In October, Glenbrook North sophomore Daniel Brodson spoke at the annual Friends of the Chicago River meeting - the first student in the organization’s history to present at the conference.
Joined by Spartan science teachers Bud Mathieu and Mike Piskel, Brodson presented data from the west fork of the north branch of the Chicago River. The data, collected over the course of 21 years by students in GBN’s Ecological Biology course, indicated overall water quality of the river.
“Last year, our class conducted experiments at the river. We conducted seven different tests such as turbidity or cloudiness of water, temperature, current, pH, and fecal coliform,” said Brodson, who enrolled in Ecological Biology in 2015-16.
Developed in the 1990s, the Ecological Biology class, taught to freshmen, is the only curriculum in the nation to focus biology concepts into how they relate to rivers, said Piskel, creator and instructor of Ecological Biology.
“The Friends of the Chicago River doesn’t often hear about how the river’s subject matter is being taught curricularly. We last spoke at the conference 20 years ago. This presentation was the catalyst of Danny’s proactive networking,” Piskel said.
“The presentation was meaningful to me because I was able to share my passion for the river with others who also care a lot about the river,” said Brodson, who is slated to present further with the organization. “I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Piskel and Mr. Mathieu, who also have a passion for the river, and together it was the dream team of learning and teaching.”
Ecological Biology has been affiliated with the Friends of the Chicago River since the inception of the curriculum, Piskel said. It is one of two Biology courses offered to freshmen at GBN. Throughout the year, students take field trips to measure the west fork of the river, at Techny Prairie Park. From there, Piskel said the samples help explain topics being studied, for example how mud in the river affects photosynthesis.
Brodson said the fact that the Chicago River is the same river that runs through Northbrook was part of the appeal of taking the class.
“I decided to get more involved because it is very important for people to be aware of the current quality of the river and how people can make it better. The most interesting part of rivers, are the complex ecosystems that can host many different types of life forms and how everything in a river affects the stability and wellbeing,” Brodson said.