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Forest Preserve District boosts environmental education in Will County, Illinois

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Getting students outdoors for environmental education is a big part of the Forest Preserve District of Will County, near Joliet, Illinois.

Dead log study, Forest Preserve District of Will County, Ill.

Photo: Forest Preserve District of Will County Dead log study, Forest Preserve District of Will County, Ill.

Environmental education programs carry out the district’s mission of protecting, conserving, enhancing and promoting the county’s natural heritage

Lynn Kurczewski, director of visitor services at Forest Preserve District of Will County, said her department provides a variety of programs to education communities. Environmental education is the primary focus, but the programs also cover cultural history, science, technology, engineering and math.

Field trips are offered at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon; Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville; and Plum Creek Nature Center in Beecher.

The Four Rivers center is situated at the confluence of the Des Plaines, DuPage and Kankakee rivers, which become the Illinois River. The location gives the district the opportunity to teach the importance of water from many angles, such as wildlife, conservation, human interactions and commerce.  

“Students do water sampling, and they are surprised at how much plastic debris is in the water,” Kurczewski said. “It’s an eye-opener.”

High school programs bring students to a nearby forest preserve. Programs focus on restoration and conservation, and include in-school classroom activities as well as hands-on restoration work.

At Isle a la Cache Museum, interpretive naturalists assume the identities of people from the 18th-century fur trade era in northern Illinois. Students learn about native cultures’ use of natural resources.

“Providing educational programs in a first-person format allows us to bring history to life and create a memorable experience,” Kurczewski said.

Field trips are free for Will County schools. A small per-student cost applies to out-of-county schools.

The department is looking at ways to offer more outdoor recreation programs such as fishing, outdoor cooking and kayaking.

For more information, contact the Forest Preserve District of Will County at 815-722-2025 or visit reconnectwithnature.org.

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David Hoekman, Managing Editor

David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.

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