SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) on Thursday announced $107,000 in Biodiversity Field Trip Grants that make it possible for 9,800 students from 35 counties to visit areas of the state where they can learn about nature and conservation this summer.
The grants, coordinated by the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF), will pay for 148 field trips in 2018. The funds come from private donations by Independence Tube Corporation of Bedford Park, the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation of Skokie, and the D. F. and M. T. Grohne Family Foundation of Wilmington.
“These grants offer Illinois students more opportunities to learn about the wealth of species and habitats in our state,” Rauner said. “Field trips are an important educational tool that equip our young people with knowledge about conserving and protecting biodiversity in Illinois.”
IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal said the program allows students to visit locations throughout the state to see firsthand what they’ve been learning about in the classroom.
“Our future conservation leaders need the opportunity to experience Illinois’ natural resources in-person,” he said.
The Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grant Program reached two milestones with the 2018 grant-distribution period. More than $1,101,000 has now been distributed through the program, and more than 103,000 students have been provided with the opportunity to take part in a field trip since the program’s inception in 2001. Grant recipients are located throughout Illinois and represent students from pre-kindergarten through high school.
“The USDA has projected that through the next few years there will be increasing job growth in environmental occupations and renewable natural resources,” said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who discussed the grants with students at Olympia Middle School in Stanford on Thursday. “Field trip experiences like these can interest students in potential career paths with high employment opportunities.”
The competitive grant program allows Illinois teachers to apply for funds to take students on field trips to study Illinois’ biodiversity. Learning activities must directly relate to the school’s curriculum. The annual application deadline is Jan. 31. Funding administered by the ICF covers expenses such as the costs of transportation and substitute teachers.
“This program is a great example of a private-public partnership,” said Eric Schenck, ICF Executive Director. “Thanks to the generous support of our donors, hundreds of schools and thousands of students have an opportunity to go on a nature-based field trip.” R.