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District Launches Virtual Learning Programs to Meet Students' Needs

Photo for: District Launches Virtual Learning Programs to Meet Students

Photo by Chad Merda

The Forest Preserve will offer 13 new virtual learning units and the opportunity to “Ask a Naturalist” for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

Learning units are themed around a variety of teaching topics and satisfy Illinois learning standards. Topics offered include Native Americans/Fur Traders, Endangered Species, Climate and Weather Changes, Habitats, Water Conservation, Watersheds, Invasive Species, Wildlife, Wetlands and Pollinators.  

Each three-part unit consists of: 

  • A live online program presented by Forest Preserve staff. 
  • A package of self-guided teaching resources.
  • A live online capstone wrap-up presented by Forest Preserve staff.

All virtual education programs are free for fall 2020. The District is prepared to deliver programs to students' screens in their homes or in their classrooms. To find out more about all of the education services available or to request a program, visit the School Programs page. Program registration opens Monday, August 17 for Will County schools. Non-Will County schools can send in requests starting Monday, August 24.  

Teachers have the option to schedule individual programs or full units. 

“Presenting virtual programs in real time is the key to engaging students,” said Jessica Prince, the Forest Preserve's education and outreach supervisor. “Answering questions, offering interactive polls, and ‘chatting’ with students during the interactive offerings is much more appealing than pre-recorded videos."

At the end of the live program, students will be given an at-home task tied to the program’s topic before reuniting with their interpretive naturalist at the capstone wrap-up.

Between the program and capstone, teachers will be provided a variety of ready-to-use teaching resources. Resources are a-la-carte and come in a range of formats such as worksheets, images, videos, student assignments, online games and more. 

“All the teaching resources support the unit’s teaching objectives,” Prince said. “And the 30-minute capstone wrap-up seals the deal.”

Students report in on their assigned task, revisit key points from the program and have the opportunity for a Q&A session.

The revised environmental education program also includes the new “Ask the Naturalist” feature. If you need an expert to help your students learn about fun and unique topics related to local culture, Will County history or nature, you can invite an interpreter to visit your classroom virtually.

“This student-driven, informal 30 minutes gives students the chance to ask away,” Prince said.    

If you’re a teacher with a question or an idea of how the Forest Preserve District of Will County can support your teaching, please call the teacher hotline at 815.722.2025 or email

“We’re eager to help,” Prince said.  


Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.


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