New education coordinator very familiar with IISG mission

May 6th, 2014 by

Terri Hallesy is IISG’s new education coordinator. She has been a part of the program’s education team since 2004 and has played a key role in developing curriculum, conducting educator workshops, and designing IISG-led courses. Her list of accomplishments includes the Nab the Aquatic Invader! website and the B-WET teacher workshop. Terri has received several awards during her tenure with IISG, including an Extension Award of Excellence in 2008 for her efforts on a University of Illinois service-learning course. As the education coordinator, Terri will develop new programs and resources to build our program and improve Great Lakes education in the region. She will also oversee several state and regional collaborative education efforts, including the Center for Great Lakes Literacy project.

Summer teacher workshop still making ripples

January 8th, 2014 by
School is back in session and that means science teachers across southern Lake Michigan will be turning their sights to the Great Lakes. For the AP Environmental Science class at Zion-Benton Township High School, though, the issues facing nearby Lake Michigan have been in focus since the start of the year. 
Their teacher, Alex Stavropoulos, got the idea for some of his classroom and field activities after spending a week aboard the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian this summer for the annual Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop. Alex wrote in to tell us what his class has been up to. 
Towards the beginning of the school year, my class spent about a month on our “Aquatic Habitats and Biodiversity” unit. After exploring the general nature of aquatic systems (both marine and freshwater), we took a closer look at our local water systems, specifically Lake Michigan. During this time, we discussed the history of the Great Lakes, identified the various ways in which humans have used and altered the makeup of the Great Lakes, spent two days conducting water-quality testing and macro-invertebrate sampling (using both biotic and abiotic indicators to compare water quality in various tributaries to that of the mouths in which they fed into Lake Michigan), and debated plausible methods to prevent invasive species such as the Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes. 
Throughout this entire unit, I found myself regularly referencing experiences I had during the Lake Guardian summer workshop. The experiences not only allowed me to better explain the complexity of some of these issues, but it also opened my students’ eyes to hands-on opportunities available in the world of science. It taught me a great deal about the Great Lakes, but, more importantly, it improved my ability to teach students about the Lakes’ significance. I hope this program continues to be funded for years to come as it is a wonderful way of spreading both knowledge and passion regarding the importance of preserving the gift that is the Great Lakes.
This year’s workshop will take place on Lake Erie. Keep an eye on our blog in the coming months for more details and application information. 

SeaPerch contest winners get their robots up and running

October 14th, 2013 by

Last month, we announced that six teachers from the Champaign-Urbana area had won tool kits for constructing simple, remotely operated underwater robots with their students. With the help of online lesson plans, the winning teachers will use the SeaPerch robots to teach their students about topics including buoyancy, propulsion, circuitry, and biological sampling.

Along with the kits, teachers got an opportunity to learn construction techniques  and practice using the equipment during one of two SeaPerch Build Sessions held in October. During the sessions, Blake Landry, coordinator of the University of Illinois SeaPerch Program, took teachers step-by-step through the build process.  

The winning teachers have big plans for their robots. Some will use them to introduce their younger students to basic engineering concepts for the first time. In other classrooms, the robots will provide an opportunity for students to test their knowledge of things like simple circuits. Some teachers are even considering partnering up to start an after-school club that will compete in the national SeaPerch Challenge. With these six teachers now using SeaPerch, there is also a possibility that they may launch a regional SeaPerch Challenge.

The SeaPerch giveaway contest was funded by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to help teachers in the Great Lakes region integrate science education with engineering and math.

Visit the SeaPerch homepage to learn more about the tool kits and the SeaPerch program.


Top: Blake shows Carol Smith and Geoff Frymuth how to use the tools provided in the SeaPerch teacher’s kit. Carol is a 5th grade teacher at Leal Elementary School in Urbana, and Geoff teaches 7th grade science at Champaign’s Jefferson Middle School.

Middle: Carol practices stripping electrical wires used to connect the three motorized propellers that steer the underwater robots. Stripping wires and building motors are just a few of the many engineering tasks her students will have to do when they build their own robots in the spring. 

Bottom: Carol, Geoff, and Jen White, an 8th grade science teacher at Jefferson Middle School, take notes as Blake shows how to install and waterproof the motors and secure the frame of a completed SeaPerch robot.


Urbana fourth grade class engages in some fish talk

October 11th, 2013 by
Alex Valencic’s fourth-grade class may be several hours away from Lake Michigan, but the lake and its issues are still front-and-center. Students here spent part of September digging into the biology of Great Lakes fish, and last week they presented their discoveries to an audience of classmates joined by IISG’s Robin Goettel and Anjanette Riley. 
The presentations covered a spectrum of native and non-native species—lake trout, Eurasian ruffe, Atlantic salmon, round goby, black herring, and more. And it was clear that these fourth-graders had become experts in their chosen species. They talked about where their fish lives, its life cycle, what it eats, and what eats it. Several students showed how their fish have been affected by invasive species such as round goby and sea lamprey, which one student referred to as “an alien in the Great Lakes.” Those who chose invasive species also explained how they spread and taught the class what they could do to prevent future invasions. Others talked about the impact of overfishing and pollution on their species and the food web as a whole. At the end of their presentation, each student was peppered with questions like “how many times does your fish lay eggs?” and “what kind of plankton does it eat?”
It was also clear that the students were excited to share what they had learned. Many said they enjoyed learning about the shape and size of their fish, while others liked knowing about the predators of the Great Lakes. A handful even said their favorite part of the project was researching and presenting. 

Mr. Valencic got the idea to bring Great Lakes issues to his class at Wiley Elementary School in Urbana, IL after spending a week aboard the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian this summer for the annual Shipboard and Shoreline Workshop. During the week, he and 14 other formal and non-formal educators worked alongside scientists as they collected data on Lake Ontario. This year, participants collected samples from different locations to monitor water quality, studied species at the bottom of the food web, and learned more about organisms living on the lakebed. Sea Grant officials on board paired hand-on research with curriculum activities to help teachers better incorporate Great Lakes science into their classrooms.  

Examining fish biology is one of two inquiry-based research projects Mr. Valencic has lined up for this year. Overall he hopes to use what he learned this summer to teach his students more about how aquatic species interact with each other and their environments.  

6th Grade teacher uses workshop experience to train student scientists

October 9th, 2013 by
This past summer’s B-WET workshop offered a lot of lesson and activity ideas for all of the teachers who attended, including Marea Spentzos-Inghram, middle school teacher at Catherine Cook School in Chicago.  
Beyond just taking a few curriculum ideas back to her lesson prep, though, Ms. Spentzos-Inghram decided to turn her class into student scientists by becoming official precipitation observers for CoCoRaHS – the “Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network” – which is a volunteer network of weather watchers throughout the country. The project was even featured in the school newsletter (photo below).

“The B-WET workshop presented teachers with so much information it would be impossible to not get inspired!” said Ms. Spentzos-Inghram. “They had a lineup of AMAZING presenters from a variety of organizations to promote their efforts, which made it a one-stop shop for information about bringing Great Lakes science into the classroom.”

“Being an urban school, I felt limited in outdoor environmental opportunities but CoCoRaHs was do-able. Since I have rooftop access to my building it was easy to participate! And the students get REALLY excited when it rains because they want to see how much rain fell at our school. I can’t imagine what it will be like for snow (or other precipitation).”
Ms. Spentzos-Inghram has expanded on this experience and introduced an outreach component, with a group of students working on a PSA right now featuring a cartoon rain gauge being interviewed. 


As for the benefits of the workshop, “what they had to share seemed easy (teachers like easy) yet practical, useful, and educational. And the students have really taken to it and gotten involved, which is the best part of coming back with new ideas for the classroom.”
Similar workshops are held regularly, and you can contact IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy for more details. You can find additional information about Great Lakes science resources and training at our education page and at the Center for Great Lakes Literacy.

New curriculum offers hands-on Great Lakes science lessons for upper elementary and high school students

September 19th, 2013 by

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Caitie McCoy and others have just completed work on a new curriculum for elementary and high school science students. 

Helping Hands: Restoration for Healthy Habitats offers lessons and hands-on activities to connect students in the Great Lakes with recent or ongoing cleanup and restoration projects happening in their communities. The range of activities offers new ways to engage students with real-life examples that show environmental science in action.

Teachers interested in having Sea Grant lead the curriculum in their school should contact Caitie McCoy. Caitie can work with the teacher to customize curriculum to meet school-specific needs. The curriculum expands Great Lakes literacy among students, many of whom may become future researchers and educators.

Community leaders in Areas of Concern that would like to help Sea Grant lead or set up an educational program are also encouraged to contact Caitie. The complete curriculum is free to download at the link above.

SeaPerch workshop brings underwater robotics to the classroom

February 4th, 2013 by
SeaPerch, a program that brings underwater robotics to classrooms and demonstrates how they can be used for educational purposes, recently held a workshop at the University of Illinois Hydrosystems Laboratory. IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy were among the presenters and they shared a number of educational materials that teachers could combine with their classes’ underwater robots. 
Thirteen Champaign-Urbana science teachers were in attendance to learn how to incorporate SeaPerch underwater robots into their classroom curricula. Coordinators from Naval Sea Systems Command – Crane STEM led the morning session to introduce the SeaPerch program, provide helpful tips for constructing the complimentary robot kit each teacher received, and discuss relevant resources for classroom use. Additional robots commonly deployed for scientific applications were also highlighted. 
Over lunch, participants interacted with U of I graduate students in engineering to discuss research topics and applications for their in-class lessons. Robin and Terri shared educational resources including two COSEE Great Lakes curriculum collections, Greatest of the Great Lakes: A Medley of Model Lessons, and a Fresh and Salt activity, “I, Robot, Can Do That!” 

During the afternoon session, a live demonstration of the SeaPerch robot was conducted and teachers had an opportunity to operate the SeaPerch robots in the large-scale laboratory facilities.

SeaPerch is a joint program of the Office of Naval Research and the AUVSI Foundation. Visit the SeaPerch homepage to learn more about bringing underwater robotics to the classroom, and for a calendar of upcoming workshops and events.

IISG service learning course culminates in water protection projects

January 3rd, 2013 by
The University of Illinois’ Learning in Community (LINC) program provides service-learning opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields while earning course credit towards their degree. The program also gives various departments and units at the University a chance to expand their mission and get students involved in critical issues. 
This past fall term, the LINC Program offered a Sea Grant-focused course for eight University of Illinois students where they learned about environmental threats to local and regional waterways. They designed and executed projects based on what they had learned about proper disposal of unwanted medicines. 
At the conclusion of the course, students developed five activities focused on water issues, informing a larger audience about their importance and local impacts. 
The projects included: 
 – A presentation and activity for Urbana High School’s science club students
 – An article in the Green Observer and accompanying Facebook page about the importance of proper disposal of pharmaceuticals
 – Placement of brochures at the McKinley Health Center in coordination with the Directors of Health Education and the Pharmacy
 – A plan to spread the message about proper medicine disposal at student dormitories and to involve students in medicine collection events in 2013

The course and projects that resulted informed current University of Illinois students about important environmental issues, while giving them experience collaborating with each other, working with local organizations and businesses, and performing outreach to share the information they learned with residents of Champaign-Urbana.

IISG teacher workshop offers Great Lakes info and hands-on learning for the classroom

November 28th, 2012 by


Educators from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin attended IISG’s workshop Nov. 9-10 to increase the presence of Great Lakes science in their classrooms and to improve student awareness of issues related to the Lakes. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and the National Park Service Great Lakes Research and Education Center and the Dunes Learning Center to host the workshops, which provided opportunities for teachers to engage in science and math data collection and hands-on field work. Educators previewed Sea Grant’s Greatest of the Great Lakes and Fresh and Salt curricula to familiarize themselves with the diverse range of learning formats to enhance their science, math, and engineering units, as well as activities from Great Lakes in My World by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Also, as part of the new Center for Great Lakes Literacy, workshop attendees learned how to help protect and restore coastal areas in the Lake Michigan watershed through a variety of teaching methods.

All of the teachers who attended this year’s workshop were excited to learn about programs like the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach, as well as the many exciting student stewardship activities offered by the Shedd Aquarium, the Dunes Learning Center, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore botanists. They also enjoyed the hands-on activities, including using the Enviroscape model to learn about point source/non-point source pollution, and learning how to use GLNPO’s Hydrolab water quality monitoring instrument. 

The feedback and comments from teachers was especially positive. Said one attendee, “You’ve given me great ideas about water quality, drinking water, invasive and noninvasive species, habitat restoration, and stewardship projects I can provide for my kids to become ‘Great Lakes literate.’”
To learn more about IISG’s educational programs and resources, visit our education webpage, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more events, workshops, and information. 

This Center for Great Lakes Literacy project was funded through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.

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