The Friends of the Fox River is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, acknowledging accomplishments and looking toward new horizons, particularly in the expansion of its education programs.
Presently, FOFR engages with an average of 5,000 watershed residents each year with a dedicated team of volunteers and only a few paid staff members.
Audiences of all ages participate in formal and informal education programs, river clean-up celebrations, and guided paddling trips.
The organization is headquartered in a beautiful historic home on the Schweitzer Forest Preserve property in West Dundee. The home and surrounding natural areas serve as a hub for both indoor and outdoor community programs.
The organization’s flagship is its formal education program “Stewards of Their Streams,” which began in 2009 and has been growing ever since.
Using the natural world as a hands-on classroom, FOFR educators coordinate with teachers and community members to arrange field trips and classroom programs in which students become citizen scientists collecting and interpreting water quality data to evaluate the health of their local streams.
The program is offered throughout the entire Fox River Watershed, which stretches beyond the Wisconsin/Illinois border to the north and as far south as the town of Ottawa to the Fox River’s confluence with the Illinois River.
The vast majority of Kane County is in the Fox River Watershed, including the watershed’s two main population centers, Elgin and Aurora.
FOFR is seeking both participants and educators to help expand its program offerings geographically.
Though programs can be tailored to meet a school’s particular needs, FOFR offers a three-part experience: a pre-trip in class lesson, the field trip portion, and a post-trip data analysis and posting to a digital platform so that anyone can view the school’s data and unique contributions.
The classroom lessons are designed to prepare the students for their trip to their local stream using activities and demonstrations. Aligning to the Next Generation Science Standards, in-class activities range from modeling the fate and transport of water pollution to identifying invertebrates using dissecting microscopes.
FOFR has vetted these activities and more with diverse ages and demographics of students.
During the field portion, students assess physical, chemical, and biological conditions using science equipment and performing calculations. The biological portion involves getting into the water and collecting a sample of the living community using nets.
For some of the students we work with, this is the first time they have ever walked in a stream. The impact of the stream experience has been described as inspiring for many of the young people over the 10+ years that we have offered this program.
The third prong of the offering is a culmination of the total experience in which the students can make unique contributions to an online interactive “story map.”
The virtual platform serves as a database for the stream health data collected during the field portion, and is also a forum for posting photos and any other student-generated content relevant to their experiences as citizen scientists.
The FOFR “Menu” for Stewards of Their Streams describes the lessons and activities in greater detail.
Watch the FOFR website and follow on Facebook for events throughout the year, including paddling trips, fundraisers, educational programs and river clean-ups.
If you are interested in learning more about what FOFR does, contact Gary Swick, president of the Friends of the Fox River at 815-370-0026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: Friends of The Fox River news release
Photos for KCC article
Students in the stream during the field experience at their local tributary.
Students collecting a sample of invertebrates
The “Enviroscape” pollution modeling activity