Earth Day 2019: How To Inspire Kids To Love Their River

Earth Day 2019: How To Inspire Kids To Love Their River

  • The Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are “Counting Down to Earth Day” with a series of articles on “Going Green” in 2019. This article was contributed by Meghan Yancey and Jenni Schiavone with Friends of the Fox River.

Although nearly 71 percent of our Earth’s surface is covered in water, only 3 percent of that water is freshwater.

With the human population consistently on the rise and additional pressure from climatic events, it is more important than ever to protect the resource that all life forms depend on the most.

For nearly 30 years, the Friends of the Fox River has been working to protect one resource right here in our back yards: the Fox River and its tributaries. Providing drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents, abundant cultural and recreational opportunities, and receiving our treated wastewater are just three of the major ways that the river serves the humans in the watershed.

The service it provides to wildlife is complex and immeasurable, though sometimes unrealized and underappreciated. The mission of the Friends of the Fox River is to preserve, restore and protect the Fox River Watershed’s resources by connecting people with nature through education, research, restoration and advocacy.

This is accomplished by cultivating a stewardship ethic in which learning about the river inspires compassion that leads to protective actions.

One of FOFR’s largest initiatives is our formal education programs. Every year, nearly 5,000 students of all ages throughout the Fox River Watershed participate in water quality testing at a tributary near their school. The data they collect is then used to monitor water quality trends and to inspire management decisions.

The experience for students is as hands-on and boots-on as it gets. The students get in the water to sample the biological community by collecting and identifying the critters that call the riverbed home.

The presence of a diversity of these critters — including snails, mussels, insects, worm-like creatures, and even crayfish — is indicative of healthy conditions.

The students also take chemistry samples and survey the physical surroundings as part of their data collection experience. During chemical testing, students test for phosphates and nitrates commonly found in household items such as fertilizers and detergents and analyze how these chemicals can negatively affect our water source.

President of Friends of the Fox River and Fox River watershed educator Gary Swick says being able to experience the river up close and personal sparks a curiosity and interest to learn more about this vital resource.

“A student’s bus may travel over a stream every day, and they probably never notice,” he said. “But after being in their school’s local stream, they value its importance in supporting life. Those students never look at that stream as insignificant, and know that they have a responsibility to care for it.”

Inspiring stewardship at a young age is extremely important. Children who care, grow up to be adults who care, and subsequently teach their children to care.

The Friends of the Fox River is excited to start the spring season this April! If you are an educator, parent, student, or citizen interested in learning more about water quality monitoring, please contact Gary Swick at and visit our Friends of the Fox River website.

See you in the stream!

Read The Countdown to Earth Day Series!