Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) works with over 700 9th-12th grade students from the South Side of Chicago every year to improve natural sites and to bring science lessons to life. In this place-based, real-world environmental science program, each school sponsors a specific local natural area in the Calumet Region. The students participate in a variety of different activities throughout the fall, winter, and spring, from ecological restoration to classroom lessons and leadership training.

CIMBY is a joint program of Chicago Public Schools and The Field Museum's Science Action Center. CIMBY activities help build students' leadership and scientific skills and helps students develop a meaningful relationship with nature.



CIMBY Classroom Curriculum gives students a basic understanding of the natural history and environmental issues in their communities. Through the Great Lakes in My World 9-12: Calumet curriculum, students learn science using interactive, place-based lessons that meet Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards, and 21st Century Learning Outcomes (skills focused on collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication). This comprehensive step-by-step framework serves as a curricular guide as well as a field guide, stewardship manual, and data entry tool. CIMBY staff support teachers and help them integrate the lessons into their teachings.

Field Activities centered around the CIMBY Field Trip Model and ecological restoration workdays, engage students in a specific local natural area. Throughout the field experiences, CIMBY students learn to care for prairies, woodlands, and wetlands.

The CIMBY Field Trip Model and Ecological Restoration Workdays are made up of three components:

  • Stewardship work is part of an overall site management plan and is done in close coordination with volunteer stewards and land managers. Students may collect and spread native seeds in the fall, clear invasive brush with saws and loppers in the winter while staying warm around a brush pile bonfire, and pull garlic mustard by hand in the spring while discovering wildflowers.
  • The ecological monitoring component of each workday allows students to measure change and connect to the scientific concepts that are being explored in the classroom. CIMBY students further develop field ecology skills and generate data useful to ecologists and site stewards tracking changes in urban natural areas. Monitoring components include fall vegetative monitoring, spring water quality monitoring protocols, and photo point monitoring to track the visual changes on the landscape.
  • Guided exploration of each site. Through these activities, CIMBY participants use their senses to explore and connect to nature. Exploration activities include a winter biodiversity search, a listening exercise, and building ephemeral sculptures out of natural materials.

Student Leadership Events bring together students from a variety of the participating high schools, including a kick-off day of restoration and exploration at the Indiana Dunes, a Biodiversity Day at Sand Ridge Nature Center, a guided bus tour of the Calumet region, an Environmental Leadership Workshop and an end-of-the-year Science Summit at The Field Museum.


How to Get Involved

CIMBY Teachers participate in professional development where they have the opportunity to build community with other CIMBY teachers and provide feedback and shape the direction of the program. Teachers enjoy ongoing support in the classroom, and CIMBY staff organize and facilitate three seasonal ecological restoration workdays with each school group. We work with educators located on Chicago's South Side or in the larger Calumet region.


External Partnerships

The Field Museum
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Forest Preserves of Cook County
Chicago Park District

Page Last Modified on Friday, May 12, 2017