Let’s Talk 2e Virtual Conference for Educators

Please join us at the Let’s Talk 2e virtual conference for Educators launching January 25, 2021 and then remaining EVERGREEN allowing you forever-access. To register click here.

The conference brings together expert speakers addressing topics for teachers to utilize in their virtual, hybrid and in-person classrooms within four strands:

  • Understanding 2e
  • Classroom Strategies
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Clinical Considerations

Our own Drs. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Alissa Doobay, and Katie Schabilion will be among the presenters!

If you’re a parent – this conference is an excellent teacher gift!

Along with 25 presentations attendees will enjoy:

  • Free Gifts from every speaker
  • A Companion Conference Planner
  • A Full Exhibitor Hall (with opportunities for prizes)
  • Community Building and Live Events in our Facebook “Teachers’ Lounge”
  • The Opportunity to earn Credit and Contact Hours from various states, schools and associations

We hope you’ll join us! https://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com/~access/a1c1076f/

Visual Guide to IOAPA High School Courses


To aid in decisions about spring enrollment, we are excited to share the IOAPA High School Course infographic. This infographic uses data from 2019-2020 IOAPA students. This, along with our middle school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.

Visual Guide to IOAPA Middle School Courses

To aid in decisions about spring enrollment, we are excited to share the IOAPA Middle School Course infographic. This infographic uses data from 2019-2020 IOAPA students. This, along with our high school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, in the “Being Successful” section of the page. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.

Adventures in the Sky with Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

Amelia Earhart 

Adventures in the Sky

Grades 2-4
December 6, 9:00 am – noon (Central)

Airplanes revolutionized our ability to travel to new places around the world. Believe it or not, they are a fairly new technology. Two aviators – Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart – were some of the first to explore the skies using airplanes. 

In this class, you will learn about these two amazing women’s adventures, and the sometimes-mysterious stories told about them. This class mixes writing and STEM! We will spend half of our time exploring the structure of airplanes and how well they fly. We will spend the other half learning how to write a good story with narrative writing. When we’re done, you’ll get to continue the fun with your own copy of the Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart issue of the beautiful Bravery magazine. Writers, builders, explorers, and all lovers of adventure are encouraged to join!  

Photo by Ömer Aydın from Pexels

Python Programming for 4th-6th Graders

It’s not too late (yet) for your child to join the Coders’ Lab!

Our new Coders’ Lab class, called Explorations in Coding I, will teach students how to code “for real” using the Python programming language. It will also help them discover how they can make a difference in the world through computer science!

How it works

Students will meet twice weekly with one of our best teachers and other curious and highly capable kids. They will also have independent time to work through modules and develop projects on their own. Classes at this level are typically recommended for middle school students, but bright and motivated students in grades 4-6 will feel right at home. We think your child has what it takes! No prior computer science experience is necessary.

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.” 

-Bill Gates

Help your child become 21st century-ready

This class will help your child grow in problem-solving, critical thinking skills, creativity, collaboration, and communication – all from the comfort of your home. So, what are you waiting for? Hurry, class starts November 2nd!

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Grades 6-8
December 5, 1:00 – 4:00 pm Central

Do you have the skills needed to survive in a world full of Zombies? Using your Zombie Survival Kit, you will navigate in a world without GPS, build a primitive tarp shelter, and learn some basic first aid. Our expert guide will teach you some of the essential skills needed to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. These skills are also very useful for wilderness and/or backyard activities like hiking, camping, scouts, geo-caching, scavenger hunts, adventure races, but more likely… surviving a zombie apocalypse! 

Online Neuroscience Class for Middle Schoolers

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Getting to Know Your Brain: A Crash Course in Neuroscience

Grades 6-8
November 10 (Part 1) and November 17 (Part 2) , 5:00-6:30 Central
OR November 14 (Part 1) and November 21 (Part 2) , 5:00-6:30 Central

Take a peek between your ears and get to know your beautiful brain! The brain helps us experience everything in our world. From information coming in from our environment to internal memories of a fun day that happened years ago – your brain is what makes you “you”! In this class, you will explore how the brain processes sensory information and learn how different parts of the brain communicate with each other. Then, you’ll use this knowledge to build your own “ideal” brain. 

Online Math Class: Master Mathematicians Battle Round!

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

Master Mathematicians Battle Round

Grades 4-6
November 15, 3:00 – 6:00 pm (Central)

Are you ready to outwit your friends and become a mathematics problem-solving master? Get your brain and buzzer set for a fun, game-filled session of math challenges and competitions. This class will teach you some of the best math problem-solving strategies and challenge you to think outside the box. You’ll get your own copy of Edward Zacarro’s fun book, ”Becoming a Problem Solving Genius.”  We’ll use it to help you master math using logic, “Think 1”, algebra, functions, and more. The best part…you’ll practice your new skills in several live-action games with buzzers, whiteboards, and lots of FUN! 

Online RBG Class

We’ve heard your requests for online versions of the enrichment opportunities you love from the Belin-Blank Center! We’ve designed our new Enrichment Expeditions program to reconnect bright children with each other and to explore their interests, both online and offline.

These are not your typical Zoom class! Our expert instructors combine hands-on learning with high-quality, live, online sessions that follow a depth and pace that keeps bright students engaged. We send a customized fun kit straight to your door, containing all the necessary supplies. There’s no need for shopping, ordering, or gathering items around your house.

The first class is on November 1st!

Bravery: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Grades 2-4
January 24, 9:00 am – noon (Central)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court Justice for 27 years, passed away this year. As a lawyer and a judge, she used her voice to fight for equal rights for all people – regardless of race, gender, or ability. In this class, you will learn about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (or RBG as many call her) and her work fighting for our rights. We will focus on the writing and speaking strategies that help others want to listen to us. From writing to speaking to history and even a little bit of art, this class will cover it all! You’ll also get to continue your expedition after class ends with the Ruth Bader Ginsberg issue of the beautiful Bravery magazine. Be ready to channel your inner RBG and speak up!

New Online Student Programs!

Experience the classes you have come to love from the Belin-Blank Center, from the comfort and safety of home.  

Enrichment Expeditions 
Grades 2-8 

Enrichment Expeditions are evening and weekend online classes that explore fun topics like aviation, female role models, problem-solving strategies, neuroscience, survival skills, and more! 

Coders’ Lab
Grades 4-6 

Our Coders’ Lab classes will teach you programming and help you discover how you can make a difference in the world through computer science. No prior computer science experience is necessary. 

Coding with Python 
Grades 7-9 

Learn the Python programming language at your own pace, wherever you want, without worrying about class times or the pressure of grades. No prior computer science experience is necessary. 

Enrichment Classes are Back – Online!

Are you looking for joyful and engaging online learning experiences? Do you know a bright elementary or middle school student who would like a chance to connect with other like-minded kids? Our Enrichment Expeditions program is a new way to experience the classes you have come to love from the Belin-Blank Center. Shake up your pandemic routine with bite-sized lessons that will cultivate interests, spark curiosity, and enhance learning!   

Enrichment Expeditions are 1-3 hour online experiences built around topics that kids don’t often have a chance to learn about in school. Each class includes:

  • Live instruction from vetted teachers who can work with bright students. 
  • Curriculum developed or approved by our gifted education experts.
  • A fun supplies kit with everything you’ll need to support the hands-on activities. No shopping, ordering, or hunting around your house! 

Each expedition introduces students in grades 2-8 to advanced level topics and other bright kids their age. Plus, these engaging online classes are limited to 10 students, giving children room to enjoy their instructor’s unique talents and hands-on experiences with their classmates. Our current classes explore aviation, female role models, problem-solving strategies, neuroscience, survival skills, and more! Students do not have to be in a gifted and talented program to participate.

We are creating a variety of evening and weekend Enrichment Expeditions to fit any schedule. With the addition of new classes throughout the academic year, we aim to have something for everyone! If you or a child in your life has an idea for an expedition, let us know, and we’ll do our best to create the experience. 

Start your expedition today at belinblank.org/enrichment!  

Message from the Director: Clarity During Confusing Times

The director’s message typically offers a brief reflection of the recent past and hints about the near future. However, as I write this October message, the observation that hindsight is 20/20 looms large. As is true for every one of us, the reality of 2020 contrasts sharply with the ambitious vision I suggested one year ago.  This observation led me to question whether clarity is possible when the times appear confusing.

Below is a snapshot of four goals I had anticipated the Belin-Blank Center would achieve by this time in 2020. 

  1. An abundance of opportunities for educators, students, and families.
  2. Expansion of commuter programming to 8th graders.
  3. Experience of a dynamic in-person summit on the neuroscience of twice-exceptionality.
  4. Extensive scholarship related to our comprehensive research agenda.

Did the confusion caused by the ongoing health, economic, social, and environmental crises obscure those goals?   

Not exactly. I discovered an essential filter through which I now view the future: the “optimism” filter. Through this filter, I can see the unwavering hopefulness and collective energy demonstrated by our very talented faculty and administrative, clerical, and graduate staff.  Our professional team never lost sight of the need to stay safe and healthy to continue focusing on our primary aim of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.  

Did the confusion caused by the ongoing health, economic, social, and environmental crises enhance our focus?   

Yes, to some extent. These crises have been, and likely always will be, a part of our reality. The experiences of the past months have made clear that some issues must remain central to the Belin-Blank Center’s vision for our programming, services, and research.  We will stay dedicated to addressing them through all aspects of our work.

As a Belin-Blank Center staff member for three decades, I can draw upon experience to remain optimistic about the near future. In the coming weeks and months, we will: 

  1. Continue to offer meaningful opportunities for educators, students, and families, thanks to technology;  
  2. Utilize our decades of online learning experience to create new online elementary, middle, and high school programs; 
  3. Host a dynamic virtual summit on the neuroscience of twice-exceptionality; 
  4. Make our scholarship more relevant to the most significant crises facing us today and in the future.  

We already have many exciting developments on these fronts. This fall alone, we have created an unprecedented four brand-new student programs designed to accommodate learners both during the pandemic and afterward. (Check out the Writers’ Room, the Coders’ LabCoding with Python, and Enrichment Expeditions!) In the spring, we will add a host of online student competitions. Keep an eye out for news on Invent Iowa, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

We have an extensive catalog of online professional learning courses for educators and those seeking a TAG endorsement. Planning for our online Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality is well underway, and we are looking forward to lively discussions of research and networking opportunities in May.  

Though life remains unpredictable and often confusing, every crisis holds opportunity. We hope you will join us in the new opportunities we are creating for you. 

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for the many exciting online opportunities for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers that are happening at the Belin-Blank Center this year!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Bibliotherapy: October 12, 2020
    • Academic Acceleration: October 12, 2020
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 19, 2020
    • Practicum section: October 26, 2020
    • Creativity 101: November 2, 2020
    • Practicum section: November 9, 2020
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Conference: November 12, 2020
  • AP Summer Institute
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021

For Students & Families

For Researchers

Who is Ready for Early Entrance to Kindergarten?

How do we know which children might be ready to start kindergarten early? We hear lots of stories from parents about children who seemed to learn to read spontaneously – one parent said her 3-year-old started reading the back of the shampoo bottle in the bathtub. Other parents notice their child demonstrating an early interest in time (“Grandpa, only 17 minutes until we leave for the playground!”) or a facility with numbers and sophisticated vocabulary. These anecdotes might lead us to wonder if a child is indeed ready to enter formal schooling at an age younger than typical.

Before getting into this process, it’s really helpful to learn about the policies concerning early entrance to kindergarten in your state. Some states actually prohibit early entrance to kindergarten in public school. (Note: families might work around that by sending their child early to a non-public school for a year or two, then transferring to public school later.) Learn about your state’s early entrance to kindergarten policies here.

We’ve mentioned some of the characteristics of young, bright children: early reading, facility with numbers, and advanced vocabulary. Typically, researchers have found that the best candidates for early entrance are at least 4 ½ years old. Other characteristics include long attention span, extraordinary memory, and an ability to generalize and make connections between different areas of learning.

Won’t early entrants “burn out” on academics or become social outcasts? In a meta-analysis of  research studies focusing on acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, researchers found that students did very well academically and were better adjusted socially and emotionally compared to older students. In other words, as a group, students who entered kindergarten early did just fine socially, putting to rest our concern about accelerated students becoming social “misfits.”

When thinking about making this important decision, we might weigh the pros and cons. On the “pro” side, students entering school early won’t experience the social disruptions or concerns about gaps in their educational background that we would have for students skipping a grade at a later time.  The biggest negative is probably centered around the fact that 4-year-olds don’t have much of a track record in school; since we don’t have much school history to analyze, we tend to be cautious and recommend early entrance to kindergarten for only those students who are clearly ready. It seems prudent to wait and consider acceleration later for others.

The decision about early entrance to kindergarten can be made after collecting objective test data as well as measures of psychosocial functioning.  The Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic uses a full intellectual battery (WPPSI-IV or Stanford Binet-5) and full achievement test (Woodcock Johnson-IV). Achievement test results should be calculated using grade level and above level (usually one to two years) norms. This information can then be added to the Iowa Acceleration Scale, 3rd edition, which is a tool designed to help educators and families make effective decisions regarding a grade skip. Families and educators need to work together to discuss the results of the assessment and collaboratively discuss appropriate strategies for meeting the child’s needs. The final decision must be made between the family and the school.

The Belin-Blank Center is currently developing a new online system to help schools and families make decisions about various forms of acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, subject accelerationearly entrance to college, grade-skipping, and acceleration with twice-exceptional students. This will all be done in an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the appropriate information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions. To sign up to receive more information about the new Integrated Acceleration System,  click here!

Resources

Join a National Research Study on Acceleration

The National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE) has several innovative research projects underway, and you are invited to learn more about participating in two studies: the National Study on Improving Acceleration Practices (https://ncrge.uconn.edu/acceleration/) and the National Study on Improving Identification (https://ncrge.uconn.edu/identification/).

Academic acceleration is the intervention for advanced learners that has shown the greatest effect on student achievement. Participants in the acceleration study will receive (a) free professional learning opportunities around what acceleration actually is and how it can be used, (b) a universal screening process to assist in determining which students should be considered for acceleration, and (c) resources and training that will help you implement grade acceleration decisions for those students who wish to accelerate. 

Consider joining the identification study if your school/district uses universal screening with a teacher rating scale as part of identifying students for gifted services. The team at NCRGE would love to talk with you about participating in one of our new studies. Participating schools and districts will have hands-on support to review and improve their district’s identification system for increased equity and efficiency.

Don’t Miss NAGC’s Convention Reimagined

by Dr. Laurie Croft

“I’ve been a big fan of attending conferences as a great way to learn, network, socialize and enjoy a new environment. It’s always refreshing to get out and see a whole new world.”  So said author Mark Skousen, and I completely agree!

The excitement is building for the 2020 NAGC convention!  NAGC20 has been Reimagined in a way that will re-ignite the passion that we all have for the future of gifted and talented education.  NAGC’s “67th Annual Convention Reimagined!” will be held November 12-17, 2020, bringing together thousands of professionals from around the world who are dedicated to supporting the needs of high-ability children.  I hope you’ll join us at NAGC’s first virtual national convention.

The NAGC20 convention experience will be like no other…. it’s accessible anytime and anywhere you are in the world. “Reimagined!” offers attendees access to 200+ live and on-demand sessions, table talks, Q&A sessions, and opportunities for networking.  Participants can attend sessions live or at their own pace throughout the convention.  And if you can’t participate in a session during the convention time, not to worry.  Attendees have a 6-month all-access pass to all 200+ sessions.

Also new in 2020, schools/districts may purchase a site license for $5,995 so that an unlimited number of professionals can attend. This can be your chance to show your colleagues the meaningful presentations for the ages they teach or the content they share.  NAGC20 offers hundreds of hours of professional learning at your fingertips. These can be used for faculty retreats, all-staff professional learning days, group and/or division training, and weekly staff meetings. You can build an ongoing professional learning curriculum for the entire team and the entire school year using the school site license option.  Contact Adriane Wiles (awiles@nagc.org) to register.

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to offer either one or two semester hours of credit for those who participate in the NAGC convention.  “Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education” (PSQF:5194:0WKA) can apply to the “Administrative Strand,” and because you are having to pay to register for the convention itself, we provide an automatic 50% tuition scholarship for those enrolled at the graduate level (a smaller scholarship for those enrolled at the undergraduate level).  Although teachers earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement need semester hours from an accredited university, some of you might benefit from the CEU’s that NAGC has arranged (see bit.ly/NAGC20ceu).

Those working on the endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center should contact educators@belinblank.org for information about student registration costs (50% of the above), student membership costs (only $59 for the upcoming year), and for information about getting registered for the academic credit!

To register, go to http://bit.ly/Reimagined20CM (or contact awiles@nagc.org).  Registration fees are $345 for members or $495 for non-members. Membership includes 1-year access to bonus content, including free issues of Gifted Child Quarterly, Teaching for High Potential, and Parenting for High Potential

AP Summer Institute: Online!

Belin-Blank Center staff members are making plans to host a summer program to prepare teachers to teach Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Those of you who have been following the Belin-Blank Center for some time will remember the professional development program was known as the AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This year, we have a new name! The program is now called the University of Iowa AP Summer Institute, or APSI for short.

The Belin-Blank Center will host our APSI from June 28– July 2, 2021 (Monday through Friday). Classes will meet during the day. All courses will be taught online. Courses will include:

  • Calculus AB
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • Human Geography
  • Physics 1
  • Psychology
  • Spanish Language
  • Statistics
  • US Government & Politics
  • US History
  • World History

We are excited to offer APSI online for summer 2021. We look forward to including people from all over the nation in our courses, which will be taught by content experts endorsed by the College Board.

More information can be found here. The new information for 2021 will be updated on the website in the coming weeks.

A 21st-Century Superpower You May Not Be Learning in School

Do you like logic, puzzles, or putting things in order? Are you creative? Do you want to make a difference in the world? Are you interested in learning how to code? If any of these describe you, check out the Belin-Blank Center’s new online coding courses!

We need more of our children to learn computer programming skills, regardless of their future profession. Along with reading and writing, the ability to program is going to define what an educated person is.” 

– Salman Khan

Our Coders’ Lab program currently offers a class called Explorations in Coding I for talented students in grades 4-6. (More are on the way!) This class will teach you how to code using the Python programming language. It will also help you discover how YOU can make a difference in the world through computer science! Sometimes, you will meet with the instructor and other curious, smart kids about your age. Other times, you will have independent time to work through problems and develop projects on your own. Class starts on November 2nd. 

Coding with Python is a self-directed online learning experience for bright and motivated students in grades 7-9. Through a series of interactive online modules, you will learn computer science using the Python programming language. This isn’t just any online course, though. You will have access to an exclusive student forum where expert coders are standing by to answer your questions or help you debug your code. (Don’t worry, parents, it’s moderated!) You will learn how to think computationally, solve complex problems, and be prepared for advanced computer science courses. Start anytime, and enjoy access to the content through June 30th, 2021. 

Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.” 

Bill Gates

No matter what your future goals are, coding will be an essential skill for your career. At the Belin-Blank Center, we know that you’re not too young to start learning. And the best part? There are no grades to worry about, and no prior computer science experience is necessary! Join us to unlock your superpowers and build your future your way.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Launch Today!

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12. The Belin-Blank Center serves at the affiliate for art and writing for both the state of Iowa and the Midwest Region-at-Large.

Get started early!
Submissions are only open from September 1 through December 1, but it’s never too early to get started! Students, save the work you’re creating over the spring and summer…even if you’re creating it from home.

Sign up!
Submissions open for the 2021 Scholastic Awards on September 1, 2020 on our website at belinblank.org/scholastic. On this date, students can create an account to upload their work. If you are an educator, create your account on September 1, 2020, to register your students.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Message from the Director: When the School Bell Rings

A ringing school bell has special meaning this year. I realized this during an early morning walk a few weeks back when I passed our neighborhood elementary school just as the bells were ringing, preparing for the opening of the school year. Immediately, I felt joy at hearing these bells, abruptly silenced for so many months. It felt like the school was exercising its vocal cords for the first time after a long and troubled sleep. Joy quickly succumbed to the complex feeling of uncertainty at the realization that the buildings and playgrounds had been silent and empty for an important reason, to ensure the students’ and staff’s safety. Finally, uncertainty yielded to optimism, thanks to the knowledge that educators and administrators at all levels, pre-K through graduate school, worked assiduously during the summer months to prepare for a variety of fall opening day scenarios, and a variety of possibilities throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. These preparations aimed to simultaneously respect schools’ and universities’ educational mission while upholding the primary value of safety for all.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My colleagues and I realize that the most crucial aspect of the Belin-Blank Center’s preparation is to uphold our primary value of our students’ and staff’s safety. We will do this while striving to maintain – to the extent possible – programming and services for students and teachers and pursuing our active research agenda. For safety, during the fall semester, the majority of the Belin-Blank Center staff and faculty will continue to work off-campus. Others have shifted to a hybrid approach to doing their work. No matter what the arrangement, we are all fully present to serve you.

Each area of the Belin-Blank Center is adapting to the many changes that this school year brings. Our programming and services for students and teachers have shifted online. We replaced the cancelled Summer Writing Residency with the Summer Writing Online Experience for high school students. Program evaluations indicated that this was a wonderful experience for all involved. We also introduced a new online summer writing class for junior high students, the Workshop for Young Writers, which started at the same time as a derecho approached our location in eastern Iowa. Despite the physical and humanitarian devastation from this natural disaster, including extreme technology challenges due to electricity loss, the Workshop for Young Writers was a success. We are now developing comprehensive online writing opportunities through a new program, the Writers’ Room.

The ever-changing nature of this time calls for many pivots and timely updates to keep you informed. Therefore, last month, we published the first special issue of the Belin-Blank Center newsletter to distribute information about new opportunities for students and teachers. We will continue to offer special editions as needed to announce new pandemic-safe initiatives as they arise.

The Assessment and Counseling Clinic rose to the challenges of working off-site by offering their services online during the pandemic’s early months. When the campus commenced a phased re-opening in early July, the Clinic resumed in-person services with COVID-19 precautions in place. So, too, the professional development program for teachers seemed not to skip a beat during the summer. Check out the many opportunities that await teachers during this coming year.

COVID-19 restrictions somewhat altered the timeline for activities related to our grant-based research agenda. Nevertheless, we have published the research we conducted over the two years before the pandemic in four recent peer-reviewed articles:

This month, we welcome our students, including the Bucksbaum Academy first-and second-year students, and our graduate assistants to a new and unprecedented year. It is energizing to see students back on the University of Iowa campus and meet virtually with Belin-Blank Center students. It has re-ignited the spark of optimism that comes with the ringing bells ushering in every new school year.

On behalf of the Belin-Blank Center team, we extend each of you our wishes for a safe and energizing start to the new school year. This fall, we may not hear the school bell in person; yet, I hope you feel optimistic with the knowledge that the bell and the schools are still there. Whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid, the school bell represents new beginnings and opportunities to thrive in an educational environment and within various learning and teaching formats. Have a safe and wonderful year!

Your Writing Community is Waiting

Here in Iowa, we know a thing or two about writing.

Let us bring our UNESCO City of Literature and the Writing University to your home with the Writers’ Room

The Writers’ Room is a collection of online creative writing classes for students in grades 6-12. Challenge yourself by exploring form, discussing creative writing fundamentals, and completing stimulating assignments. Receive individual feedback on your work from world-class faculty and graduates of the University of Iowa’s famed writing programs. Learn how to give and receive artist-centered feedback with your peers and enjoy the benefits of building a community with other inspired young writers. 

Join the community

Our community of student writers is impressive and welcoming. Check out this digital anthology of past students’ work. You could be next!

“I really enjoyed the fact that the teachers seemed to be so engaged, and that I was able to make friends, even online. My confidence as a writer has been so strengthened by this experience.” 

– Summer 2020 student writer

Get your seat at the table

Submit your application to the Writers’ Room today to make your writing stand out from the crowd. Don’t wait – time and space are limited! Class starts September 14th (grades 6-9) and 15th (grades 9-12). 

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Stay Tuned for New Online Opportunities for Kids!

Staff members of the Belin-Blank Center are busily preparing several new online opportunities for students. At the time this newsletter was published, we weren’t quite ready to launch the registration process, but we wanted to give you a heads up! Do you have a student in elementary, middle or high school? Make sure you are on our newsletter list by signing up here, and indicate your student’s grade level. We will be sure to send you the latest news about our new online programs as soon as possible!

Acceleration During a Pandemic?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since many students were working remotely from home this spring, parents had the unique opportunity for an up-close view of what happens in school on a regular basis. Perhaps you are one of those parents who was surprised by how quickly your child grasped new material being taught, and now you have a nagging question in the back of your mind:  “Will my child be adequately challenged by his or her school placement in the upcoming school year?”

If you suspect the answer may be “No,” the next question is what would challenge your child appropriately?  Does he or she need to skip a grade?  Move ahead in math?  One of the best tools for gathering evidence for acceleration decisions like these is above-level testing.  We’ve shared the secret of above-level testing here before; briefly, it involves administering a test designed for older students to bright young students in an effort to discover exceptional academic talent. This information helps us to understand what a student is ready to learn and if he or she is ready for the academic challenges presented by a grade skip or subject acceleration.

How do we get started? The Belin-Blank Center and many other university-based talent searches provide above-level testing. Students in 4th-6th grade take I-Excel. Even if your school isn’t currently offering group testing, your child could participate in individual testing using I-Excel. Details about this option are found here. Parents first identify a teacher who is willing to proctor the test, and begins the registration process using this form.  The Belin-Blank Center also provides ACT testing for 7th-9th graders in a group setting. Once the above-level testing is completed, families receive a detailed eight-page report from the Belin-Blank Center explaining the test results and providing additional resources useful in making acceleration decisions.

We understand that these are challenging times, so we want to add that we aren’t trying to put additional stress on families or educators. Instead, we wanted to make sure that those of you who are ready to think about these issues have the tools you need to help inform your decisions. Our goal is to support you.  

You will find much more information and links to decision-making tools and research about acceleration on the Acceleration Institute website, which is provided by the Belin-Blank Center.  The Belin-Blank Center has been a catalyst for research and programming on academic acceleration for the past 30 years. We’re currently working on a new product, the Integrated Acceleration System, which will assist educators and families in working through the process of making decisions about grade-skipping, subject acceleration, early entrance to kindergarten, and early entrance to college. Sign up here if you would like more information about the Integrated Acceleration System as it becomes available.

Professional Learning in Fall 2020

Born in the late 12th Century, Francis of Assisi lived in very different times from ours, but doesn’t this still capture what we want for our advanced learners?  “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” 

Teachers—and parents—may feel that much of life, and certainly learning, is well described by Francis’ words (translated by someone unknown over the millennia).

Fall 2020 offers three-semester hour courses that both non-degree-seeking students (such as those earning their endorsements in gifted education or interested parents) and degree-seeking students, include as part of their fall learning.  Teachers earning their endorsements in gifted education have registered as distance learners and enrolled for credits this fall (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Psychology of Giftedness (PSQF:4120:0EXW), offered over Fall semester. (Dr. Toni Szymanski)
  • The Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE/EDTL:4137:0EXW and 0EXV) has two sections for the first time.  Offered in an accelerated format over the first eight weeks of the semester, the class has enough students for two sections. (Drs. Laurie Croft and Kim Chandler)
  • Academic Acceleration (PSQF:4123:0EXW), offered in the second half of the semester, from October 12 – December 11. (Dr. Ann Shoplik)
  • Conceptions of Talent Development (EDTL:4067:0EXW), offered in the second eight weeks of the semester, from October 19 – December 18.

We also have one-semester-hour classes, offered in the workshop format, available this fall.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus over three weeks on one topic.  The credit correlated with the NAGC convention can be taken for either one or two semester hours—your choice—and will be based on participation in the fully online convention (the 67th annual convention is completely “re-imagined”!).

  • EDTL:4024:0WKA Differentiating with Technology will feature Dr. Jenelle Miller facilitating an exploration of the best online resources for gifted learners—as well as ways to engage learners without them plugging in for everything.  Dr. Miller’s class will begin on September 21 (through October 29) and will follow a webinar co-sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, launching the topic of resources appropriate for gifted learners. (Look for that on our website at belinblank.org/webinar next week!)
  • EDTL:4096:0WKA Bibliotherapy for Gifted Learners is back by demand in October, featuring Dr. Kristine Milburn; Dr. Milburn has the expertise to facilitate your understanding of how bibliotherapy can engage gifted students with the right book at just the right time, and help our gifted/talented learners engage with a protagonist who successfully handles life’s challenges.
  • EDTL:4096:0WKB Creativity 101 Is a book study offered by Anna Payne in November/December providing an exploration of creativity and how we can inspire our students to embrace and develop the creativity we need them to bring to the world today.
  • One or two semester hours are also available for those who take the opportunity to attend the virtual NAGC convention in November.  (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education NAGC 2020).  The convention costs less than ever, provides HUNDREDS of on-demand sessions, and those enrolling for credit get an automatic 50% tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center.

The practicum experience required for the Talented and Gifted Endorsement is available every semester.

Let’s do the impossible together this fall.  Develop your understanding of the nature and needs of high-ability learners, and feel more confident about ways you can meet our students’ needs, whether they are learning in person, online only, or in a hybrid format.  These classes are designed to help you with any setting!

Learn more about the professional learning opportunities available through the Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, by visiting belinblank.org/educators/courses.  Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

Invent Iowa…Online!

Welcome back to another year of inventing, Iowa! We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the Invent Iowa State Convention on April 19, 2021. Due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will participate virtually.

Invent Iowa state finalists have a strong track record of going on to win big at the National Invention Convention! For the past four consecutive years, Iowa students have brought home national prizes. Your future inventor could be next!

Our website has been updated to reflect dates and deadlines for the 2020-2021 academic year. If you plan to participate, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates.

The free National Invention Convention curriculum can be accessed here.

Please feel free to pass along the information below to other educators or parents who may be interested in learning more about invention education.

Questions? We’re here to help at inventiowa@belinblank.org!

Save the Date for the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)

Mark your calendars for March 1st and 2nd, 2021! The JSHS online symposium promises new ways for Iowa students to connect, learn, and share their research.   

If you are looking for research projects that do not require a lab setting, consider using publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project. And if you’re still unsure where to begin this year, be sure to check out this guide to getting started on a research project. 

We hope you’re inspired to get out there and start researching. For more details, be sure to keep an eye on our website. See you in March!

IOAPA Classes 2020-2021

Welcome to the fall semester for IOAPA courses! During this busy time of year, we don’t want you to forget about some important information related to your IOAPA courses. Here are a few upcoming items for IOAPA.

  • If your students decide the class is not for them, not a problem! Just make sure to drop the course before September 14th to prevent the $350 drop fee. For more information about our drop policies, check out the IOAPA handbook on our website.
  • Check your email for messages from ioapa@belinblank.org. These emails contain important information and deadlines about the upcoming year. If you did not receive these emails, make sure to check your spam / junk folder.
  • Don’t forget: AP Coordinators need to order AP Exams by November 15, 2020! (Click here for instructions and check here for additional deadlines).
  • November 1, 2020: IOAPA spring registration opens. Keep this date in mind, we expect spring enrollment to fill quickly!
  • December 11, 2020: IOAPA fall classes end.

Helpful Tips to Start the Semester

Textbooks: Recommended textbooks for courses on APEX can be found by clicking “Learn more” on the relevant course(s) from the IOAPA course catalog. Edhesive courses do not require textbooks.

Online Support: APEX and Edhesive offer support guides and videos on their websites! Reach out to their customer service with technical questions.

Let’s Talk 2e! Virtual Conference for Parents

Have you heard about Let’s Talk 2e! virtual conference? Launching for FREE on August 19-21, this conference (formerly known as “2 Days of 2e”) is for parents of twice exceptional children to learn about:

  • Managing Transitions
  • Spiritual giftedness
  • Strategies to address and relieve stress
  • Homeschooling
  • Alternative educational placements
  • Education Strategies
  • Identifying learning styles
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Communication
  • Culturally diverse learners
  • Strategies to address trauma
  • Bullying
  • Neurodiversity
  • Giftedness and Autism
  • Connecting personality and learning styles
  • Technology tips for your 2e learner
  • Launching your 2e child

Gain free access for 24 hours and then the option to purchase an ALL ACCESS PASS, which includes speaker gifts for you, audio files, and a live Q/A session with speakers!

Don’t miss our own Drs. Alissa Doobay, Megan Foley-Nipon, and Katie Schabilion’s session, “Twice Exceptionality: The Intersection of Giftedness and Autism” on August 20. And check out the rest of the incredible line-up below.

We hope you’ll join us! Register here.

Message from the Director: The Mission Continues

In April, I acknowledged the Belin-Blank Center’s “Big Pause,” aimed at doing our part to flatten the pandemic curve. We shared that summer coursework for educators and programs for students would not be as we had hoped.  Although programming was paused, the Belin-Blank Center’s mission to serve and empower the worldwide gifted education community was never on hiatus.

This mission requires us to examine our actions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We consistently strive to address gaps in these areas; however, my colleagues and I know that we can do better.  We are stepping up our efforts to educate ourselves about the history and impact of racism, particularly as it relates to education.  We started with introspection, which will continue indefinitely as we also work to increase our awareness through dialogue and new learning.  We remain dedicated to diverse, equitable and inclusive programming that increases access to gifted education opportunities in underserved populations.  Based on our own enhanced awareness of the issues, we will be able to take informed actions to improve our programs and services.  

An important aspect of our approach will be to maintain a local focus while also addressing nationwide issues, including educational disparities that have been made salient through COVID-19.  Educators involved in gifted and talented education are aware of disparities in access to gifted programs, and the only federal legislation concerning gifted education, the Jacob Javits Gifted & Talented Students Education Act, has a singular focus on increasing access to underrepresented populations through funding research-based programming. There are two components to this funding.  First, the Javits Act provides grants to state education agencies.  Our TICE (Talent Identification-Career Exploration) project, which works with rural Iowa schools, was funded by one of these grants. 

The second part of the Javits Act establishes a national research center through a highly competitive proposal process approximately every five years.  Since 1988, the University of Connecticut has been awarded this funding.  We congratulate them on their extraordinary work, which was recently renewed.   We are honored that as part of that renewal, the Belin-Blank Center will be one of their partners. The research will focus on the following important questions:

  • How can we simplify identification systems while expanding participation opportunities for underserved students?
  • What impact do teachers have on gifted students’ academic success?
  • What are the benefits of gifted programs? How do they extend beyond academic achievement?
  • Can universal screening be effectively implemented for acceleration?

In the April newsletter, I shared my perspective that these past few months have created some challenges as we adapted to the changes made necessary by COVID-19.   However, we also recognized exciting new opportunities to grow and advance into the future.  My colleagues are hard at work developing new online programs for pre-college students.   We have long dreamt of increasing access to our programming through online options, and now we are poised to make this possible.  We will have more details on these programs, some of which you inspired with your suggestions, over the coming weeks. 

I hope that you are enjoying the sunshine while staying well and safe.  We will see you soon, online, with new, innovative programming that nurtures potential and inspires excellence.

Online Courses for Teachers

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.

Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek writer, early 20th century

The Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the academic departments in the University of Iowa College of Education, collaborates with educators who work with gifted learners, so that as teachers, counselors, and administrators, they feel confident about being bridges to their students’ futures! 

Teachers who work with gifted/talented learners in Iowa, and in several other states, must earn an endorsement in gifted education.  The State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement mandates a total of 12 hours in different “strands” that ensure teachers better understand the unique nature of gifted learners (the Psychology strand), how to better meet special needs that arise from being a gifted learner (the Programming strand), administrative kinds of issues that impact gifted education (the Administrative strand), and envision working with the K-12 gifted population (the Practicum experience).  The Center provides choices across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/courses).  For those who already have the endorsement, the focused one-semester-hour workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills. 

Summer classes are fully online (classes are one-semester-hour unless otherwise noted):

  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4126:0WKA), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).
  • Practicum (EDTL:4188:0EXW), June 29 – August 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft, permission required; this section is typically for full-time students and/or those seeking more than one hour of practicum.  For the one required hour for endorsement, see EDTL:4189:0WKA, below)

Online classes continue in July and August:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Practicum (EDTL:4189:0WKA), July 13 – 31 (Dr. Laurie Croft, permission required; this section is typically for those earning their endorsement in gifted education seeking the one required practicum hour. For those wanting more than one-hour of credit, or for those who are full-time university students, see EDTL:4188:0EXW).
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4096:0WKC), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)
  • Special Topics:  The Gifted Brain: Neurodiversity and Gifted/Talented Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKE), July 22 – August 11 (Dr. Antonia [Toni] Szymanski & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teacher)
  • Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans (EDTL:4096:0WKB), August 3 – 21 (Lora Danker)

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua, named for the popular adult education movement in the early 20th century, is back in July.  This summer, Chautauqua classes will also be online; each will include virtual class times via Zoom on the dates the class would have met at Blank Honors Center, that is, the first two days of each class.  Scholarships for Chautauqua participants will remain the same.  We wrote more about this year’s changes to accommodate an online-only Chautauqua in A 19th-Century Idea Meets 21st-Century Technology.

IOAPA Students Rise to the Challenge

The 2020 spring semester was filled with uncertainty for many students. In response to COVID-19, all Iowa schools closed in mid-March, and all requirements for instructional hours were waived. Public districts could provide online learning options but could not require student participation. In spite of the impact of COVID-19, students who had already been participating in the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) kept working. Many IOAPA mentors expressed gratitude for IOAPA courses, as their students appreciated the consistency of already-established online courses with specific guidelines, objectives, and goals during a time of uncertainty. We were touched by their statements and wanted to share one with the Belin-Blank Center community. 

One mentor set up a system to allow both the mentor and student to check in, and the mentor also scheduled virtual meetings to stay in contact and proctor exams. This mentor shared, “[The students] are very thankful for something structured and challenging to work on…it is helping them create some structure in their days.”

IOAPA provides free online advanced courses for Iowa students who otherwise do not have access to these courses at their schools. Although continued coursework was not required for Iowa schools, a majority of IOAPA students continued with their online courses, and many continued on to take an AP exam in May. A unique aspect of IOAPA and one of its greatest strengths is the personnel (i.e., the teacher-mentor) in the student’s home school district. Our IOAPA mentors have gone above and beyond to support students and continued to do so virtually during the pandemic. We are proud of our IOAPA students and grateful for our IOAPA mentors, site coordinators, and administrators for their continued dedication to serving students.

Want to Support a Student?

We know that times are hard for many students and their families right now. On this #GivingTuesdayNow, we are grateful that the Iowa way is to support each other.

If you are able and would like to help gifted and twice-exceptional students have their unique needs met, please consider donating at belinblank.org/donate. Your support creates life-changing experiences for the next generation of our most promising minds.

Message from the Director: New Normal, Unchanged Mission

Many who are reading this message will have finished their day as a first responder, an essential worker, or a dedicated teacher who is adjusting to online teaching while taking care of young children.  Your commitment to the health and well-being of your communities inspires us and we are grateful.   As we adjust to the new normal of life during a pandemic and alter our behaviors and attitudes to do our part to flatten the curve, we focus on what has not changed. This “Big Pause” cannot blunt the Belin-Blank Center’s dedication to the educators, students, and families we serve.  Nor has it altered our mission of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.

For educators, most of our summer courses and workshops will proceed as intended; the only exceptions are that we have canceled the AP Teacher Training Institute, and everything else will be online, including the two weeks of Chautauqua.  Chautauqua instructors will use some of the time that would have allowed face-to-face time on campus, scheduling some time to meet via Zoom over the first two days of each class.

The situation is different for our summer 2020 pre-college student programming. Every day since mid-March, we have examined how we might conduct – or simulate – our summer 2020 programs for elementary, middle, and high school students.  After six weeks, we recognized that our commitment and enthusiasm could not overcome the fact that the best way to ensure the safety of hundreds of 2nd through 11th graders as they attend programs on the University of Iowa’s campus was to (a) defer most of our pre-college programs to the summer of 2021 and (b) turn our attention and energy to planning for this coming fall and next spring and summer.  This will be the first summer since 1988 that pre-college students will not be on the UI campus during the summer.  Nevertheless, we remain inspired by our past programming and look forward to the future.

We are working on exciting new possibilities for meeting the needs of bright students, their teachers, and their families during and after the pandemic, and we would appreciate your input.  You can share your thoughts and offer suggestions by filling out this brief survey:

 https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2gdbgSRnrKXzaaV

The “Big Pause” has not only impacted the summer; it also affected our major spring events. Although we were able to enjoy the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Celebration on the University of Iowa campus in March, the JSHS national event took place virtually, and the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards celebration will be online, as well.   Young inventors taking part in Invent Iowa submitted their clever inventions online well before the advent of social distancing; however, the State Invention Convention occurred online (and is still available to browse), and so too will the national convention.

Physically, we were able to transition to remote work without too much difficulty.  The Belin-Blank Center’s faculty and staff are all good-natured and their humor has served the Center well during the Pause.  Thanks to the amazing technical skills of the faculty and staff (and a few six-feet-apart computer equipment drop-offs!), we are still meeting as often as ever – if not more – writing our reports and manuscripts, teaching, and always planning for the future.

Psychologically, we have been working assiduously to juggle our personal and professional lives during this time of uncertainty and unpredictability.  In my humble opinion, the “Big Pause” is bringing out the best in an already superb cast of Belin-Blank Center professionals.  Each of us has examined the challenges of remotely working from home.  We have also considered positives, which go well beyond wearing sweatpants or pajamas and having no commute. 

Personally, I find the main positive and the major challenge are the same.  This “Big Pause” has been an opportunity to accept with greater humility that uncertainty and unpredictability have always been in the background and are now in the foreground of our lives.  Uncertainty and unpredictability lead to new and different ways of living and working.  New and different does not mean more or less, or better or worse.  New and different are simply challenges and opportunities, and with humility we can accept their place in our lives.

We hope you and yours are staying safe and well, and we look forward to the day when we can welcome you back to the Belin-Blank Center.  In the meantime, we strive to nurture potential and inspire excellence apart, together.

A Time for Learning

Do you remember when Frodo said, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” and Gandalf responded, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Those of us at the Belin-Blank Center believe that this time of physical distancing has to be a time for learning.  We’re all having to learn how to reach out to others virtually, supporting each other from a “safe distance.”   Professional learning opportunities are going to continue this summer, providing educators with more opportunities to understand the unique needs of gifted learners.  Educators will have more confidence in their abilities to support gifted learners’ social-emotional needs, as well as to challenge them academically.

An Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

For someone with the desire to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted, the Center provides choices of classes across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/endorsement).  For those who already have the endorsement, the focused, one-semester-hour, workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills.  Summer classes begin in June with fully online options (classes are one-semester-hour unless otherwise noted):

  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  • Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Math Programming for High Ability Learners (EDTL:4022), June 22 – July 13 (Dr. Ann Shoplik)
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4126:0WKA), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).

Online classes continue in July and August:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)
  • Special Topics:  The Gifted Brain: Neurodiversity and Gifted/Talented Learners (EDTL:4097:0WKE), July 22 – August 11 (Dr. Antonia [Toni] Szymanski & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teacher)
  • Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans (EDTL:4096:0WKB), August 3 – 21 (Lora Danker)

Although we had looked forward to seeing you for Chautauqua in July, Chautauqua classes will also be online; each will include virtual class times via Zoom on the dates the class would have met at Blank Honors Center, that is, the first two days of each class.  Scholarships for Chautauqua participants will remain the same. Details on the changes to Chautauqua are outlined in a separate blog post.

Chautauqua classes include:

  • Special Topics:  Foundations of Giftedness: An Overview (EDTL:4096:0WKD) July 6 – 24, with Zoom time scheduled on July 6 and 7 (Dr. Susan Assouline & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teachers)
  • Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA) July 8 – 28, with Zoom time scheduled on July 8 and 9 (Dr. Hallie Edgerly) 
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving (EDTL:4073:0WKA) July 10 – 30, with Zoom time scheduled on July 10 and 11(Dr. Kristine Milburn)   
  • Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset (EDTL:4065:0WKA) July 13 – 31, with Zoom time scheduled on July 13 and 14 (Stacey Snyder)
  • Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA) July 15 – August 4, with Zoom time scheduled on July 15 and 16 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA) July 17 – August 6, with Zoom time scheduled on July 17 – 18 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for the endorsement.

A 19th-Century Idea Meets 21st-Century Technology

For several years, the Belin-Blank Chautauqua has mirrored the eponymous adult-education movement that was so popular in the late 1800s – early 1900s.  Classes have brought teachers together for an accelerated learning experience, as well as time to interact with one another.  Chautauqua has featured six separate workshops that met for two days each on campus, with additional online components. 

Summer 2020 will continue Chautauqua in a way those from the late 19th century could never have imagined. Participants can still choose one class, or the three classes in one week, or all six classes over the two weeks, from July 6 – August 6.  Those who enroll in all three workshops in one week still receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class (you pay for two, the Center provides a full scholarship for one); those who attend all classes over both weeks still receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class each week (you pay for four, the Center provides a full scholarship for two).

Instructors will schedule blocks of time each morning and afternoon to meet via Zoom on the two days the classes would have met on campus.

It’s easy to earn the Iowa TAG endorsement over two summers through Chautauqua, receiving scholarships both summers.  Chautauqua classes can be combined with online classes and practicum to complete the endorsement in one summer. Classes are always different from year to year; the one-semester-hour classes this summer include:

Week 1:           

Special Topics:  Foundations of Giftedness: An Overview (EDTL:4096:0WKD) July 6 – 24, with Zoom time scheduled on July 6 and 7 (Dr. Susan Assouline & Dr. Laurie Croft, team teachers)

Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA) July 8 – 28, with Zoom time scheduled on July 8 and 9 (Dr. Hallie Edgerly)     

Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving (EDTL:4073:0WKA) July 10 – 30, with Zoom time scheduled on July 10 and 11 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)

Week 2:           

Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset (EDTL:4065:0WKA) July 13 – 31, with Zoom time scheduled on July 13 and 14 (Stacey Snyder)

Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA) July 15 – August 4, with Zoom time scheduled on July 15 and 16 (Dr. Susannah Wood)

Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA) July 17 – August 6, with Zoom time scheduled on July 17 – 18 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (i.e., 0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for the endorsement.

Summer 2020 Student Programs Update

The Belin-Blank Center is committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our visitors and we have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic over the last several weeks. Following the guidance of the University of Iowa and College of Education leadership, we are sad to share that we must cancel many of our 2020 summer programs for K-12 students. After considering guidelines for social distancing, whether families and staff would be able to safely travel and stay on campus, and the protection and wellbeing of minors on campus during a pandemic, we made the difficult decision to cancel much of our summer programming. 

For information about a specific event or program, please check our Emergency Alerts page for further updates.

Photo by Magda Ehlers

We know this is difficult news to hear, and we share your disappointment. We are working hard to create future opportunities for talented students, and their families and teachers, to create community, learn new things, and be supported in their unique needs. Stay tuned! Given this year’s unexpected events, our Summer 2021 programs will be even more special.  

In the meantime, we hope you will stay connected with us through our website, newsletter, and social media channels (@belinblank on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram). If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at summer@belinblank.org.    

We will miss seeing our students this summer, and we hope you stay healthy, safe, and well during this unprecedented time. We look forward to seeing you again soon! 

Trying to Make Decisions about School Placement or Acceleration for Next Year?

We might be able to help!  Above-level testing is a useful tool for gathering data needed for decisions such as: Does my student need additional challenge in a particular subject? Is my child ready to skip a grade?

I-Excel testing will be available this summer. Bright 4th-6th graders can take the test individually or in small groups (supervised by a proctor). I-Excel is an online test, so we are able to offer testing even if schools have not yet reopened. Parents and relatives are not allowed to proctor the test, so testing cannot occur until the stay-at-home guidance is no longer in effect. Licensed educators may proctor the test.

More information can be found in these links:

Are you interested in learning more about I-Excel testing for your child or students in your school? Contact us at assessment@belinblank.org.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are happy to support parents and students in whatever ways we can. Our primary concern is the safety and health of all involved. We recommend that you follow the guidance provided by your governor and local authorities in terms of meeting with people outside your family any time in the next few months.

2020 APTTI Cancellation

Due to the concerns of the COIVID-19 pandemic and in cooperation with the University of Iowa and College of Education leadership, the 2020 APTTI (planned for June 29 – July 2) is canceled. We were very much looking forward to this professional development event, but we hope to see everyone next year for the 2021 APTTI. 

To assist in finding other professional development opportunities appropriate for AP teachers, below are some options for online courses and online APSI programs. 

University of Iowa Online Courses

The University of Iowa offers many online classes for teacher professional development, Iowa License Renewal Units (ILRUs), and continuing education. Please see below for various online courses, and see here for a complete course catalog. 

To participate in online classes: If you are a non-degree seeking student, you must register with Distance and Online Education. To receive the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses here.  

  1. Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  2. Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  3. Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  4. Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4125:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).
  5. Teaching and Learning for Global Perspective (EDTL:4093:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 15 – August 6 (Dr. Kathryn Kauper)
  6. Special Topics: Field Geology of the Midwest (EDTL:4096:0EXW – 4 semester hours), June 29 – Aug 6 (Dr. Ted Neal)
  7. Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4976:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  8. Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)   
  9. Special Topics: Personalized Education and Plans for Gifted (EDTL:4096:0WKB – 1 semester hour), July 6 – July 24 (Lori Duffy-Danker)

Online APSIs

There are some AP Summer Institutes (APSI) that are now providing online workshops. If you are interested in attending an online APSI, please check this College Board website, and make sure to check “filter for online workshops.”  The College Board also offers AP Online Professional Development options. 

We were anticipating a great week with you, but we will look forward to next year! Please email us at aptti@belinblank.org with any questions.

IOAPA: Fall Registration Opening Soon

Registration for Fall 2020 Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) courses will open April 15th!

In this time of stress and uncertainty, we are excited to continue to offer above-level courses to high-ability Iowa students at no cost. See our full course catalog for more information on the middle school and high school courses.

  • Students in grades 9 – 12 have the opportunity to enroll in AP courses. These courses use a College Board-approved curriculum that aligns with the material covered in introductory-level college courses. Students have the opportunity to earn college credit for these courses by earning a qualifying score on the end-of-year AP Exam.
  • Students in grades 6 – 8 have the opportunity to enroll in high school level courses. 

Middle School Requirements

We realize the new requirement of above-level testing for middle school courses will be difficult to complete at this time. Therefore, we are waiving this requirement for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, we still recommend above-level testing as the best method in identifying students for advanced coursework. This requirement will go into place for the 2021-2022 academic year.

For more information on how IOAPA is navigating the COVID-19 epidemic, please see this blogpost for information on 2020 AP exams, this blogpost on resources for APEX and Edhesive, and this blogpost for internet and educational resources. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for more blog posts and emails that will provide information on next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

Registration is scheduled to close August 14th. The close of registration may be extended depending on school circumstances and course openings. Relevant information and policies can be found on our website

To stay up-to-date, follow our blog and our Twitter. 

IOAPA & COVID-19: Updated Information about AP Exams

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone. We have created a number of blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one provides updated and key information on how the College Board is navigating the 2020 AP exams. Another blog post provides resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive.  This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources.

As a reminder, the College Board is providing free, remote learning resources and a new at-home testing option for this year’s AP Exams. Also, see Trevor Packer’s presentation regarding the 2020 AP Exam updates and for rationale behind the exam content. Please see below for more details. 

Exam Dates

The College Board surveyed many AP teachers and students, and a majority preferred to test earlier, while the content is still fresh.

  • Exams will be given from May 11–22.
  • Makeup test dates will be available for each subject from June 1–5.
  • Students can take exams at home or in schools, if they reopen.
  • Each subject’s exam will be taken on the same day at the same time, worldwide.
  • View the full testing schedule.

We encourage you to remind your students about exam dates for their courses.

Exam Format

Most exams will have one or two free-response questions, and each question will be timed separately. Students will need to write and submit their responses within the allotted time for each question.

  • Students will be able to take exams on any device they have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone. They’ll be able to type and upload their responses or write responses by hand and submit a photo via their cell phones.
  • For most subjects, the exams will be 45 minutes long, plus an additional 5 minutes for uploading. Students will need to access the online testing system 30 minutes early to get set up.
  • Certain courses—Art and Design: 2D; Art and Design: 3D; Computer Science Principles; Drawing; Research; and Seminar—will use portfolio submissions and will not have a separate online exam. All deadlines for these submissions have been extended to May 26, 2020, 11:59 p.m. ET. Teachers and students may receive separate course-specific communications.
  • Students taking world language and culture exams will complete two spoken tasks consistent with free-response questions 3 and 4 on the current AP Exam. Written responses will not be required. The College Board will provide additional details in the coming weeks to help students prepare.

Tips for testing on specific devices will be available in late April.

Confronting the Digital Divide

The College Board recognizes that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating. Working with partners, the College Board is investing so these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity, you can contact the College Board directly to let them know by April 24.

Exam Scores and College Credit

As usual, students’ work will be scored by our network of college faculty and AP teachers, and will be reported on a 1–5 scale. The College Board anticipates releasing scores as close to the usual July timeframe as possible.

The College Board is confident that the vast majority of higher ed institutions will award college credit as they have in the past. The College Board has spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country that support our solution for this year’s AP Exams.

Special Benefit for Teachers

To help support teachers and schools that are struggling to collect and score student work for course grades, the College Board will provide every AP teacher with their students’ responses from the online exams by May 26. Administrators and teachers can individually determine whether they’d like to use these results locally as part of a course grade or as a final exam.

Exam Security

Like many college-level exams, this year’s AP Exams will be open book/open note. The exam format and questions are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online. However, students taking the exams may not consult with any other individuals during the testing period. The College Board will take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of each exam administration, as they do every year.

The College Board is confident that the vast majority of AP students will follow the rules for taking the exams. For the small number of students who may try to gain an unfair advantage, the College Board have a comprehensive and strict set of protocols in place to prevent and detect cheating. While some of these practices are confidential to maximize their effectiveness, students and education professionals can learn more about our security measures.

At a minimum, test takers should understand that those attempting to gain an unfair advantage will either be blocked from testing or their AP scores will be canceled, and their high school will be notified as will colleges or other organizations to which the student has already sent any College Board scores (including SAT® scores). And they may be prohibited from taking a future Advanced Placement® Exam as well as the SAT, SAT Subject Tests™, or CLEP® assessments.

Remote Instruction and Practice

On March 25, the College Board began offering free live AP review courses, delivered by AP teachers from across the country. The courses have been viewed more than 3.2 million times since they became available. On-demand lessons are now available for Art and Design, AP Capstone™, and Computer Science Principles.

In addition to sharing information about these classes with students, teachers who are providing remote instruction can use AP Classroom for most subjects. The College Board has now unlocked secure free-response questions in AP Classroom so teachers can digitally assign relevant practice questions students can take at home. Additional tips for helping your students practice are available.

Professional Development Opportunities

The College Board will be providing webinars, videos, and other resources to help AP teachers and coordinators leading up to exam day. Coordinators can register for live training on April 10 to learn more about exams.

Additional Information

The College Board has added frequently asked questions to the site so you can find answers to important topics, including information for students with accommodations, details about exam fees and cancellations, credit and placement, calculator policies, and more. The College Board will continue to make updates on the site and share them with you through email, online educator communities, and social media.

Your support is critical to ensuring students have the opportunity to earn college credit and placement. Thank you for all you’re doing during this unprecedented time.

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for future blog posts and emails that will provide information on next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

Homeschooling Resources and Reflections

We have collected some resources that might be helpful to families and educators during these challenging times. First, though, we want to offer some unsolicited advice. Be gentle with yourself. If that online assignment or other school-related task is just too much for you and your child to deal with right now, let it go. Today, you might simply need to prioritize simpler things, such as making sure your child gets some fresh air or plays a game with you. One of our neighbors told us that her goal for today is to teach her 11-year-old to clean up the kitchen after dinner. In these uncertain times, it can be helpful for adults and children alike to focus on small, immediate, achievable goals.

If you find you are looking for resources that might benefit your children or students in your class, however, we have found a few.  We thank the educators on the Belin-Blank Center’s Educators listserv for calling some of these resources to our attention and we are grateful that some of these simply showed up in our inbox.

Iowa Department of Education Resources page.  Resources for students, parents and educators during COVID-19.

https://wideopenschool.org/. Free materials for homeschooling efforts. Click on the “educator” or “family” tab.

Free resources for high school students.

A collection of resources gathered by the University of Maryland School of Public Health. These are resources for the general public. They include social/emotional development, social studies, math, literacy, and music.

A fairly comprehensive list of social studies resources for remote learning. 

This doc includes a virtual field trip every day through May. 

IOAPA & COVID-19: Internet & Educational Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19, and we will continue to provide updates and new resources. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. This blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

Internet Resources

We acknowledge the digital divide could prevent some students from continuing with their online IOAPA courses. We want to provide you with a few resources to combat this barrier:

  1. The College Board is attempting to navigate this situation for students enrolled in AP courses. Please fill out this survey for the College Board to provide mobile tools or connectivity.
  2. The University of Iowa is providing free drive-up wireless service to allow students, faculty, and staff who need high-speed internet Review the Drive-up Wifi Locations page for additional on-campus and off-campus locations, maps, and instructions on connecting.
  3. Many internet providers are announcing various packages to help those who don’t have internet or have slow internet at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Below is a partial list of what is offered. Please note: This list is rapidly changing. Please check with your the provider for the most recent updates and offers:
  • FCC agreement stating providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots.
  • AT&T COVID-19 response: Offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
  • CenturyLink COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, will waive late fees due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19, and will suspend data usage limits for consumer customers for 60 days.
  • Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months.
  • Comcast COVID-19 response: Offers free WiFi for 2 months to low-income families plus all Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
  • Mediacom COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, offering complimentary access to all Mediacom Xtream Wi-Fi Hotspots for 60 days, and extending the pricing of Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service to new customers at $19.99 per month for the next 12 months. 
  • Sprint COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, provides unlimited data to existing customers, and, starting Tuesday, 3/17/2020, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • T-Mobile COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • Verizon COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus giving all mobile customers 15GB of extra data from March 25th through April 30th.
  • US Cellular: Follows FCC agreement.

Educational Resources

  1. Amazon Future Engineer and Edhesive have collaborated to offer free access to additional Edhesive computer science courses or professional development through August 31, 2020. See this page for more information.
  2. Check out this list of education companies that are offering free subscriptions due to school closings. It is frequently updated so make sure to bookmark it!

We are continuing to think of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog posts and emails that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

SSTP Acceptance Status FAQ

Acceptance emails for the 2020 Secondary Student Training Program go out on April 1! With this information comes lots of questions, so here are answers to some of the most frequent questions we get.

Q: I’m an alternate. Why was I selected as an alternate?

A: Congratulations! Being an alternate means, you have an impressive and competitive application. After selecting students, we search for research group placements that match based on declared research interests, previous research experiences, and high school coursework. When the pieces fall into place, we offer a placement in a research group for the summer. In many cases, we are unable to provide students with outstanding application materials a spot in a research group because we are unable to find a suitable lab placement.

Q: I’m an alternate. What number am I on the waitlist?

A: We work to match you with your indicated research interest. Because of this, ranking the names on the waitlist 1 – 100 is not possible. When a student declines their invitation to SSTP, we look for an alternate with similar research interests that is a good match for the open seat.

Q: I’m an alternate. I really want to come to SSTP, but I’ve been invited to join other programs. What should I do? 

A: This is a question only you can answer. We cannot guarantee that anyone on the waitlist will be offered a spot in the SSTP program.

Q: What about COVID-19 concerns?

A: The Belin-Blank Center is committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our staff, students, and families, and we continue to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following the University of Iowa’s guidance and the CDC’s recommendations, and we will continue to do so throughout the duration of the situation. Furthermore, we continue to rely on University of Iowa leadership for guidance regarding our summer programs.

We have been told that the university will make decisions later this semester about face-to-face programs that begin mid-June or later. As soon as we have that information, the Belin-Blank Center will provide email updates to our program participants and their families about whether their program will proceed as planned or has been canceled, rescheduled, or modified for a different format. If the University of Iowa requires that we cancel a program due to COVID-19, all enrolled participants will receive a full refund of any program fees that they have already paid.

Q: I’m accepted! What’s next?

A: Congratulations! We look forward to your participation in SSTP. Once we have the decision from the University, we will send additional information. There are no further steps you need to take at this time. Assuming the program is able to proceed as planned, you will receive an email with information regarding your faculty mentor match, the first payment deadline, and additional program details.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 SSTP applicants! You are an impressive group of students and should be proud of your many accomplishments.

Social and Emotional Support for Gifted Learners during Covid-19

Our thanks to Wendy Behrens for sending this information to us. Wendy is the Gifted and Talented Education Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

Throughout the world, people are experiencing anxiety about the Covid-19 outbreak. Children are not immune to worry and many young students are concerned about missing school and friends and confused by changing schedules and responsibilities. Older students may also be concerned about testing, college applications, completion of courses, credits, missing final school events and more.

Image by ambroo from Pixabay

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) reminds us that during these uncertain times, children look to adults for guidance on how to react. As our anxiety rises, so does the anxiety of our children. NASP recommends, “Parents reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.”

Resources for Consideration  

Cultivating Calm Amidst a Storm. Blog from Nicole A. Tetreault, Ph.D., on how to calm our mind, body, and nervous system in the presence of a global health crisis. (March 18, 2020)

Helping Your Child Manage Stress Through Mindfulness by Michele Kane, Ed.D. Parenting for High Potential, Dec 2017. This article, written directly to teens and tweens, helps gifted adolescents understand mindfulness and the formal/informal pathways to mindfulness. Includes apps, books, and online resources for kids.

Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus 
A resource for children about coronavirus, what it is and how to protect oneself.

Management of Anxiety Begins at Home by Sal Mendaglio, Ph.D., Parenting for High Potential, Summer 2016. General article that focuses on the sources of anxiety in gifted children and what parents can do to help reduce anxiety at home.

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (PDF, 144KB) 
This resource provides information for parents and caregivers about outbreaks, how they can prepare to reduce stress and anxiety, how it may affect your family both physically and emotionally and ways to cope.

Resources for Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-being During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Guidance, recommendations, and resources provided by child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts.

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource 
A resource for parents on how best to talk to children about the coronavirus.

Talking to Teens and Tweens About Coronavirus 
This article details advice from experts on how parents can help teens be prepared and have the right information about the coronavirus.

Teacher, Interrupted: Leaning into Social-Emotional Learning Amid the COVID-19 Crisis by Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett, Ed Surge. Psychologists from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence offer social and emotional learning (SEL) evidence-based practices to help educators, parents, and students get through these difficult times. (March 18, 2020)

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

IOAPA & COVID-19: Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

APEX Resources

Apex has suggestions for proctoring exams, and Apex also offered a ‘course-pause’ option for students that lose access to courses. If your courses are set up to be proctored by a mentor, you can:

  1. Have students take exams upon their return.  Per Apex’s standard policy, students will not be penalized for late work.
  2. Work with parents to proctor students taking exams. Mentors can unlock tests remotely.  

You can also request a course-pause for your entire program, or just for students that may lack access. Apex will leave the courses ‘paused’ until you confirm they should be re-opened.  Please reach out to our student services team (alvs.support@apexlearning.com; 855-550-2457) to initiate this option.

Edhesive Resources

Edhesive has created a guide on how to continue courses with remote learning. This guide includes tips to support teachers, students, and parents. Edhesive is currently working with their partners at Amazon to support students who may lack equipment and internet access. Support and online teaching assistants will continue to be available to support students and teachers via online forums. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

IOAPA & COVID-19: AP Exams

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide information on how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams. Another blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive.  This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources.

The College Board is supporting AP students by offering free, optional remote learning and at-home AP testing. These resources are offered in order to allow students to still earn the college credit and placement that they have been working toward all year. 

  • For the 2019-20 exam administration, students can take a 45-minute online exam at home. The College Board development committees are currently creating these exam questions.
    • Students are able to take these exams on any device – computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.
    • The College Board recognizes the digital divide for low-income and rural students. If students need mobile tools or connectivity, please reach out to the College Board.
  • Each AP exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. This will account for the students who may have lost more instructional time than others. 
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject there will be two different testing dates. Specific test dates will be posted by April 3. 
  • Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they’ve worked hard to earn. 
  • Any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge. 
  • Beginning March 25, students and schools will have access to free, live AP review lessons,delivered by AP teachers from across the nation. 
  • For more information, check with the College Board’s websiteand their AP updates for schools impacted by COVID-19. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

Suddenly Homeschooling: Resources for Parents of Gifted Children

Suddenly, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are navigating new territory–teaching their children at home while also trying to work from home and maintain some semblance of normal family life. Here are a few resources that might be helpful to your and your gifted child during this time.

Image by khamkhor from Pixabay

The National Association for Gifted Children has published a list of resources tailored to gifted students and their families. We picked out a few to highlight:

Gifted Pathways provides a blog with simple activities you can do with your kids today.

Distance Learning Resources from the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian provides access to millions of digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives, and more. See especially the sections on Resources for Caregivers and Resources for Tweens and Teens. Also note that there are scheduled live chats with experts.

The list of Amazing Educational Resources is, well, amazing! It provides a list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings and is updated often.

Leave Your Sleep for Education. Free online curriculum platform that offers literature, theater, music and dance, art, history, and science applications using poetry and music to engage students. This is an excellent resource for April’s National Poetry Month. Recommended by our friends at the Gifted Support Center in San Mateo, CA.

Sage Publishing is providing free access to Coronavirus research. These might be especially appropriate for high school students as well as some middle schoolers.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The National Association of School Psychologists provides a list of health crisis resources for various audiences (including parents) who are now navigating the COVID-19 virus.

Finally, Lisa Van Gemert (some of you know her as the Gifted Guru) is in the midst of a truly amazing experience as the country’s English teacher. We will simply end this little article with her words: “When faced with difficult times, focusing on what we can give, rather than worrying about what might be taken away, is food for the soul. You’ve got something worth sharing. Share it.”

COVID-19 Update

In response to COVID-19, we are following the University of Iowa’s guidance and the CDC’s recommendations, and will continue to do so as the situation changes. We are committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our visitors.

Currently, all Belin-Blank Center events are scheduled to proceed as planned. As the days and weeks go on, please monitor our Emergency Alerts page often for updates about whether a specific Belin-Blank Center event or program has been canceled, rescheduled, or moved online.

If the University of Iowa requires that we cancel an event or program due to reasons related to COVID-19, all registered participants will receive a full refund of any paid fees associated with that event or program. They will also receive an email.

Upcoming Event or ProgramDate ScheduledStatus
(Current March 12, 2020)
AP Teacher Training InstituteJune 29 – July 2Proceeding as Planned
Belin-Blank Fellowship ProgramJune 21 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Blank Summer InstituteJune 22 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Bucksbaum Academy Information DayMarch 24Proceeding as Planned
Bucksbaum Academy Information DayApril 28Proceeding as Planned
Chautauqua IJuly 5 – July 11Proceeding as Planned
Chautauqua IIJuly 12 – July 18Proceeding as Planned
I-Excel test date at Belin-Blank CenterJune 11Proceeding as Planned
Invent Iowa State Invention CompetitionApril 20Proceeding as Planned
Javits-TICE Professional DevelopmentJune 15 – 16Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 1June 15 – 19Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 2June 22 – 26Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 3July 6 – 10Proceeding as Planned
Junior Scholars Academy – Session 4July 13 – 17Proceeding as Planned
National Invention ConventionJune 3 – 5Proceeding as Planned
National JSHSApril 15 – 19Under Review
Perry Research Scholars InstituteJuly 6 – 17Proceeding as Planned
Secondary Student Training ProgramJune 17 – July 24Proceeding as Planned
STEM Excellence Professional DevelopmentJune 9 – 10Proceeding as Planned
Summer Art ResidencyJuly 6 – 24Proceeding as Planned
Summer Writing ResidencyJuly 6 – 24Proceeding as Planned
Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice ExceptionalityJuly 20 – 21Proceeding as Planned
Current as of March 12, 2020, 2:15pm CDT.

Assessment & Counseling Clinic

In order to maintain the health and safety of our staff and clients, please contact us to reschedule if you or your child are ill, if you have known exposure to COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to a location with a high rate of COVID-19 (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). We will work with you to ensure your rescheduled appointment occurs as soon as possible. If you are planning to travel by airplane for the evaluation, you may also consider rescheduling your child’s appointment to reduce risk of exposure.

Spring Term AP® Exam Scholarship Winners!

The Belin-Blank Center received funding in 2018 to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for students with financial need. This cycle of applications were for students enrolled in one-term, spring semester AP® IOAPA courses. Mentors, site coordinators, or principals were to submit an application to receive this funding. We are pleased to announce the teachers that are awarded these scholarships for their students! Congratulations to the following teachers:

Donna Bohlmann, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Junior/Senior High School

Shawna Goemaat, North Mahaska Community School District

Patrick Trewin, Decorah High School

The purpose of these scholarships is to pay for the cost of AP® exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses. We want to thank these teachers for their dedication to providing resources and opportunities to their students!

As funds permit, we will continue to offer AP® exam scholarships. Make sure to watch for the AP® exam scholarship application this fall, 2020!

Message from the Director: At the Edge of Knowledge, What do Students Need?

The needs of gifted students come from their strengths, not their deficits. 

I’m paraphrasing, slightly, what Executive Director of Western Kentucky’s Center for Gifted Studies, Professor Julia Link Roberts, expressed last month during Denver University’s annual Gifted Education Conference.  This simple yet elegant statement captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s model for serving gifted and talented students from grade 2 through college.  Our strength-based model features various systems for discovering domain-specific talent and then developing that talent.  A strength-based model is synonymous with talent development.

Although highly effective, there is one critical group of educators who neither implement nor advocate for a strength-based model in which talents are developed.  The group is comprised of the vast majority of faculty in colleges of education across the country; the same individuals who prepare future teachers and counselors.  

This was the situation decades ago when I was preparing to be a science teacher, and it remains true today.  For example, students with strengths in science reasoning need to be able to do what scientists do – create hypotheses, conduct research, experience success…and fail, and start all over again. It’s the rare science classroom where students with strengths in scientific reasoning have regular opportunities to experience “science” during the school day.  The same is true for individuals with talent in mathematics. 

To some extent, the lack of emphasis on talent development in schools explains the popularity of university-based summer programs among parents and students.  Every summer, tens of thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students across the country take advantage of myriad programs and courses that build on their strengths and nurture the development of their talent.  The Belin-Blank Center’s programs are among these. Our students explore their interests and stretch their intellectual muscles in the Blank Summer Institute, the Perry Research Scholars Institute, the Secondary Student Training Program, Summer Art  Residency,  and Summer Writing Residency and find respite from the lack of challenge during the school year.

Educators who participate in the Belin-Blank Center’s summer professional development can observe talented pre-college students in programming that is uniquely strength-based and talent-development focused.  Our hope is that by observing a strength-based classroom, educators will see the importance of taking this model into their own classrooms during the academic year.  This is one of the most critical lessons from their professional development experience because for every student who attends a summer program in a university setting, there are several others who are equally talented but don’t have this opportunity.

Education doesn’t have to be strengths vs. deficit.  In fact, every program we offer, including outreach programming such as the STEM Excellence program, now in its sixth year of implementation in nine rural schools across Iowa, is an excellent example of a thriving strength-based program that aims to develop the math and science talents of middle-school students.

Our work in twice-exceptionality offers additional evidence that understanding a student’s strengths is as important as understanding their challenges.  Individuals with a diagnosed disability or disorder face challenges (deficits) that can – and must – be addressed. However, this should be done in alignment with developing their strengths.

The strength-based approach is the essence of our collaborative twice-exceptional research agenda with our Iowa Neuroscience Institute partners. This work uses an unprecedented amount of data from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to better understand the relationship between high ability and challenges in learning, social-emotional development, or behavior. Indeed, understanding the role of cognitive strengths within the context of learning and social-emotional difficulties is a critical aspect of the research we are conducting.  It is only with a sample of twice-exceptional individuals, who have both intellectual strengths and cognitive challenges, that each of these can be controlled for, allowing researchers to examine their effects both independently and combined.

We are looking forward to bringing together researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents to learn about the research on twice-exceptionality at the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality this July. We invite you to join us in discussing new, unprecedented studies of twice-exceptionality, the future of research in this field, and the possibilities available for collaboration among institutions, gifted education organizations, and talent development centers in order to advance our understanding of this unique population and their strengths and challenges.

The needs of gifted students – and the professionals who are involved in their education – come from strengths not deficits.  Yet, for the foreseeable future, deficit models in education will likely dominate our thinking – and funding.  I recommend that we “lean into” the current deficit model and use it as a platform to reveal the many advantages to including a strength-based approach in gifted education and talent development.  We will continue to share our perspective and research findings, and we hope to see you at one of our events or programs soon.