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President's Letter: Free Educational Options for Parents and Educators

Across Cook County, families are going back to school in different ways, ranging from starting the school year virtually to being back in the classroom to homeschooling with parents—and everything in between.

While educators and parents alike work hard to develop and lead engaging educational curriculum in this pandemic, I want to remind everyone of the resources available through the Forest Preserves of Cook County: our 70,000-acre natural classroom. Whether learning about our local ecology, cultural history or simply taking “recess” outdoors, a visit to the preserves provides endless opportunities for learning.

In addition, the Forest Preserves has long worked with schools, local colleges and individual educators, delivering hundreds of field trips and in-classroom programs annually and connecting with students through programs like Cooler in the Forest and Mighty Acorns. Last year, more than 23,000 students attended school programs at our sites, and another 11,000 participated in programs led by Forest Preserves staff at schools.

This fall, educators and parents can contact our any of our six nature education centers or write to experience.nature@cookcountyil.gov for help developing customized programs or activities based on specific curriculum goals and objectives. Forest Preserves naturalists can also serve as an interpreter of our forest preserves’ assets and resources and how to connect them to students and families.

The Forest Preserves programming and nature center team is also working on new K-12 lessons that can be used in hybrid, in-school, e-learning or homeschool environments and include virtual, in-person and at-home activities, both outdoors and inside. Like existing Forest Preserves curriculum, these will be aligned with Illinois National Next Generation Science Standards and will be available for free later this fall.

Quality education for all students and supporting our local schools and educators helps us to build strong communities. Please remember that the Forest Preserves is a tremendous educational option in these challenging times.

Be safe and be healthy,

Toni Preckwinkle, President