Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UIS Cox Children’s Center earns national NAEYC accreditation for high-quality

The University of Illinois Springfield’s Cox Children’s Center has earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children. NAEYC accreditation is the mark of high-quality for programs.

Less than 10 percent of all child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens nationally achieve this recognition. NAEYC accreditation is a rigorous and transformative quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 standards that are based on the latest research on the education and development of young children.

The Cox Children’s Center was established in 1970 and has held NAEYC accreditation since 2002. The center is a resource for university students, faculty, staff, alumni and community clients. The programs are designed to provide early childhood care and education for children 6 weeks to 12 years of age. The center also serves as a site for practicum experiences for university students seeking hands-on learning in the field of early childhood education.

“Maintaining our NAEYC accreditation status is imperative in our goal of providing model early care and education to children and families,” said Stacey Gilmore, director of the UIS Cox Children’s Center. “NAEYC accreditation helps staff develop a shared understanding and commitment to quality. It helps families recognize quality and be assured that children are receiving a high-quality, research-based education that will prepare them for future success.”

To earn NAEYC Accreditation, the UIS Cox Children’s Center went through an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process, followed by an on-site visit by NAEYC Assessors to verify and ensure that the program met each of the ten program standards, and hundreds of corresponding individual criteria. NAEYC-accredited programs are always prepared for unannounced quality-assurance visits during their accreditation term, which lasts for five years.

“Pursuing NAEYC accreditation is a rigorous process that we voluntarily engage in to meet the highest program standards for quality early learning,” said Gilmore. “I’m very proud of my team and the hard work they’ve put into achieving this goal.”

In the 30 years since NAEYC accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. More than 7,000 programs are currently accredited by NAEYC.

For more information, contact Stacey Gilmore, director of the UIS Cox Children’s Center, at 217/206-6610 or shemb1@uis.edu.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

UIS professor offers advice on how to safely view the August 21 solar eclipse


A partial solar eclipse will take place in central Illinois on August 21, 2017. On that day, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth that will travel west to east across the United States.

According to University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Astronomy-Physics John Martin, areas of southern Illinois will experience a total eclipse with 100 percent of the sun covered by the moon, while the Springfield-area will see 96 percent coverage around 1:18 p.m.

“Where the moon shadow hits the Earth is where you see the eclipse,” said Martin. “You might notice with the shadow you have a darker and a lighter part of the shadow. The lighter part of the shadow, on the edges, is where the moon has just partially blocked out the sun. We here in central Illinois are going to be in that partially blocked out shadow. That’s not as dark as all of the way blocked out.”

Martin warns anyone viewing the eclipse that they should not look directly at the sun with the naked eye or with a telescope. He suggests using protective glasses made out of sheets of Mylar or a #14 welder’s glass. You can also make a pin-hole camera out of a box or even a notepad.

“Even with the sun 96 percent covered, it’s still very bright,” said Martin. “It’s still like staring into a welder’s arc just a few feet away from your face, so don’t look at the sun during the partial eclipse.”

Martin also urges those hoping to view the eclipse to check the weather forecast, as clouds can block your view of the event.

“If it’s cloudy on the 21st, it’s cloudy for the solar eclipse, we have another one coming up in 2024, in about seven years,” he said.

Martin has created a website with more information about the solar eclipse, which includes a map showing the amount of coverage in central Illinois.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

UIS faculty and students partner with Brazilian researchers to study river floodplain conservation

The University of Illinois Springfield has partnered with the Universidade Estadual de Maringá (UEM) to research the aquatic ecology of the Paraná River in Brazil and the Illinois River in the United States in order to better understand the effectiveness of conservation and restoration efforts.

A group of five UIS students and one faculty member spent three weeks in Brazil in June as part of a study abroad trip where they conducted field water sampling, traveled to university field stations and took boat tours of the floodplain. In July, a group of four Brazilian students and one faculty member came to the United States for three weeks to study the Illinois River floodplain. A large amount of the Illinois research was conducted at the UIS Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon near Lewistown.

In particular, researchers compared the water chemistry and zooplankton composition of the last protected stretch of the Paraná floodplain (230 km) to those of the restored areas of the Illinois River floodplain.

“Overall, we found that the nutrient concentrations (total nitrogen, total phosphorus, etc.) were much lower in the surface waters of the Paraná floodplain than those of the Illinois River. These differences are due to many factors, including the influence of hydroelectric dams upstream from the sampling sites in Brazil and the widespread use of fertilizers in the Illinois watershed,” said Keenan Dungey, UIS associate professor of chemistry and associate vice chancellor for research and institutional effectiveness.

There were 184 total zooplankton species identified among all the sites, some of whom were similar on both continents. The zooplankton community compositions were different, with those of Paraná having a greater species richness and those of Illinois having a greater abundance. Biogeography, climate, and availability of nutrients were different factors the students considered when comparing the zooplankton communities.

Results from the collaboration will be presented on each campus and at an international science conference. The information gathered will also become part of a new course, “BIO 334 ECCE: Conservation and Restoration of Large River Systems in North and South America”. This online, international, bilingual course will be co-taught by UIS Biology Professor Michael Lemke and UEM Professor Felipe Velho, vice director of the Center for Limnology this coming spring semester.

During the course, students from both countries will learn the science behind restoration and conservation and the cultural differences and similarities between Brazil and the U.S. that result in different approaches to the environment. The Paraná River and Illinois River systems will serve as case studies and students from both countries will work together on group projects.

“My objective in designing this course was to explore the cultural interpretation of conservation and the same for restoration ecology in a world where the terms become harder to interpret and there is more on the line (not only loss of resources, but re-definition of what resource is, and the influx of huge business interests) both for the loss of and the conservation of natural resources,” said Lemke.

While in Brazil, UIS students also had the chance to view Iguassu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and got a technical tour of the Itaipu Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world (in terms of consistent power output).

“Besides the amazing sites, the great science, and meeting wonderful people, the most significant aspect of the trip for me was to be able to see students from two continents that spoke different languages develop friendships with one another,” said Dungey.

This summer’s project grew out of a ten year research collaboration between Professor Lemke and UEM scientists. The program was partially funded by a $25,000 Innovation Fund grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation-sponsored competition, “100,000 Strong in the Americas”, which was administered by Partners for the Americas. The goal of this fund is to increase college student exchange between North and South America, for the purpose of furthering international understanding and student career development. UIS was one of only eight United States institutions to receive the award.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

UIS Survey Research Office releases 2017 Sangamon County Citizen Survey

The University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office has released the results of its 2017 Sangamon County Citizen Survey. Results were previewed at the Citizens Club of Springfield meeting on Friday, July 28. The survey — the third in a planned series of five — aims to establish benchmarks and evaluate changes in residents’ assessments of quality of life in Sangamon County. In addition to responses to recurring questions, the current survey solicits public opinion on topical issues affecting the county.

The current survey finds that majorities rate the county highly on many measures: 69% say it is an “excellent” or “good” place to live; 66% say it is an “excellent” or “good” place to raise children; and 59% say it is an “excellent” or “good” place to work. However, younger respondents and nonwhite respondents are less likely to say the county is a good place to live, raise children, work, and retire. Additionally, those outside of Springfield are more likely to say Sangamon County is an “excellent” or “good” place to raise children (83%) than Springfield residents (62%). The survey also finds that men (47%) are more likely than women (36%) to say that everyone in their community is treated equally and that those with household incomes of $100,000 or more (53%) are more likely to say everyone is treated equally than those earning $30,000 or less (37%).

Respondents are nearly unanimous when it comes to how they feel the budget impasse has impacted the county; almost nine in ten (88%) say the state budget impasse had a negative effect on the Sangamon County economy. Furthermore, about half (44%) say they have personally been affected by the state budget impasse. Among those affected are state employees who have not been reimbursed for medical payments and small business owners who depend on business with the state to survive.

Regarding the local economy, just 20% say they are financially “worse off” now compared to a year ago today while 24% say they are “better off” today. However, respondents are less optimistic about local business conditions – 46% say these are “worse off” now than compared to a year ago while just 4% say they are “better off.” Thirty-six percent say they have considered moving out of or away from the county in the past year which is the same percentage as the last time the survey was administered in 2015.

The survey is sponsored by the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, the United Way of Central Illinois, and the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS. The full report contains responses to all questions including open-ended questions. The results are from 746 respondents from across Sangamon County. The data are weighted by gender, race, age, and education to match estimates provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey was administered via mail using address-based sampling. The margin of sampling error is +3.8% at the 95% confidence level, but this margin will increase when examining subgroups.

The report is available on the UIS Survey Research Office website at www.uis.edu/surveyresearchoffice. Questions about the survey may be directed to Matt Case, interim director of the UIS Survey Research Office, at 217/206-6293 or mwcase2@uis.edu.