Teacher Resources

Classroom Teaching Materials/Resources

Bird Watching

Citizen Science Projects

Collecting and reporting data
  • Balloon Litter, take photos of balloons found anywhere in the world.
  • Budburst, make observations about when plants are flowering and help answer important questions about climate change
  • Bumble Bee Watch, Track and photograph bumblebees.
  • Celebrate Urban Birds, Bilingual bird project for underserved urban and rural residents.
  • City Nature Challenge, Friendly competition to see which city, world-wide, can observe and find the most species and engage with their community.
  • Crowd the Tap, help "identify areas for tap water testing and infrastructure replacement."
  • Debris Tracker, National Geographic campaign to help scientists track plastic pollution in our waterways.
  • Firefly Watch, Combine an annual summer ritual with scientific research.
  • Frog Watch USA, Learn about wetlands and report data on the calls of local frogs and toads.
  • Globe at Night, "international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness about the impact of light pollution. Citizen-scientists measure & submit their night sky brightness observations."  
  • Great Backyard Bird Count, First citizen-science program to collect and display data online.
  • The Great Sunflower Project, identify pollinators to help improve their habitat
  • Habitat Network, Map existing and newly created habitat.
  • Hummingbird Migration, Take part in spotting and tracking the Ruby-throated hummingbird migration.
  • Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network, Collect data on local butterfly populations.
  • iNaturalist, Record your observations, share with others and discuss what you've found all while contributing to science.t
  • I See Change, national climate change reporting project
  • Monarch Watch, Raise, tag and release monarchs.
  • Journey North, Track the spring and fall migration of monarchs.
  • Nature's Notebook, "record observations of plants and animals online to generate long-term datasets used in science and policymaking."
  • Nest Watch, Help scientists track the success/failure of nesting birds.
  • Never Home Along: The Wild Life of Homes, Global project to observe and note the insect species found in your home
  • Project FeederWatch, Count birds that visit your feeder.
  • Project Squirrel, Become a squirrel monitor.
  • Seek by iNaturalist, App designed specifically for kids. Provides lists of common plants and animals, take photos of what you find, get badges for correct identifications and more.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

  • Publications - A wide variety of curriculum guides, posters, coloring books online and in print. Items are available free of charge to teachers and administrators at ISBE/IBHE listed schools; shipping charges apply.
  • Kids and Education - Educational materials for use in the classroom, grant opportunities, teacher workshops and more. Keep up to date with their listserve. Send your email to subscribe-dnr-education@lists.illinois.gov        
  • Kids for Conservation - Interactive online activities for teachers and kids                        
  • Resource Trunks and Field Trip Packs
    • Free Illinois-specific topics
    • 12 topics
    • May include pelts, skulls, posters, identification books, stuffed animals, etc.
    • Available for loan at a variety of locations, state-wide (use link above)
    • Designed for teachers, homeschoolers, scout and youth group leaders, nature center staff, librarians, day care staff
    • Suggested loan period: 2 weeks
    • Correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Standards and Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards.
    • Grade level suggestions are provided but can be modified to other grades/ages.

University of Illinois Extension Office

Water-based Activities

Bass in the Class - Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

  • Eight week project to raise bass in the classroom and then release them
  • Free training session (usually offered in the fall)

Water Science Projects and Experiments

  • More than 25 easy science experiments with water to try at home or in the classroom

Creating an Outdoor Classroom/Garden at Your School

(for grant/funding opportunities see Grants section below)

Community Engagement Ideas:

  1. Solicit donations from local nurseries/stores for plants/materials.
  2. Create a Facebook page for the garden (see EdenPatch info below)
  3. Schedule a planting day for parents/community to get the garden up and started.
  4. Invite parents to visit the gardens during and outside of school hours and log what they observe, animals they see, etc.
  5. During the summer months ask for volunteer groups or families to visit and help maintain the garden, offering extra credit or a pizza party or picnic (for example) as an incentive for helping out.

Why to plant native plants:

Native plants, which are perennials, can take a while to become established but are the best plants for an Outdoor Classroom or Garden. Non-native plants and invasive species will need to be weeded out from the planted areas until the native plantings become established. Once established native plants require very little maintenance.

Free Resources for designing and planning a garden

Native Plant Nurseries and Native Plant Sales

Easy outdoor garden ideas to implement

Bird bath as a water source

Plant butterfly nectar sources and feeding plants

Create a toad home

Create habitat for local bats

Put up bird feeders

To encourage biodiversity since a wide variety of plants and animals = healthy ecosystem (plus it's free mulch!)


Sponsor-a-Hive, Provides native bee houses, support and educational materials for underserved areas or communities

Environmental Education Association of Illinois, Listing of over 40 grant opportunities (classroom materials, teacher training, field trip money, student achievement, health and wellness, gardens, and so much more). Mini grants & Additional funding

Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grant, Go on a field trip with your students to study the biodiversity of  Illinois. Attend an online training, in Dec. or Jan., with more details on how to apply.

Illinois Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant, A grant program for involving students in hands-on natural resources stewardship. Attend an online training, in Nov, with more details on how to apply.

Plant & Wildlife Identification


Chicago Herpetological Society, Illinois amphibian and reptile information and herp adoption

Field Museum Field Guides - downloadable/printable field guides for plants, animals, lichens, fossils and more (local and worldwide)

Amphibians & Reptiles

Amphibians and Reptiles of the Calumet Region

Amphibians of the Chicago Wilderness Region

Common Frogs and Toads of the Chicago Region

Common Frogs and Toads of the Southern Illinois Region


Common Sparrows of the Chicago Region

Common Summer Birds of Chicago

Common Winter Birds of Chicago

Warblers of the Chicago Region

Flowers/Plants/Seed Heads/Trees

Asters of the Chicagoland Region

Common Galls of the Chicago Region

Common Goldenrods of the Chicago Region

Common Mosses and Liverworts of the Chicago Region

Common Oaks of the Chicago Region

Common Plant Families of the Chicago Region

Common Trees in Winter

Common Trees of the Chicago Region

Orchids of the Chicago Region

Sedges (Carex) of the Chicago Region

Seed Heads of the Common Native Plants of the Tall Grass Plants Prairie Region

Shrubs of the Chicaog Region

Southside Blooms: Flowers that Empower - "a farm-to-vase florist that creates unique, fashion-forward floral arrangements while maintaining an uncompromising dedication to the environment and local community"

Spring Flora of the Southern Illinois Region

Woodland Spring Flora of the Chicago Region


Chicago Lakefront Fishes


Fossil Shark Egg Cases of the Mazon Creek Area


Dunesland Habitat Guide: Southern Lake Michigan Beaches and Dunes


Butterflies and Moths

Beginner's Guides to Moths of the Midwest - by groups (6 guides) - click on Field Museum Field Guides above and filter for insects to see each moth guide

Common Butterflies of the Chicago Region

Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Chicago Region

Common Wild Bee Genera of Illinois

Damselflies of Chicagoland

Flies of Illinois

Wasps of Illinois

Invertebrates, other (not insects)

A Selection of Common Macroinvertebrates of Illinois

Common Crayfish of the Chicago Region

Common Spiders of the Chicago Region

Freshwater Mollusks of Chicago

Freshwater Mussels of Chicago Wilderness

Land Snails and Slugs of Chicago


Common Lichens of Chicagoland

Snowflakes Field Guide


Beginner's Field Guide: Fall in Chicagoland

Beginner's Field Guide: Spring in Chicagoland

Beginner's Field Guide: Summer in Chicagoland

Beginner's Field Guide: Winter in Chicagoland

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, plants & wildlife information

Illinois Natural History Survey

Click on the photo of animal/plant group you want to learn about, then find either the Resources or Collections drop down menu to access information.

Illinois State Museum, From Illinois art to Illinois state symbols                                            

Illinois Wildflowers, includes:

vPlants, Comprehensive database of plants of the Chicago region

Hard Copies (Books)

Illinois Specific Field Guides

  • Animal Tracks of Illinois, Tamara Eder
  • Birds of Illinois Field Guide, Stan Tekiela
  • Butterflies of Illinois: A Field Guide, Michael R. Jeffords
  • Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois, Christopher F. Phillips, John A.Crawford, Andrew R. Kuhns
  • Field Manual of Illinois Mammals, Joyce E. Hofmann
  • Fish of Illinois Field Guide, David Bosanko
  • Illinois Nature Set: Field Guide Wildlife, Birds, Trees & Wildflowers of Illinois (3 laminated "Pocket" pamphlets), James Kavanagh
  • Illinois Wildlife Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Guide to Birds, Fish, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians, Scott Shupe
  • Prairie Plants of Illinois: A Field Guide to the Wildflowers and Prairie Grasses of Illinois and the Midwest, Steve W. Chadde
  • Trees of Illinois Field Guide, Stan Tekiela

Peterson First Guides/Field Guides, condensed field guides

Peterson First Guide to ...

  • Birds of Eastern and Central North America
  • Butterflies and Moths of North America
  • Caterpillars of North America
  • Clouds and Weather
  • Fishes of North America
  • Forests
  • Insects of North America
  • Mammals of North America
  • Reptiles and Amphibians of North America
  • Rocks and Minerals
  • Trees of North America
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Wildflowers of Northeastern & North Central North America

Teacher Training & Environmental Curriculum

Aquatic WILD, K-12 grade curriculum and activity guide that focuses on aquatic wildlife and ecology.

Earth Force, a student-led approach to environmental education that leads teachers through a 6-step process of engaging young people as active citizens using civic action and problem solving. Students select issues to change/improve within their local environment and communities using the Earth Force Process.

EL4IL, supporting environmental Literacy for Illinois - a framework and Environmental Justice workshops

E.N.T.I.C.E. (Environmental & Nature Training Institute for Conservation Education) Workshops                    

  • Provides natural resource training for educators through hands-on, interdisciplinary workshops lead by natural resources professionals and other educators.
  • Involves participants in experience that promote effective stewardship of Illinois - natural resources now and in the future
  • Is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education to offer Professional Development Hours for teachers
  • Conducts workshops on a variety of topics at locations statewide.
  • Supplies education with easy-to-use natural resources educational materials and activities that are correlated to Next Generation Science Standards and other Common Core Learning Standards
  • Nominal fees

E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) - "lesson plans, teachers guides and online environmental resources for educators"

Flying WILD, K-12th grade curriculum and activity guide that focuses on bird biology, conservation and natural history.

Growing Up Wild, An early childhood (ages 3-7) education activity guide that focuses on developing a child's innate sense of wonder and connection to nature.  

Project Learning Tree, Sustainable Forest Initiative multi-disciplinary environmental education activity guides. Online and in person trainings offered.

Project WET, K-12th grade curriculum and activity guide that focuses on water.  

Project WILD, K-12th curriculum and activity guide that focuses on wildlife and habitat.

Rethink Outside - international campaign for social change, prioritizing the outdoors and its benefits

Other Environmental Organizations & Resources

The Conservation Foundation, preserves and restores natural areas and open space; programs, field trips and resources

Green Earth Harvest, sustainable organic farm that offers shares of its harvest  
with local residents

Chicago Wilderness, multi-state, regional alliance of over 200 environmental and natural resource organizations that work to preserve and increase natural areas

DuPage Birding Club, promotes birding through educating and birding experiences

DuPage Monarch Project, local organizations working together to promote monarch conservation and education

Environmental Education Association of Illinois (EEAI), a network that supports and advances quality environmental education throughout the state

Forest Preserve District of Cook County, preservation and conservation resources, school field trips, scout programs and more

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, local animal and plant information resources, school field trips, scout programs and more

Forest Preserve District of Kane County, education, conservation and publication resources, school field trips, scout programs and more

Forest Preserve District of Will County, educator resources, school field trips, scout programs and more

Illinois Audubon Society, Illinois' oldest conservation organization that works to preserve habitat

Illinois Native Plant Society, promotes the preservation and conservation of native Illinois plants and ecosystems (Facebook page)

Illinois Solar Energy Association, promotes solar and other renewable forms of energy

Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, student organizations that promote environmental sustainability (Facebook page)

International Dark Sky Association, organization that works to reduce light pollution and increase dark skies for wildlife, environmental and human benefits

Museum of Science and Industry, learning resources, professional development, field trips, out of school time programs, creativity and innovation programs

Openlands, protects natural habitats and wildlife of northeastern Illinois

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, programs and events, school partnership program, in-school programs, field trips, professional development and more

The Resiliency Institute, highlights permaculture education and design to grow food security, build local economy, increase biodiversity and foster community

University of Illinois Extenstion office serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties, offers STEM in the Classroom, 4-H Youth Development, nutrition & wellness, horticulture/gardening, local foods, energy and environment programs and more

Wild Ones Greater DuPage, promotes native plants and natural landscapes