Last week, representatives from over 260 member organizations, students, educators, were joined by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant staff at the Chicago Wilderness Congress 2012. The overall theme of the congress was “Shaping the Future of Regional Conservation,” and numerous presentations and panels offered information on green infrastructure, climate action, research, restoration, and more. 600 attendees from northeastern Illinois, northwest Indiana, and southeast Wisconsin helped make the event exciting and educational, bringing in examples of their conservation and environmental work.
IISG’s Caitie McCoy and EPA research fellow Nishaat Yunus presented “Making the Invisible Visible: Engaging Children in Sediment Remediation of the Grand Calumet River,” which fit into the coalition’s education initiative and focus. The presentation described an educational program at two schools in Northwest Indiana designed to connect local youth to the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern while building scientific literacy. One challenge was to make a seemingly “invisible” problem like contaminated sediment “visible” and relevant to children living near the river. The students participated in the educational program from early February to June 2012, and attended a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press event about the Great Lakes Legacy Act in June. Through presentations, engaging activities, and field trips, more than 120 students in 4th and 9th grades became familiar with Great Lakes Legacy Act remediation and restoration work and important ecological concepts. The 4th grade students learned about habitats, sediment, pollution, and invasive species, and the 9th grade class learned how to perform data collection, analysis, and reporting with the water samples they collected on a field trip to the river.

At the congress, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was also able to exhibit several education and outreach projects focused on community stewardship, including aquatic invasive species, proper pharmaceutical disposal, and habitat restoration, as well as program initiatives and accomplishments.

IISG’s Kristin TePas summed up the event by saying, “The Chicago Wilderness Congress was a great opportunity to connect with conservation practitioners in the Chicago region and to learn about the various projects occurring locally.”

You can read more about the conference, including detailed presentation descriptions, at the Chicago Wilderness website.

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