Education

Education and learning

Photo by Spencer Tritt

A few days a week, Earlville high school juniors and seniors sit down for their first class in what's called their "college classroom." It's where they can take dual enrollment courses, and get college credit if they pass.

Last year, Earlville's graduating class was only 37 students. But they left with nearly a combined 200 college credit hours.

"Because we are a textbook, low-income, small country school, we're kind of proud of all the different opportunities that we can offer the kids," said principal Jeanette Fruit.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

She works with teenagers and young adult students with autism. She also happens to be a comedy writer. And she moonlights on top of that as an indie musician. She says her work has been described as a "girls' night out with Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss." On this episode of Teachers' Lounge we talked to Cora Vasseur about how all of that happened, and how her art influences her work with special needs students -- and vice versa.   

Also on the show, a conversation about student debt forgiveness; and two prominent Illinois politicians weigh in on the debt crisis.

The Sound of Science - "Noise"

Aug 9, 2019

  

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Cole Freeman, Data visualization done in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science at Northern Illinois University

A few years ago, when he was going to Yorkville High School, Matt Pitstick saw college recruiters roaming his school who surprised him and made his friends laugh. They were recruiters from a university more than 700 miles away: the University of Alabama.

"I remember when I first saw it, we all just joked about it -- like 'Haha yeah, the University of Alabama,'" he said. "But then you look into it and it's like, 'You know what, maybe that's not a bad idea.'"

Peter Medlin

Two northern Illinois Congress members are reacting to concerns about student loan debt. Representatives Lauren Underwood and Bill Foster were joined by administrators from public and private colleges.

Near the beginning of the event at Waubonsee Community College, Rep. Bill Foster (D-11) got up and recited the stats: 44 million students with debt over $1.5 trillion dollars. 

“The big picture is there is enough money in this country to make a big dent in this problem,” said Foster.

The Sound of Science - "The Chemistry Of Baking"

Aug 2, 2019

J: I'm Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I'm in the studio with Kate Powers. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Hi Jeremy, I hear you have a delicious question for me today.

J: That's right! This question is about the chemistry of baking. Lynn wants to know why many recipes call for both baking soda and baking powder. And what's the difference between the two?

K: Lynn's right. Many cookie or cake recipes call for both types of chemical raising agents.

J: Chemical raising agent? Are there other types of raising agents?

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

 

Teachers’ Lounge is a new podcast from WNIJ telling the stories of education in Illinois with the help of stories from Illinois educators. Join reporter Peter Medlin every other Friday (payday!) for a new episode. 

If you are a teacher, you know a teacher who you think should be on the show, or have a story about a teacher who inspired you -- send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu to join the conversation. 

Also, feel free to send us your ideas for stories and topics for the show to cover.

 

Austin Hansen, Ross Beach

Student debt forgiveness has quickly risen from the fringes and become one of the most widely discussed topics going into the 2020 election.

 

Right now over 44 million Americans have student loans worth about $1.5 trillion

 

Many of the Democratic candidates for president have begun floating their plans to forgive some student loans or eliminate them entirely. 

Teachers' Lounge Coming Soon

Jul 29, 2019

Beginning August 2nd, WNIJ launches a new podcast called Teachers' Lounge on WNIJ telling the stories of education in Illinois with the help of stories from Illinois educators. Join reporter Peter Medlin every other Friday (payday!) for a new episode. 

If you are a teacher, you know a teacher who you think should be on the show, or have a story about a teacher that inspired you -- send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu to join the conversation. 

Also, feel free to send us your ideas for stories and topics for the show to cover.

The Sound of Science - "Hard as Diamond"

Jul 26, 2019

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach and I’m in the studio with Jeremy Benson. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

J: Kate, we have a question today from Sara. She wants to know why diamonds are so hard?

K: Sara’s right, diamonds are one of the hardest substances on earth. They are very important for industrial tools and scientific instruments.

J: Wait, that must be very expensive to make a tool out of diamonds!

Report Highlights Higher Ed Inequity In Chicagoland

Jul 17, 2019
Photo by Spencer Tritt

Even with Chicagoland students in the same income range, white students have a much greater chance of getting a degree than students of color.

That’s according to a new report from the non-profit Partnership for College Completion. The group just released a report highlighting college access and success disparities in northern Illinois.

It finds gaps exist regardless of academics and have more to do with race and family income levels.

Photo by Spencer Tritt

 

Jim Vera teaches government at Oswego East High School. He often has his students, mostly sophomores, stand in all four corners of the classroom. The corners are marked "Agree," "Disagree," "Strongly agree" and "Strongly disagree."

 

He starts small. Do we have good sports programs here? They all pick a corner. Then the debate escalates until, eventually, they're discussing topics like if it's okay to burn the American flag. 

 

 

The Sound of Science - "How is Oxygen Made?"

Jul 12, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science, I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach.

Jeremy: And I’m Jeremy! This week’s question comes from Hazel in Dekalb.

Hazel: I want to know how oxygen is made?

Sam: That’s a pretty good question. Jeremy, where does the oxygen we breathe come from?

Jeremy: We can thank all the plants and trees in the world for that! They take in the carbon dioxide we breathe out, use the carbon, and release oxygen molecules. But that doesn’t really explain how the oxygen even came to exist! For that, we need to think about nuclear fusion.

The Sound of Science - "Rainbows"

Jul 5, 2019

Sam: I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I have a question from Madison today and Jeremy Benson is going to help me answer. Jeremy, Madison wants to understand more about rainbows. Why do we see them and why do they appear in the sky just after a rainstorm?

Jeremy: Let’s start with the basics. Sam, have you ever looked at a straw in a glass of water? What do you notice?

Sam: Well, the straw looks bent at the top of the water.

Chase Cavanaugh

A team at Northern Illinois University has created a remote lab for high school students to learn about energy efficiency.

The lab looks like a toy house with miniature appliances, like a model washing machine or an air conditioner made out of computer cooling fans. Students can turn these appliances on and off via the internet, and get various readings. These include how much power the appliances are using and the difference in temperature if the house is using a ceiling fan or air conditioner. 

Peter Medlin

Over 100 Kaneland School District teachers and other members of the community rallied outside of Harter Middle School on Monday

They were there supporting the Kaneland Education Association as they continue to negotiate a new contract before their current one expires at the end of the month.

They wore all red, and held up signs with slogans like “Teachers need more than apples."

Raney Good is the Kaneland Education Association’s president.

Chase Cavanaugh

Schools are putting more emphasis on STEM education, but that doesn't mean they're leaving the liberal arts or interpersonal skills behind.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and educators at all levels are encouraging students to study these subjects. Much of this has to do with the economic growth of Silicon Valley and the higher salaries that jobs in the tech sector can provide. Exposing students to these more advanced subjects can start as early as elementary and middle school.

The Sound of Science - "Mosquitos"

May 17, 2019

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach here in the studio with Sam Watt and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

S: Kate, I have a question from Ellis today about the upcoming season of mosquitos! Ellis wants to know why some people get more mosquito bites than others. 

K: Sam, this is a question that has personally plagued me as I am one of the chosen ones when it comes to mosquitos - they find me irresistible.

S: Yeah, haven’t I seen you carrying mosquito repellent in your purse?

The Sound of Science - "Caterpillar Soup"

May 10, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach.

Kate: And I’m Kate! With spring in the air, Jack wants to know why do caterpillars form cocoons. 

Sam: Most insects go through complete metamorphosis for a straightforward evolutionary reason: separating the adult population from the larva population means there’s more food for each group. If the caterpillars are busy getting fat from leaves, then there’s more sweet nectar for the adult butterflies. This reduces the competition and makes it more likely for their species to thrive and continue.

Sarah Jesmer

It started with a Facebook post. Fayth Springer said that sparked her desire to protest.  

"I've been receiving a lot of support because there's a lot of people who are going through the Title IX process. There's a lot of people who didn't speak today who don't feel comfortable because the school has silenced them so much," said Springer.

 

 

Springer and around 50 fellow students marched recently through the campus of Northern Illinois University in opposition to the way the school handles cases of sexual misconduct.

The Sound of Science - "Flu Season"

May 3, 2019

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach here in the studio with Jeremy Benson and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

J: Kate, I have a question from Jake today and I think he is just as relieved as we are that this long winter is over. Jake wants to know why we get sick more often in the winter than we do in the spring or summer.

K: Jake is right, flu season definitely coincides with wintertime. In fact, due to our prolonged winter this year we had a prolonged flu season.

RISE Act Lifts Hopes For Student Aid

May 1, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

Witness slips and committee hearings are on the minds of some Northern Illinois University organizers who are watching the RISE Act, or the Retention of Illinois Students Act, move through the state Senate this week.

The RISE Act, or Retention of Illinois Students Act, was scheduled for a meeting in a Senate committee Wednesday afternoon.

The Sound of Science - "Blooming Flowers"

Apr 26, 2019

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach with Jeremy Benson and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

J: Kate, I have a question from Jeannine today. She wants to know how plants know when to bloom.

K: That’s a great question, especially considering how wacky our winter was this year. If plants bloom too soon and then a late cold snap happens, they risk frost damage. 

J: Right. How do plants know not to bloom during a warm spell in the middle of January?

Mark Cuban Companies

Judson University is going to the "Shark Tank" as it rolls out a new speaker series.

Since 2011, Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, has held the World Leaders Forum. Guest speakers have included Queen Noor of Jordan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. An early forum organizer was 2004 Judson alumnus Mark Vargas.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Students in the School of Business at Northern Illinois University are holding what they call their “Golden Heart Celebration” Monday. The ceremony honors two of their own who were killed in an office shooting in Aurora February 15 -- senior Trevor Wehner and alumnus Clay Parks. It’s also Wehner’s Golden Birthday: he would have been 22 on April 22.

The Sound of Science - "Personal Black Hole"

Apr 12, 2019

Kate: Hey Jeremy, do you know what time it is?

Jeremy: I sure do, Kate. It’s time for us to answer another question on The Sound of Science, presented by NIU STEM Outreach and WNIJ.

Kate: Today’s question comes from Josh in Elmhurst, who asks:

Josh: I would like to know how small a human has to get to create a black hole.

Jeremy: What a great question Josh!  To answer, let’s start by talking a bit about black holes in general.

The Sound of Science - "New Moons"

Apr 5, 2019

J: This is Jeremy Benson.

K: And Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach.

J: And this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Today’s question comes from my friend Danielle, who asks, “Why can we sometimes see the full moon during the day?”

J: Great question, Danielle!  We’ve had good moon questions lately - I guess you could say we’re going through a phase!

K: Oh brother…  I think what Jeremy means is that to answer Danielle’s question, we’re going to have to look at the different phases of the moon.

The Sound of Science - "What's With All These Moons?"

Mar 29, 2019

J: Hi, I'm Jeremy.

K: And I'm Kate.

J: We're here from NIU STEM Outreach to answer another one of your questions on the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Today's question comes from Caroline who asks, "Why are there so many different moons these days?"

J: Good question, Caroline. It does seem like every month I see something new in my social media about an upcoming special moon. Pink moons, blood moons, strawberry banana mango moons.

The STEM Read Podcast - The Women of Frankenstein

Mar 22, 2019

Episode 16:  The Women of Frankenstein with Kiersten White and Christine Brovelli-O’Brien  

The Sound of Science - "Cell Phones"

Mar 22, 2019

J: I'm Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I'm in the studio with Kate Powers. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Hey Jeremy, I have a question from Steven for you today about our cell phones, and to be quite honest it is a question that I have as well!

J: There is a lot of cool technology in our hands these days - I'll see what I can do to answer.

K: Steven, and I, want to know why our cell phones can pick up phone calls without interference from other cell phones? And even without interference from radios, WIFI and all sorts of other devices.

Pages