What do you call a ‘jungle gym’ when it’s actually in a …marsh? These RPTA students can tell you.

A group of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities students recently put the finishing touches on a project that gave them class credit for working outdoors, creating something for kids, and improving a part of the Quad Cities community.

And perhaps even more interesting for nature-lovers: they did the entire thing with almost 100-percent natural materials.

“My classmates and I were taking a geographic information system (GIS) class last fall (2016), Site Planning, and we had to design something for our final project,” explained Maddie Kull, a senior recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) major from Morrison, IL. “It just so happened that around the same time, Nahant Marsh received a donation to create a natural play area for children who visit the marsh.”

Kull and the rest of the group members worked from the beginning of their class in the fall semester, and into the summer, to create an all-natural “playscape.”

“Nahant wanted an area that was safe and engaging which would spotlight the area’s natural landscape,” added Jennifer Swofford, an RPTA major from Coal Valley, IL. “The request fit perfectly with our class’s emphasis on wise land-use¬†through inclusive community recreation and conservation.”

Maddie Kull at the Nahant Marsh “playscape”

What’s That Word?

“We use the word “playscape” instead of “playground” because, rather than this being an area separate from its surroundings in what it offers, it blends the natural elements of the marsh into a space that encourages free play and imaginative interaction with the environment,” Swofford explained. “Many of us on the project have very fond memories of playing in nature as children, so this allowed us tap into our experiences in a fun and creative way.”

photo of an outdoor playground made of all-natural materials

Wiki-up and wingspan: Nahant Marsh all-natural playscape created by WIU-QC students

What’s That Stuff?

The all-natural playscape consists of

  • a living fence made of different bushes all with edible fruits,
  • a large balance beam,
  • stepping stumps,
  • a wikki-up, which is a Native American hut made up of brushwood or covered with mats (“We created ours with willow saplings from the marsh,” Kull explained),
  • a loose play-area where children can play with cut-up pieces of small logs, and
  • bird silhouettes kids on which kids measure their “wingspan”

But Didn’t They Have to Kill Some Nature to Make Something out of Nature?

“Most of the materials used to make this project were gathered here at the marsh,” said Jevonnah Prashaw, Nahant Marsh Education Center natural resources manager, who oversaw the construction.They cut willows and used them to make the wikki, the stepping stones, and balance beam, and the loose play logs were all from trees here at the marsh that were taken down either because they were hazard trees or were non-native (a lot of it was mulberry, green ash, and boxelder). The ‘living border’ around the playscape is made of native shrubs, including aronia berry, hazelnut, serviceberry, and crab-apple.”

Prashaw noted the improvement that the playscape brings to the site. “It adds an enriching experience to the younger children that visit the marsh and gives them a chance to play with and experience natural materials in a safe learning environment,” she said.

Another fulfilling achievement from the project was working with RiverStone Group of Moline to secure a donation of crushed limestone to use as substrate, said Kull, who is also minoring in environmental studies.

“The best thing about this project for me was being part of it every step of the way,” Kull said. “I was there from the very beginning until the very end, and it’s wonderful seeing your ideas actually come to life!”

What RPTA Work Is All About, Inside and Outside the Classroom

“The class project was designed around wise land-use,” Swofford said. “There were so many things that I enjoyed both while in the class and while doing the project. The class is extremely helpful in focusing on all of the considerations that arise during park planning. Not only do you learn about the physical and technical aspects of planning through GIS, but you also incorporate the human and conservation side of planning that allows you better serve the community in a thoughtful and educated way.”

Swofford said she also enjoyed putting the classroom work into a collaborative, practical application.

“We worked as a team to create, work, and present our plan as would any company,” she said. “It was very helpful in shining a light on what we are able to do well and what considerations we should make in the future. Our professor, Rob Porter, did an excellent job of guiding us when necessary, but giving us enough freedom to experience the project from a professional point of view.”

Swofford reflected on what she’ll take away from the project overall.

“The greatest thing I learned from both the project and the class is that wise land use is really a balancing act wherein you must consider many different elements of planning,” she said. “Recreation is not always about what attracts the most people to an area, but how well both the community and environment is cared for when they do come. Effective planners have to take into account all aspects of a landscape and community to bring a service that will be both fun and functional, while being considerate of the surrounding environment.”

Summer Love

Even once the project was finished, Kull was happy to remain at the Marsh this summer as an intern doing animal care as an intern.

“We have a variety of reptiles and amphibians that call the education center their home,” she said. “I also work on the natural resource team, working on restoring prairie and making sure the marsh is a thriving healthy ecosystem. I’ve fallen too deeply in love with the animals and the marsh to leave!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent grads on their ‘chain’ of successful events

What can a degree from WIU do for you?

For two students who came back to campus recently at WIU-QC, the answer is: find a solid career with one of the world’s most well-known corporations.

WIU-Quad Cities faculty and community leaders welcomed recent grads Jennifer Gibson (left) and Kim Goodwin (right) back to campus recently, where they reunited with their professor, James (a.k.a. “Jim”) Patterson, who serves as assistant dean/associate professor of the QC supply chain management — and was a warehouse supervisor before earning his Ph.D. and entering academia.

 

photo of professor Jim Patterson and students

Recent WIU-QC grads reunite with their professor, Jim Patterson, in Riverfront Hall

Gibson, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and Goodwin, who earned her MBA, both focusing on supply chain management, credited their coursework in areas such as warehouse management; and having required internships, for helping them secure employment as product buyers for John Deere Davenports Works. (The John Deere World Headquarters is based in nearby Moline, Illinois, where WIU-QC is located.)

“Those courses, and having professors who have had real-world experience in the industry, really prepared us,” she said. She also credited the opportunity to participate in a case competition, competing with students from other universities to solve an industry problem. “Things like that really help you develop the critical-thinking and decision- making that you use every day on the job.”

Gibson and Goodwin were invited back to campus recently for a Planning and Advisory Committee meeting, to detail ways that their degrees from WIU-QC, their internship experiences, and their real-world learning experiences in the program prepared them for their positions.

Learning from the Past

imageAs I enter this, my 12th year as a faculty member in the Western Illinois University Department of Communication, I am taking a sabbatical (technically called administrative leave) to broaden my understanding of organizational communication. In addition to teaching a course in Organizational Communication, I also teach a special topics class about the communication culture of the Walt Disney theme parks. This class, Communication 379, was born here at Western. The class is only offered at this institution and offers students the opportunity to not only learn about the organizational communication of the Disney parks, but also allows them to immerse themselves in the world of those parks through a week-long visit at the end of the course.

My three-week journey to six Disney theme parks in four countries (the United States, China, Hong Kong and Japan), begins at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disneyland opened over 60 years ago in July of 1955 and was Walt Disney’s first theme park. As a result, the park is nearing the end of its ‘diamond’ celebration event. There are images of diamonds everywhere and homages to the history of this ground-breaking park at every turn. Even after 60+ years, this park and its employees (Disney calls them cast members) don’t want you to forget where it all started.

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I think that’s an important lesson for us to remember whether we work in academia or elsewhere. The history of your organization is important, not only to see the successes, but also to learn from the mistakes. Since none of us have a DeLorean that can travel back in time (as far as I know), our way to learn from those that came before us is by learning the history of our organizations. It may not involve a massive year-long celebration complete with nightly fireworks like Disneyland, but the past is important, nonetheless. I believe each organization has its own unique way of life (often referred to as its culture) and, like a family, there are stories to be told about that life and its growth. As I learn about the culture of the Disney Parks, I hope you’ll find some time to learn about the history of your organization as well.

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WIU Alum’s Cubs Victory Song Makes Final 4 Cut in Tribune Contest

Joey White - WIU Baseball 2013

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

“What should we sing after a Cubs win?” asks Mark Caro in a March 23 Chicago Tribune article, “Go song go: Final four voting for the next Cubs hit.”

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

The White brothers’ song is now in the “Final Four” of the Tribune’s Cubs victory song contest, which began in January.

White, who grew up in Downers Grove (IL) and graduated last May with his bachelor’s of business in marketing, is a lifelong Cubs fan, as are his family members “for a few generations,” he explained. (As a former North Side Chicagoan, I too have a fondness for the Cubbies; thus, I can appreciate the White family’s dedication to their team.) The contest’s final showdown–between the two final songs that garner the most votes–is slated to begin next Monday, March 30.

Joey, who works in the Chicagoland area, answered a few questions about his and his brother’s song via email the other day. (And you can vote through 9 a.m. this Sunday, March 29, on the Tribune’s website.)

•••••••••••••••••••••••

Chicago Tribune Cubs Victory Song Contest: "Raise the W" by Jimmy and Joey White

You can vote for the White brothers’ song on the Chicago Tribune website until 9 a.m. Sunday, March 29.

Q: Why did you enter the contest?

Joey: My uncle actually saw the competition while he was reading the ‘Chicago Tribune’ and took a picture and sent it to my brother and me and suggested we create a song and submit it. When I saw the text message, my brother and I both thought it would be fun to do, and we started the process. As lifelong Cubs’ fans, we knew this would be a fun project to complete and share with friends and family.

Q: Tell me about the process of composing the song with your brother.

Joey: My brother lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, now so it was a long-distance project. We have created songs in the past for fun and have a good time doing it. After we decided we were going to create a Cubs song, my brother went to work on the instrumental (guitar, drums, bass). He has always been more inclined with the instruments and composing a beat. When he came up with his idea of how he wanted the song to go, he sent me a rough draft recorded through a text message. When he completed the instrumental, which took about two days, he sent it to me so I could start on the lyrics. I watched some Cubs videos on YouTube and a DVD that I have to help me with some ideas.

The writing process took about another two days, and then I went to my friend Justin Harzich’s house and recorded the song. With the instrumental that my brother sent, we uploaded it onto the program we used to record the song, then sent it back to my brother. After the song was complete, my brother created a video to go along with the song and posted it onto YouTube and emailed the final product to the ‘Chicago Tribune.’

Q: What are you doing now that you’ve graduated from Western?

Joey: At the moment I am gaining professional experience in sales. My future career goals consist of working with Live Nation. I’ve heard it is a great company to work for, and I am very interested in that industry. I’m interested in entertainment, like professional sports and music, and this company works with both.

Q. Anything you would like to highlight about your time at Western?

Joey: I walked on to the baseball team and played in 2012-13. My time at Western was very enjoyable and cherish the experience and education I received from the institution. The years I attended came and went too fast, but are very memorable!

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Hope springs eternal, as the White brothers and all those who entered the contest have demonstrated with their songs. So those of us Leathernecks who are Cubs’ fans keep heart… in this “lucky” (?) “Year of the Goat” — and now with a WIU alumnus possibly the author of the Cubs victory song — just maybe the infamous curse will end its reign!

Florida Firefighter Comes to Campus to Accept Bachelor’s Degree

WIU graduate Tonnie Rollins, right, is pictured with WIU Academic Advisor Ron Pettigrew of the Distant Education Support office during the May 12 graduation ceremony in Macomb.

The strain of a 950-mile road trip is nothing compared to the two-year trek by a Tallahassee, FL firefighter to get his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.

Twenty-one year firefighting veteran Tonnie Rollins has spent the past two years earning his bachelor’s degree from WIU in general studies. He was in Macomb May 12 to walk across the stage to accept his diploma in person.

“I made a promise to myself when I enrolled that when I completed the program I would fly to Macomb and march with my class,” he said. “This was my first trip to Macomb.”

Rollins said he decided to pursue his degree because it was a personal goal and he would like to be a fire chief someday. He is currently a lieutenant with the Tallahassee Fire Department.

Rollins began his studies at WIU during the Fall 2010 semester and said he chose Western because of its affiliation with the National Fire College in Emmitsburg, MD. He said his favorite class was LEJA 481, Advanced Fire Administration.
“It gave me an insight on what administrators deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

For more information about WIU’s General Studies Department, visit www.wiu.edu/distance_learning/bachelor_of_arts_in_general_studies/.

WIU history major creates rural school database during internship

A recent story in the Quincy Herald Whig illustrates how Western students get hands-on experience during their studies at WIU.

Joel Koch, a senior history major at Western Illinois University, shows a couple of the photos of old rural schools in Adams County that he's found during his internship at the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

Quincy Herald-Whig photo at left: Joel Koch, a senior history major at Western Illinois University, shows a couple of the photos of old rural schools in Adams County that he’s found during his internship at the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

“There [are] a lot of people who went to these schools, and many of them have died already,” Koch said. “If their children or grandchildren are doing family research and they run across a reference that they went to a certain school but don’t know where it was, they can refer to our list and get that information.”

According to Edward Husar’s, “Historical Society intern compiles database of old rural schools in Adams County” posted in late November, Joel Koch, a senior history major from Quincy (IL), has compiled a database of nearly 200 rural schools that once operated in Adams County during his internship with the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

Read more at www.whig.com/story/16083102/historical-society-intern-compiles-database-of-former-rural-schools.

Learn more about WIU’s Department of History at www.wiu.edu/cas/history/.

Thunderstruck? Not these guys!

Five WIU students were recently featured on WQAD News for their attempt to chase down a tornado–and they explained why storm spotters are helpful to the National Weather Service, too.

(More, below the image)

screen shot of WQAD news clip

Learn more the meteorology program at WIU, and what makes it one of the very few of its kind in the Midwest.

Kangaroos, emus, and ‘wine science’: WIU Ag students hit Australia

In a recent article from the McDonough County Voice, professor of horticulture Mari Loehrlein poses an interesting question:

“What do you get when you combine 24 college students, a boomerang, a world-famous opera house, and a major agricultural production region? Well, if you stir gently, bake in the hot Australian sun, season with fresh local flavors of your choice (e.g. rugby, fruit bats, and beaches right next to an urban center), I think you’ll get the idea.”

As Professor Loehrlein describes, 24 students from the Western’s School of Agriculture spent 10 days over spring break learning about Australian culture and agriculture, with tours including the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Culture Center (see photo, below), a citrus orchard, and the wine science program at Charles Sturt University, among other highlights.

(more, below the photo)

image of WIU students visiting Muru Mittigar aboriginal center

Senior agriculture majors Mellisa Herwig (left) and Joe Dickinson (right) with tour guide at the at the Muru Mittigar aboriginal center

To learn more about the trip, read Professor Loehrlein’s highlights, or check out the entire page of trip photos from Professor Jon Carlson’s page!

NPR reporter speaks for Journalism Day

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.” Millions of radio listeners hear those words at the closing of certain national news reports. And on Thursday (March 31), WIU students got to hear them in person, as Corley delivered the keynote speech for Journalism Day at WIU.

With a laptop onstage in the University Union Sandburg Lounge, Corley, a national desk reporter for NPR’s Chicago bureau, played for the audience one of her recent pieces, from the series of seven stories called Youths And Gun Violence: Chicago’s Challenge, that aired and was featured on NPR.org last week.

(more, below the photo)

photo of Cheryl Corley speaking at podium


After playing the feature about the young men in Chicago who participated in a program called BAM (Becoming a Man), Corley explained that, in order to develop the series, the reporters who worked on it had to develop a sense of trust with the subjects who were interviewed. The series took several weeks to report, she said, and over the process of her interviews, at least one young man admitted to her that he had shot at, but never hit, another person.

In her reportage on “Getting To Chicago’s Boys Before Gangs Do,” Corley noted that

The 13- and 14-year-old BAM members know many their age that have joined gangs.

At least 15 students who attend Chicago Public Schools have died by gunfire during this school year. The number is higher for kids who are either dropouts or go to other types of schools.

Chicago police report that the number of school-aged children shot to death in 2010 was 70. More than half of those were gang-related.

Each year, WIU’s Journalism Day, co-sponsored by the English and journalism department and Western’s Society of Professional Journalists, features noted members of the profession who speak about their careers. Corley, who began her career in nearby Peoria, Ill., described the current state of journalism as “a world of turmoil, but also innovation.” She delivered an overview of how NPR member stations and the overall nonprofit news organization brings news to listeners via bureaus around the country and the world. She explained that even though she is based in Chicago, she covers news in as many as 12 states.

“That means that I get up at 5 a.m. and I read 12 newspapers,” she said. “It might not be fun,” she said with a laugh, “but I can tell you what’s happening in Missouri.”

Corley also briefly addressed criticism of NPR for being “elitist” or having a liberal bias, as well as recent controversy surrounding the recent firing of NPR’s CEO, stressing that the values of public journalism are to be accurate and balanced, and to “provide a voice for “voices that don’t always get to be heard in a wider medium.”

Corley talked about the importance of the intimacy of the human voice and the rich use of sound in public radio. But even as NPR.org continues to grown into a multimedia organization with streaming sound, offering podcasts and other rich archives via the web, Corley stressed that in that changing face of journalism, the public radio journalist’s duties remain the same: “…being fair, taking rigorous steps to be accurate, … proving diverse perspectives in a narrative way.”

Western alumna, ‘American Idol’ hopeful, wants you to pick her card!

Western Illinois University alumna Aly Jados, a 2008 music grad who got the thumbs-up sign from Steven Tyler himself after her audition for “American Idol,” has unfortunately been shut out of the running, as of this week.

But, she says, she’s not giving up.

Jados, who made a splash in the Minneapolis auditions for American Idol Season 10 by singing the Beatles’ “Come Together”–and an impromptu duet with Steven Tyler on the Aerosmith classic “Dream On” [watch the clip here]–says there’s still a chance that her journey on the “Road to Hollywood” isn’t over.

In fact, in a note to the Beyond the Bell Tower blog editor this week, she asked her friends, former professors, and fans at WIU for a little help:

Hey guys!! I need your support more than ever now. Yes, I got the boot from American Idol, but the journey has just begun. THERE’S STILL A CHANCE, and I’m gonna go for it all the way.?? Here’s how it works…American Idol has decided to bring back the “Wild Card” this season. The Wild Card is picked by the judges and can be anyone that has been previously eliminated from the show. I’m obviously hoping for Steven Tyler’s pick. So, if I can create enough buzz, I have a good shot at it, but like I said I really need your help! ??You can help by joining my fan page on Facebook, spreading the word by posting my fan page on your wall, or search my name, “Aly Jados,” on Youtube and give feedback on the music videos I have up.

This is my dream, always has been….WE can do this!!

picture of Aly Jados Wild Card Invite

And by the way, it’s safe to say she isn’t just “dreaming on” about the possibility of Steven Tyler picking her. After all, she certainly got his attention in her Minneapolis audition. Here’s how MTV News described it in its audition recap:

“Wow,” Tyler said wide-eyed while looking over the raven-haired beauty with the voluptuous mouth. “You look like you could be one of my … nope, I can’t say it. … One of my friends.”
She knew just what song to pick, too, growling out a cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” which Aerosmith famously covered in the disastrous 1978 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie, segueing into a duet with Tyler on Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

And it shouldn’t be too surprising to any of her former professors at WIU that she’s got the tenacity to go for the Wild Card pick. Matthew Warnock, for one, remembers Jados quite well, since she was one of the first students he taught guitar at WIU, in addition to being one of his private-lesson students and playing in the guitar ensemble at WIU.

“She worked extremely hard while at WIU,” he said. “When she started with me she was playing basic rock stuff, but after three years she performed a great junior recital doing all jazz compositions, and improvising on all of them. She stands out as one of the hardest working and most determined students I’ve ever worked with. She’s very talented and has a great voice to go along with her guitar playing.”

Sing your heart out, Aly; Western wants you to rock on!

You can help Aly spread the word by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, and more!