Field Trips

River Exploration

A trip to the Chicago River offers students the opportunity for scientific inquiry as they reflect and connect with nature.

1. Organizing a Field Trip

2. Selecting activities

4. Selecting a destination

4. Scheduling a Field Trip with Friends

5. Paperwork & Permits

6. Fees

How do I organize a River field trip?

Friends is here to help you plan and organize your field trip. We can come out with you on the day of your field trip, and provide water quality testing supplies and equipment for your students to use in their studies. Below are answers to some commonly asked questions. If you are new to planning outdoor field trips, consult our guide to Field Trip Organization 101.

Field Trip Logistics

Field trips usually last two to four hours, plus time for lunch. We suggest you bring no more than 60 students to the river. Larger groups can be divided over two trips on separate days. Divide the number of students you're bringing into groups no larger than 15. Each group must have an adult leader, such as a parent, teacher or teacher’s aide. Once divided, the number of student groups is the ideal number of activity stations. There are several ways to set-up a trip.
   ? Students can rotate through activities, each student having the opportunity to try everything.
   ? Students are divided into expert groups. Each group delves deeply into one or two activities. Small groups then report back to the entire class.

Field Trip Activities

Decide what activities you want your students to do. Visit the field trip activities page for activity descriptions. Please note: Friends can provide one staff person per field trip. This person can provide a brief introduction to the river at the beginning of the field trip and lead one of your activities. All other activities must be led by your staff.

Location, Location, Location...

There are a variety of sites for field trips ranging from city parks to forest preserves. Sites can be found as far south as 135th Street and as far north as Lake Forest. To browse descriptions of the different sites, please visit the field trip sites page. Choose a site based on descriptions, driving directions, parking, and access that suits your needs and the activities you've chosen in step 2. If you need help deciding on a site, or would like a recommendation, please contact our education staff.

Drawing by Catie, Audubon Elementary

How do I schedule a field trip with Friends of the Chicago River?

Date & Time

Decide when you want to go. Check out the CRSN Calendar to see what dates and times are available, although an empty spot on the calendar doesn't necessarily mean we're free. Please doulbe-check that we don't have a meeting, time off or a private workshop scheduled. If you need help, contact us.

Trips can be done seven days a week, and can be scheduled whenever our education staff is available. For fall and spring trips, we suggest you contact us at least one or two months in advance to schedule your field trip as dates get booked quickly.

Paperwork & Permits

Once you've decided on when and where you're going, and what activities you'd like to have your students do, complete the FIELD TRIP NEEDS FORM  and return it to our education staff. This form can also be opened in an online version. To ensure that the form isn't blank when you turn it in, save it to your hard drive, then complete and return it via emailWe cannot book your trip until we have the information on the form, so please send it to us formally lock in your date!

If your group plans on visiting a site within the Forest Preserves of Cook County (listed as sites #4-16 and #21-25 on the field trip sites map), you must also fill out and turn in a Forest Preserves Education Permit Request Form at least two weeks before your field trip.


With some exceptions, all services and materials are FREE to K-12 schools within the Chicago River watershed who are members of the CRSN. Member schools are those that have been to a Friends' workshop or have had a consultation with our education staff.

Field Trips: $200 for one hour (+ an additional $50 for every additional hour).

Community groups, non-CRSN schools (those located outside the Chicago River watershed), universities, for-profit organizations, and some non-profits will have associated fees for programming. Please contact our education staff for details and/or clarification.


Friends will call or email you back with any questions regarding logistics or activities, to discuss pre- and post-trip lessons, and to confirm that your trip is booked.

How do I keep my students safe at the river?

Please review our safety information before scheduling a trip to the Chicago River. You can also download a printable copy of safety information that you can share with your students and their parents.

Students from Young Women's Leadership Chater School explore the river
Photo by Brittany Harthan

“To see kids in the water; muddy, dirty, asking questions and marveling at things never before seen in an urban Mecca like Chicago, is both enlightening and motivating for teachers and students. To study science in situ, in nature, as opposed to the vacuum of theory and classroom walls is truly getting the students to think and rekindle long lost connections to the outdoors.”

Mitch Arsenie, Schurz High School