Chicago River Congress: Hanna T.B

Chicago River Student Congress – Presenting

The Chicago River Student Congress is a day of workshops and presentations by students and for students to learn about the Chicago River. This is the third Congress that I went to, and the second that I presented at. I think that presenting at the Congress is much better than just attending. It was fun to come up with a message and design a lesson to go with it. In the end we had three short activities about where our water comes from, what’s in it and where it goes. We successfully tied a local river into a global effect by touching on where water came from and where it goes. It was also a lesson in time management trying to fit everything that we wanted to say into thirty minutes. All in all, the whole Congress was a learning experience, whether it was the workshops and presentations I attended or the workshops I taught.

Hanna T.B


Our trip to the Biodiesel Lab: By Wesley Q

On the left is vegetable oil and on the right is biodiesel that has went through a process

On January 16 2010 our teens went to the Loyola Biodiesel Lab. When we were attending the biodiesel lab we became well-educated by our host Zach Waickman who is the manager at the biodiesel lab. We learned that most of the biodiesel that is made in the Loyola the biodiesel lab actually comes from the Loyola cafeterias where Zach collects left over cooking oil. The point of making biodiesel fuel is to save the environment, and instead using dirty imported oil we can use biodiesel instead. This fuel will save the environment and help stop us from using fossil fuels.

The Procedure to making biodiesel fuel.
They start by separating the oil from the water. Their main source of water are potatoes. Then they add methanol, this step is very hazardous. Every reaction needs a catalyst and that’s where potassium hydroxide comes in. Then the bio fuel is now certified as useable fuel.

Museum Projects of January 23, 2010

Hello I’m James Stiles. Last week the teens program worked on projects that includes ways you could save money and energy when using water, and for the girls a new American Girl Doll. We also interviewed each other and wrote about how Scabbers The Rat, he is our only mammalian subject in the entire musuem. On the 16th of January 4 of the teens went to the Chicago River Student Congress. At the workshop the volunteers talked about ways to save water and money. Some of the examples given to the teens were to presoak your dishes before putting into them into the dish washer to make it easy on your buget and easy on the dishwasher too. If it is not a full load don’t use dishwasher. You can also save moeny by using cold water when your washing clothes, when you do this is saves you energy. You can use more effecient shower heads and reduce the amount of time that you spend in the shower.

Skookie Lagoon.

On Dec 12, 2009 the TEENS took a trip to Skookie Lagoon. It was a cold day, with snow still carpeting the ground. Luckily for us, all the TEENS were dressed as warm and cozy as possible. As we all filled into the bus we anticipated the long trip to Skookie. When we finally arrived at our destination, we met up with Dave (who is the Site Steward). He gave us a quick overview of our task, how we should go about it, and how to keep safe during our job. Our task that day was to work on clearing the area of Buckthorn, an invasive species. Buckthorn is a Europe native shrub, it is identifiable by the thorn that stands between the split of two branches. The reason we were removing this plant was because it was fiercely smothering the native plants. Native plants have little to no defense against the Buckthorns abilities to boom early and last late the winter, cast a thick shadow, and grow insanely dense. That is why the TEENS set to work cutting down the Buckthorn with handsaws and giant pruning shires; throwing the shrub limbs into our controlled fire. While we went about our work we kept the following Leave No Trace ethics in our minds.
1. Plan Ahead-Booked the bus, dressed properly, and consulted with professionals.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground- Used a naturally open plain and avoided making new trails.
3. Depose of Waste Properly- Brought disposal bags for trash, took everything with us when we left.
4. Leave What You Find- We took pictures and left footprints.
5. Minimize Campfire Impact- We used one large controlled fire to burn the Buckthorn.
6. Respect Wildlife- We Left Any Animals respectfully alone.
7. Be Considerate of Others- We shared our food, tools, and complements.
After a hard days work of rescuing the environment, we cleared our target area of anything we brought with us. Then we decided to put that fire to some good use, we sat down to enjoy some well earned hotdogs and s’mores.
Yum! Once again the TEENS save the day.

Project Squirrel

Project squirrel was created in 1997 by Wendy Jackson and Joel Brown. Since then over 1,000 people have participated in the project. The two main squirrels that Project Squirrel focus on are the Gray and Fox Squirrels. Project Squirrel was created to learn more about squirrels in Chicago.
Before we went out, we were trained on the differences between the Gray and Fox Squirrels. We leaned that the Gray Squirrels have gray backs, white bellies, and white fringed tails and that Fox Squirrels have rust backs, orange bellies, and black fringed tails.
TEENS participants followed a transect through the local neighborhoods counted how many Fox and Gray Squirrels we saw. As we walked we also noted observations of the environment that might affect the squirrels habitat, such as garbage, construction, bird feeders, pets and predators. After we were done taking all our observations we reported them through the projects website.
If you want to learn about or participate in this project go to: Project Squirrel

-Malik G.

Green in The Loop Tour

Hello spectators,last week the TEENS Program went on a little tour ,lead by Dave Hampton, around Chicago’s downtown area, called Green in the Loop. We looked at amazing architecture through out the downtown area.  Now you’re probably wondering what architecture has to do with nature and science? We were not only observing the beautiful designs of the building, but were also learning about the evolution and techniques used to make buildings and the new things that buildings now have to reduce energy consumption and reduce green house gases,both from modern times and from the 19th century. 
We learned that modern architects used steel for the building structure and foundation for skyscrapers. They started to use steel for skyscrapers because it was just as strong as concrete and it was also lighter and could withstand tension fairly well.
Steel is created by adding carbon to iron.  Even though concrete isn’t as good for making skyscrapers it plays in important role in supporting steel. A Concrete cover or base can help protect the steel from the elements and keeps the steel from rusting. A good example would the public parking places downtown,which look like a 100% concrete structures but actually have steel supports. 
Energy efficiency appears to be a new focus for building construction, but in reality has been implemented in buildings as early as 1950s. For example, some office buildings were coated to with a layer of insulation to allow the building to trap the heat.This cuts cost of heating and decreases the amount of energy that is consumed by the building.
Many buildings have started to install green roofs. The reason why people are starting to install green roofs on top of buildings, is
1.Help clean the air through the plants absorbtion of extra carbon dioxide that is a product of pollution.
2. Prevent excess runoff from precipitation.
Overall, the tour opened our eyes the steps that many buildings have taken or are beginning to to reduce their carbon footprint.

If you are interested in taking the Green in the Loop tour check out their website at: Echo Studio Chicago

-James S.