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Illinois EPA, U of I Introduce New Curriculum Unit for Educators
Illinois Ag Connection - 04/12/2019

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Acting Director John J. Kim announced that the Agency has partnered with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) to create a new science curriculum unit for fifth and sixth grade educators: Why is the Pond Green? The unit focuses on surface water and algae. The entire curriculum is free and available online to teachers and parents at

"We are excited to release a new installment in our Environmental Pathways to provide educators and parents with quality STEM curriculum with an environmental theme," said Acting Director Kim. "Science literacy is increasingly important to our day to day lives and we appreciate our partnership with the University of Illinois's Office for MSTE, which has made the development of this curriculum possible."

Why is the Pond Green? will help students investigate the algal bloom phenomenon in Illinois and its greater environmental impact. It follows a storyline model that is driven by student questions. The unit is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for formal classroom use. It is also suitable for informal use.

"This is a great unit! It is very NGSS friendly and has a lot of hands-on components. Students are familiar with ponds and algae, so they made some great connections to the materials. They learned to make careful observations of their experiments and patience as they watched their algae grow, or not grow in some cases. I believe their very favorite part was looking at the algae under the microscope! There were many aha! moments as they learned to focus the microscopes and they were so amazed at what they saw. It helped them to see that many decisions we make can affect ecosystems that we don't necessarily think about," said Pam Evans, science teacher at Arthur Grade School.

"I really liked this unit because we got to do a lot of comparisons. We also got to grow algae and see it through microscopes. We got to see the pond in all of the months and seasons. I got to do many stand-up activities, and I learned a lot about algae," said Emmalee Nall, 6th grade student.

The Agency and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are creating a second fifth and sixth grade curriculum unit focused on food waste reduction. The food waste unit is expected to be available in Spring 2020 and will also conform to the NGSS. The new curricula are an update to the Agency's existing curriculum Environmental Pathways: Youth Investigating Pollution Issues in Illinois.

More information about Illinois EPA's Environmental Education outreach may be found at

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