The Forest Preserve District has created a new “Teacher Appreciation” program to reward instructors for their hard work and to give them a little relaxation and recreation before they return to the classrooms.
Teachers will be invited to kayak, hike, bike or take part in yoga sessions.
The program also is designed to help teachers get to know the Forest Preserve District a bit better and to learn about its wide variety of in-person, in-school and virtual field trips.
Two "Teacher Appreciation" sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, and Saturday, July 31, at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center. The program is free and for ages 18 or older. Registration is required by Tuesday, July 27. Sign up online on the Event Calendar or call 815.722.9470.
Angela Rafac, a Forest Preserve interpretive naturalist, said staff thought it was a great idea to pull together something for teachers who have had a stressful time coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They worked really hard to keep their kids engaged, so we want to offer them a chance to revitalize before the new school years starts,” she said.
The program will offer a 90-minute kayaking program on calm waters where the DuPage River meets the Des Plaines River. All kayaking gear will be provided.
“We should see plenty of turtles and birds,” Rafac said.
Teachers also are invited to take part in an optional 45-minute yoga class either before (energizing) or after (relaxing) the scheduled program.
“If yoga is not their cup of tea, they are welcome to come early and hike some of our trails before the day begins or bring their bikes and explore that way too,” Rafac said.
During the “Teacher Appreciation” program, teachers also will get to hike the preserve and participate in the types of hands-on activities that would be available to their students through the Four Rivers field trip program.
“These activities include a pond dip, an insect investigation and more,” Rafac said.
One group will explore the preserve while the other group kayaks and the two groups will switch after lunch, which will be provided.
“We have programs that can be suited for any grade level so teachers of every grade and subject are encouraged to participate,” Rafac said.
Field trips showcased
The “Teacher Appreciation” program also will showcase changes the Forest Preserve has made to its field trip programming.
“Teachers who may know us for in-person or in-school field trips might not know about our virtual programs. Or those who have experienced virtual programs may not be familiar with our in-person and in-school offerings,” Rafac said. “We want them to know that we can support them year-round with our free virtual and in-person field trips and our affordable in-school programs.”
Virtual presentations during the "Teacher Appreciation" program will show teachers how Forest Preserve school programs support educational goals and benefit students.
“We will have video footage with both indoor and outdoor portions of each of Four Rivers’ virtual field trips,” Rafac said. “Teachers will get to see real content and exactly how we’ll be able to let their students experience the preserve right from their classroom."
Tables will also be set up with samples of the materials that Forest Preserve staff bring to classrooms for each in-school program with an explanation of how the materials can align with a school's curriculum.
"Teachers can view the list of offerings from the other Forest Preserve sites as well,” Rafac explained. In addition to Four Rivers, the Forest Preserve offers in-person and virtual field trips at Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville and Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township.