A key tenet of the science program at Chicago City Day School is that science happens everywhere. Teachers reinforce that idea by having students study scientific concepts out in the real world.
Each year, City Day students in grades 4 through 8 observe, work, and record data along the North Branch of the Chicago River. The activities vary by grade. Some students collect specimens of plants that live in an adjacent prairie. Others observe and document the different creatures that live inside the river. Most students also spend time removing invasive and destructive plant species from the Cook County Forest Preserves.
As they work, students develop a keen understanding of ecosystems and how different types of environments support and depend on one another. They also hone their skills in collecting and interpreting data.
On a deeper level, the students develop a stronger sense of the relationship between human beings and the natural wold.
"The students see first-hand what impact a small group of individuals can have on the environment," City Day science teacher Thomas "Mac" McFeely said. "These experiences create a sense of civic responsibility in them."
Trips to the Chicago River happen in the fall and spring. This spring, a couple of the trips have brought two grades working together; eighth and fourth grades shared a trip, and seventh and fifth grades shared a trip. This allows the older students to serve as leaders and mentors for the younger ones.
The activities the students complete in and near the Chicago River all align with what they are studying in the classroom. In eighth grade, students use data recorded during analysis of the river's water quality in a presentation that they give at the Friends of the Chicago River Student Congress.
The trips to the Chicago River are part of City Day's Service Learning program. Below, see a collection of images from this spring's trips.