cutie simulates erosion on a cold Rocktober day of Saturday Outdoor Adventures for Families

Back up and running is Saturday Outdoor Family Adventures that is currently headquartered in the Dundee Area with opportunity for expansion.  This program gets local families together to explore and learn about natural features in their home communities. Our headquarters at the Schweitzer Education Center (SEC) is equipped with hiking trails, gardens, and supplies to design experiments. Please inquire about room rental and volunteer opportunities at info@friendsofthefoxriver.org.

Festival Season: 1700 learner experiences!

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Earth Day festival patrons in McHenry County enjoyed viewing and learning about what lives on the bottom of our Fox River streams

With representation at the McHenry County Conservation District, City Of  Elgin, the Barrington Park District, and our own Mother’s Day event, FOTFR was no stranger to the Earth Day and spring festival season.  Always equipped with hands-on activities like identifying live stream critters, our booth is never lonely.

Adult Education: 200 learner experiences!

New this year is Dam Nite Out. Mostly geared towards adults, this program has been critical in spreading awareness of the threats to water quality caused by dams.  Second Sunday presentations are back at Schweitzer Education Center too with an impressive lineup of speakers doing interesting work. 

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President Gary Swick discusses the impact dams have on water quality while overlooking the Aurora dam

That’s over 5000 learners impacted by our work this past year.  Will you learn and grow with us in 2023?