New program teaches rainscaping practices

March 3rd, 2015 by

Stormwater management in Indiana is getting a shot in the arm next month with the launch of the Rainscaping Education Program.  

A collaboration between Purdue Extension, IISG, and others, the program provides how-to information and resources on landscape design and management practices that help prevent polluted stormwater from reaching local waterways. Practices are appropriate for both residential gardens and small-scale public spaces, including schools and community centers. 

It all starts April 14 with the first in a series of workshops focused on rain gardens. Over the course of five three-hour sessions, participants will visit and discuss existing rain gardens in the community and learn how to design, construct, and maintain one with a focus on community education. They will also get a chance to test their knowledge by collaborating on a demonstration rain garden with community partners. 

The Rainscaping Education Program is open to Purdue Master Gardeners, personnel at conservation organizations, stormwater professionals, and landscape professionals and consultants. For more information and to learn how to register, visit the program website

***Photo: The plants and soil in rain gardens help absorb stormwater and filter out pollutants. Courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana Residents for Raingardens and BioSwales. 

Illinois teacher shakes up science class with help from IISG and NOAA

August 12th, 2014 by
Illinois teacher Carol Schnaiter has big plans for her classes at Amboy Central School. Carol was one of 14 teachers to participate in IISG’s B-WET workshop last year. And this summer, she spent two weeks in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the NOAA research vessel Oregon II. Carol wrote in to tell us about her experiences at both, how they have already shaped her curriculum, and what she has planned for her students this year.

“I am constantly looking for workshops, classes, and events that I can attend and bring what I learned back to my class. Each adventure adds to our classroom and allows the students to learn something new. 

I was very excited when I was selected for the B-WET workshop in June of 2013. After the workshop, I added an entire unit on invasive species in the Great Lakes area for the 4th graders and another unit on restoration for the 3rd graders, plus I expanded the watershed unit I was teaching to the third graders. At the end of the units, I invited a guest speaker from the Amboy Marsh, Greg Hunter, to speak to all my classes about the Amboy Marsh and invasive species in our area. We then went to the Amboy Marsh, where the students pulled the invasive Garlic Mustard plant and cleaned away brush. The staff also arranged for guest speakers to talk about turtles, birds, and plants and gave a walking tour of the marsh. My colleagues and I are hoping to continue working with Amboy Marsh when we do our invasive species unit and our restoration unit each year.

The students loved learning about the invasive species! We used the cards from the Sea Grant curricula and played games, such as Beat the Barriers. The students also did research on the various species and used the watch cards. When Mr. Hunter came in to speak, the students had background information on invasive species and were able to connect with what he was discussing.  

This summer, I took part in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program in the Gulf of Mexico. While on the ship, I worked with NOAA scientists and the crew to learn about the Gulf ecosystems first-hand and watch real science in action. I was on the midnight-to-noon shift for 16 days. We traveled to “stations” across the Gulf where we dropped the trawling net, the bongo nets, and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) sensors as part of the Groundfish Survey. Once the nets were brought up, we would count, measure, weigh, and record the sex of all the species. Our main objective was to collect information and send it to federal agencies that used it to set the shrimp season and catch limits.

As a result of this experience, I am working on adding more information to our invasive species unit and creating another unit that will have the students trace the water from the Great Lakes watershed to the Gulf of Mexico. We will be following the NOAA Ship Oregon II as they go out for the fall Groundfish Survey and adding that information to the data collected while I was aboard this summer. We will be watching the water’s oxygen levels as the ship travels across the Gulf and will try to figure out what might be the cause of any changes.  

Tying both the B-WET workshop and my experience on a working research ship together will allow the students to see how everyday science is touching our lives.”

Great Lakes education conference features several sessions, including IISG education team

November 15th, 2013 by

The 3rd Annual Great Lakes Place-based Education Conference, November 7-9 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, brought together over 200 teachers, community representatives, non-profit organization educators, and more. The conference gives teachers an opportunity to incorporate the latest place-based research and education concepts about the Great Lakes into their lessons, encouraging student stewardship, continuing science education, and community development. 

IISG’s Robin Goettel attended the conference and organized a poster session, “Center for Great Lakes Literacy: Connecting Educators, Scientists and Citizens.” The Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) “engages educators, students, scientists, and lifelong learners in stewardship and citizen science activities to help protect and restore Great Lakes watersheds.” 
According to Robin, “A major focus of this exhibit was creating awareness of Great Lakes Literacy Principles – a great foundation from which to create an environmental stewardship ethic. CGLL specialists shared exciting educator opportunities including ship-based and shoreline workshops focusing on the latest Great Lakes issues. Visitors learned about water quality monitoring equipment they can use with their students made available courtesy of the USEPA GLNPO Limno Loan program. Participants also found out about Great Lakes Awareness Days that will be offered throughout the region.”

Representatives of the CGLL program from seven Great Lakes Sea Grant programs were on hand to talk with attendees about the wide array of resources available, many specifically tailored to the environmental needs and issues of their region. Classroom resources were also available, including Fresh and Salt and Greatest of the Great Lakes curricula, as well as the Dose of Reality newspaper activity guide that covers the disposal of unwanted medicines and personal care products.

Sea Grant staff from across the U.S. completed Sea Grant Academy last month

November 12th, 2013 by

Staff members from 20 different Sea Grant programs across the U.S. attended two Sea Grant Academy sessions this year (one week in April, and one in October). The academy was developed to give Sea Grant employees valuable training and professional development information in a variety of fields, benefiting their work and the work of all Sea Grant programs at large.

Five staff members from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were able to attend, and participated in sessions ranging from the history of Sea Grant to project design and evaluation, social science training, time management, communicating the importance of ocean science to various audiences, and much more. 

IISG’s Danielle Hilbrich, Greg Hitzroth, Kristin TePas, Kara Salazar, and Sarah Zack were among the more than 40 Sea Grant professionals who completed both weeks of training and graduated from Sea Grant Academy with new information and skills to bring to their work protecting the Great Lakes. 

“Sea Grant Academy was a really unique opportunity to meet people from around the country that are working on the same issues we are,” said Sarah. “I thought that it was a great way to foster both partnerships between programs and friendships between specialists. I really enjoyed meeting all the attendees and hearing all about the great work they’re doing.”
And Kristin TePas wrote, “It was a great opportunity to connect with other Sea Grant specialists from around the country. Also, hosting the meeting in Duluth provided a great opportunity to showcase our freshwater coast and the issues surrounding the Great Lakes.”
To learn more about the National Sea Grant program and the work being done to protect America’s coastal resources, visit the NOAA Sea Grant webpage.

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 workshop helps Blue Island educators bring watershed lessons into the classroom

November 7th, 2012 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s education team led a workshop for teachers and administrators in the Blue Island, Illinois school district recently, offering lessons, materials, and training on bringing Great Lakes science to their classrooms.
Susan Ask, who works with IISG’s Lawn to Lake program, sent along some details about the workshop and the enthusiastic reception from the teachers: 


“We had a fun and energetic workshop with teachers and principals in the Blue Island School District. The workshop focused on water quality and drew on three major initiatives within Sea Grant: Lawn to Lake, the Great Lakes Field Experiences for Watershed Educators (B-WET), and Increasing Citizen Involvement and Great Lakes Literacy (Center for Great Lakes Literacy).

We began with the basic definition and ecology of watersheds, then moved to an exploration of watershed and water quality issues brought on by urbanization, landscaping practices, and waste disposal. Teachers learned basic ecology that they can teach in their classrooms. We identified point- and non-point sources of pollution and talked about available solutions for individuals and communities to adopt. 

After a presentation and discussion, we toured the recently installed rain gardens in the courtyard at Blue Island Elementary School so we could see theory put in to practice. The courtyard contains a rich variety of native plants that creates a beautiful garden throughout the year while also managing and controlling rainwater. Runoff from the roofs will be collected in rain barrels all around the building, and can then be used  on the landscape as needed.

The watershed model was a big hit. We used a three-dimensional model of a watershed, with rivers and lakes, houses, farms, factories, water treatment facilities and other developments, to see how water and pollutants move through the community. Teachers will be able to borrow this model for use in their classes, helping students understand the connection between people, land use, and water. But we didn’t just look at problems. The model also let us see how natural lawn care, rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavement, and other practices can help prevent pollution and reduce runoff.


We showcased many of the program’s Great Lakes curricula – Fresh and Salt, Greatest of the Great Lakes, and Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. Teachers broke into groups to experience some of these classroom activities and share how they might incorporate them in their lessons. They also learned how the Great Lakes Literacy Principles will be a great way to introduce current Great Lakes issues to their students.


Most of the teachers told us that they haven’t yet integrated Great Lakes information in their educational activities, but that they plan to do so now after learning more about water quality and educational resources at the workshop. 

We’re very excited to see these dedicated teachers assist and guide their students to learn more about the Great Lakes, water quality, and practical stewardship of water and land.”

In addition to Susan, the workshop was also led by IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy. If you are interested in educational materials and opportunities for yourself or teachers in your school/district, contact Robin or Terri at the links above or visit us online to learn more.

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