Connie Kuntz

The Discovery Center is a children's science museum in Rockford. Because of the pandemic, the museum has been closed to the public for several weeks, but that hasn't stopped staffers from showing kids how to have a good time while learning.

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Since March, the Discovery Center scientists have been creating and providing online STEAM-based learning content for young scientists and their families. Marketing Director Ann Marie Walker says the digital demonstrations are free and fun.

Hemp Is Used For More Than Just Oil

15 hours ago

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for this year’s hemp growing season. Hemp has many uses. Some include the production of cannabidiol or CBD oil, hemp oil and industrial purposes. The season started out slow for one northern Illinois farmer.

Perspective: The Renewal Of Democratic Education

17 hours ago
Mediamodifier / Pixabay

“Democracy,” wrote Charles Dole in 1906, “is on trial in the world.” In 2020, the more apt analogy might be that democracy lies gasping for air in a hospital bed. Just as the coronavirus is savagely attacking our flesh-and-blood, so too is it attacking our body politic. The institutions built to sustain us in times of crisis are failing like organs starved for oxygen; addled by partisan fevers, we confuse compromise with capitulation and fiction with fact. 

Personal Chef Has A Full Plate During The Pandemic

May 25, 2020
Dana Chaplin of Preservation Heart Photography

Phase 3 of the “Restore Illinois Plan” will allow outdoor seating for restaurants starting May 29. This is good for most restaurant chefs but not so much for personal chefs. One DeKalb area personal chef is keeping his business flowing, in spite of the pandemic.

Personal Chef Rudy Galindo found himself in a pickle when the pandemic hit.   

“It actually slowed me down because I did not have access to go into people's homes just because of safety. So, I switched over to doing classes,” he said.

Marijuana Dispensary Safety Measures

May 25, 2020
Sunnyside Dispensary

Marijuana dispensaries were deemed essential under the stay-at-home order earlier this year. Although dispensaries remained open, workers and customers have had to endure some changes. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation put guidelines in place to ensure dispensaries continue to be safe for everyone.

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with both praise and criticism. WNIJ’s Peter Medlin has the first part of our series “The Hot Seat” talking to leaders, like the Winnebago County Sheriff, about the process behind those big decisions.

Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled an executive order to keep businesses from opening before Illinois reached the next phase of reopening. Business owners could be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the stay-at-home order.

Perspective: The Language Of Love(birds)

May 25, 2020
Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan

My husband and I adopted Sam, a Quaker parrot, when he was 3 years old. His previous owner, who’d grown too ill to keep Sam, had treated him well and taught him a few phrases. Sam’s limited repertoire then -- and now -- includes laughter, “ma,” “hello” and “yum yum.” While Sam is not terribly fluent, he has inadvertently become an ESL -- English as a Second Language -- instructor.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Illinois lawmakers have approved a $40 billion state budget and a plan to address tax rates for a casino expansion during a whirlwind special session held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget approved early Sunday largely maintains funding from the current budget, which the exception of health care agencies affected by the outbreak. It also relies heavily on federal funding. 

17th Judicial Circuit

The 17th Judicial Circuit  announced Thursday that  it will be reopening courts in Winnebago and Boone Counties June 1 and resuming a regular schedule.

In the announcement, Chief Judge Eugene Doherty advised anyone coming to the court as a juror or litigant of the changes in its procedures that will be in place due to the continued threat of COVID-19:

Perspective: The Exercise We're Missing Out On

May 22, 2020
Silviu Costin Iancu / Pixabay

Every week I hear that obesity is a national crisis. It’s always blamed on a rich diet and a poverty of exercise. But when experts think of exercise they imagine jogging and walking and weight-lifting. That’s big exercise. But it’s the little exercise, or lack thereof, that’s the real problem.


Sessions from Studio A - Pioneer Salesmen

May 21, 2020

Pioneer Salesmen are a four-piece band from down south of the state in Alton, IL. Their music is high-energy with infectiously catchy hooks and riffs. They have a sound inspired by the classic rock of the 60's mixed with more modern rock bands like Arctic Monkeys.

The Winnebago County Health Department announced 8 more coronavirus deaths.

County Chairman Frank Haney went into detail in a Thursday press conference.

“The dates of death range from May 17th through the 21st. The age range is age 50 through age 98. These deaths have all been confirmed as COVID-19 by the coroner today.”

This brings the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Winnebago County to 52. 

City of Rockford

The City of Rockford is making it easier for restaurants to open or increase business as the state eases COVID-related restrictions. 

On Thursday, Governor J.B. Pritzker indicated that restaurants could possibly open upoutdoor dining spots beginning in June. In response, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the City will provide help to local establishments in setting these areas up.

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of those valedictorian speeches. If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at And thanks!

Perspective: Support Your Local Newspaper

May 21, 2020
Andrys Stienstra / Pixabay

I used to buy a local paper when we traveled so I could learn more about the community we were visiting. But in recent years it has become rare to find one. I now know why. Local papers have become an endangered species. Since 2006, one-third of U.S. papers have disappeared, and tens of thousands of local reporters have lost their jobs.

The DeKalb Public Library plans to offer curbside pick-up as coronavirus restrictions loosen. 

The service is meant to be a transition toward more in-person services at the library. It’s dependent on the state moving the region into Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan. But library Director Emily Faulkner said whenever that happens, patrons could reserve and check out library items, and even speak with a reference librarian.

Photo provided by Kendra Holton.

Theatre has been a part of society for at least 2500 years. Northern Illinois University is making sure it continues, regardless of the pandemic.

As it has in the past, NIU is hosting theatre camps for middle schoolers and high school thespians. This time, the camps are virtual. Kendra Holton is an assistant professor at the university's School of Theatre and Dance. She says it will be a different experience online, but kids and their parents can still expect an excellent experience.

Claire Buchanan

Stage Coach Players community theater formed a COVID-19 task force in April to find ways to give back to a community they say “has given so much to them.”   

The task force is hosting a fabric giveaway and food drive each Tuesday at the DeKalb theater.

Perspective: Balcony Running

May 20, 2020
Bill Nino / Unsplash

We might not be able to do our regular binge shopping, meet up with friends at the local pub, or continue classes at the gym. But we can still keep ourselves healthy and fit.

Elisha Nochomovitz, age 32, living in a French suburb, showed us how.

On his balcony in Balma, he ran a 42.2 km. marathon at a slow and steady 6 hours, 48 minutes. Though nauseous and worried about the steady foot pounding his neighbors might object, he ran to make a point -- several, in fact.

State of Illinois

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will no longer use its Thomson, Illinois facility as a coronavirus quarantine location for newly admitted inmates.

Previously, Thomson and 10 other locations would have quarantined these inmates for a few weeks. But a bipartisan letter to the Bureau from U.S. lawmakers raised the specter of transferred asymptomatic individuals becoming a source for new outbreaks. Illinois U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos explained.

Perspective: Stepping Out Of The Circling

May 19, 2020
Alfred Leung / Unsplash

Waiting for the stay-at-home order to lift is getting hard. We are in so many ways stuck and stagnant.

The other day I found myself walking in circles around the house. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was plenty I could do. But I'd already done so much of that. I had no motivation; I had no direction, just aimless, anxious energy. I needed relief. Some sort of distraction.

City of Rockford

Rockford and Winnebago County are working to open several sectors of the local community by the end of the month. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement at a Monday press conference.

“The three areas include restaurants. They include child care facilities and youth programs, and houses of worship."  

McNamara says the openings are being considered as a result of improved COVID-19 metrics.

Perspective: We Must Do Better Than Normal

May 18, 2020
Winnebago County Health Department

The air is filled with spin words about “opening up and going back to normal.”

The coronavirus, like Katrina and other disasters, has put a bright light on what is broken in our country. A fragile food system. Overcrowded prisons. Or how Hispanics and African Americans are always the most vulnerable in times of disaster and every day.

The percentage of people who have died who are black or Hispanic is twice as high as the number of people who are white.


The U.S House of Representatives voted today on the HEROES Act.

This relief package consists of about $3 trillion in aid related to the coronavirus. Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois said nearly a third of the bill offers help for state and local entities.


A woman who is thought to be the last of the original Rockford Peaches has died. Mary Pratt pitched in the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943. That team was immortalized in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.”


Illinois is a big state with a lot of different viewpoints.  On this episode, we focus on southern Illinois to find out how residents are coping with restrictions and public health recommendations.  

We'll hear a community showed support for a nursing home with dozens of cases of COVID-19 and more than twenty deaths. 

And coaches and athletes prepare all year for a season to begin.  But this spring left them wondering what might have been.

Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

Our lineup:

Justin Saichek

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, seventh grade language arts teacher Justin Saichek AKA The Last Wordbender. Justin is a rapper and spoken word artist who teaches at West Middle School in Rockford.

Justin talked to host Peter Medlin about how he got his rap name, teaching in the same building he went to middle school, coronavirus learning challenges, freestyle rap battles, and they dove deep on Justin’s hip hop career and music influences.

Is 'Quarantine 15' The New 'Freshman 15?'

May 15, 2020

Emotional eating is real. And health clubs across Illinois are closed due to COVID-19. But according to two northern Illinois health experts, there are ways to avoid "Quarantine 15."

"Quarantine 15" is the idea that someone may gain about 15 pounds. This is much like the concept of a freshman college student gaining weight during their first year of school. Except this is not due to college but the Illinois stay-at-home order.

Perspective: Death In The Time Of COVID-19

May 15, 2020
public domain

Many deathbed scenes before the Black Death of mid-14th century Europe featured a dying person surrounded by community. For decades after that plague, they were often shown alone with death. Fear of contagion changed behaviors toward corpses. What would plague do in a culture that already denied death, like in the United States?

Mourning in black for a year—to ritualize a life lived through each day without the loved one—is an antiquated practice in Europe, but unheard of here, where people prefer to say “he passed away” rather than “he died.”


They say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," but what does isolation do to couples and families?

Dr. Scott Sibley is an assistant professor in human development and family sciences at Northern Illinois University. He said practicing self-care helps couples and families stay strong while sheltering in place, but so does accountability.

"Too often, we have couples and families that just like to point the finger at each other," he said. "I think that's one of the things I see often as a therapist; just a lot of finger pointing."