Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

AP Summer Institute – Online!

Advanced Placement (AP) coursework is one of the most recognized forms of acceleration. There are many benefits to taking an AP course, including providing the appropriate level of challenge for talented students.

Advanced Placement classes help develop college-level academic skills. The classes are made up of students and educators with a strong commitment to excellence in learning and problem-solving. These are all qualities necessary in college. Many students who enter college are shocked at the amount of work and study time involved. Taking AP classes in high school will better prepare them for challenging college classes.

The Belin-Blank Center is proud to be an approved site to provide AP summer training for teachers. To accommodate as many teachers as possible, we are offering an online session (August 1-5, 2022). The seven AP trainings offered online are Computer Science & Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

We would love to work with you this summer! Learn more and sign up here.

NEW! Graduate Certificate in Talent Development

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce our new graduate certificate in talent development! It addresses talent development from a broad perspective and considers multiple fields. This certificate will be open to current, degree-seeking students at the University of Iowa and non-degree students (e.g., full/part-time personnel in teaching and/or a wide range of professions). The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a synthesis of theory and multiple perspectives across various areas of study and provide opportunities for registrants across fields to engage and interact with the common goal of how to best match individuals with appropriately enriching experiences (within and outside of school). 

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The purpose of the Graduate Certificate in Talent Development is to increase understanding of talented individuals, the process of talent development and the creative process, and to prepare advocates for talented individuals. The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a research-based foundation for cultivating talent and encouraging best practices, especially in K-12 schools.  The emphasis on talent development is moving away from simplistic “pull-out” programming within schools and exploring more sophisticated conceptions of the development of expertise in specific fields and domains. The proposed certificate intends to train professionals across fields to develop talent among artists, athletes, business leaders, musicians, and STEM, to name a few. 

The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will be available in Fall 2022. It consists of 14 semester hours and can be earned completely online. Its three-fold learning approach is composed of: 

1) required coursework (6 semester hours),  

2) interest-based elective coursework (6 semester hours – can reside in any UI department), and  

3) a culminating independent Capstone Exploration Project (steered completely by student interest).  

If you have any questions, please contact Randy Lange (randolph-lange@uiowa.edu).

We would love to learn with you!

Does Your Child Need More Academic Challenge at School This Fall?

Our Assessment and Counseling Clinic can help you learn more about your child and their academic needs.

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Our clinic offers individual educational assessments to help you better understand your child’s cognitive and academic strengths. These evaluations can assist with academic planning by helping determine whether your child is ready for advanced learning opportunities such as acceleration and enrichment programming. You can use the results to better advocate for your student’s advanced learning needs at school. When shared with your child’s educators, the results may inform team decisions about identification for enrichment and/or accelerated programming.

These assessments involve tests of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant to academic planning decisions.

If you’re interested in learning more about educational assessments and other clinic services, visit our website. To request information about pursuing an educational assessment for your child, click here.

Professional Learning Makes All the Difference

Gifted and talented students have unique social-emotional needs AND unique academic needs.  Professional learning allows educators to understand and address those unique needs, and that facilitates student success in school and in life in a wide variety of ways.  Peterson (2009) suggested that giftedness can actually be a risk factor for poor personal and educational outcomes.  Comprehensive preparation to interact with and support the various challenges faced by gifted learners facilitates appropriate affective and academic development.

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Belin-Blank Chautauqua 2022

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua provides six classes for professionals, who can take any or all.  Allowing educators to spend time with others who share their focus on the nature and needs of gifted students—either in person on campus or via Zoom—each class meets from 9:00 – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm for the first two days of each class.  Participants finish up any readings and final projects over the next couple of weeks, working online and independently. 

All classes fulfill one of the strands required for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement and count toward the total number of 12 required credits.  Enrolling in Chautauqua allows an educator to complete half of the endorsement this summer, and the different Chautauqua schedule from summer to summer allows a participant to complete the endorsement program the next year.

Those who enroll in all three graduate credits the first week receive a full tuition scholarship for one class; those who enroll in all six credits receive a full tuition scholarship for two classes, one each week.  In other words, the Belin-Blank Center covers the cost of two of the six classes; the Center understands the value of professional development!

Chautauqua Courses in 2022

Chautauqua courses include the following in Week I:

Thinking Skills (EDTL:4072:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Laurie Croft;

Topics: Executive Functioning for Learning and Life (new in 2022; EDTL:4096:0WKB), Jul 13 – Aug 2, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn; and

Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted (RCE:4125:0WKA, Jul 15 – Aug 4, taught by Dr. Debra Mishak.

Chautauqua continues in Week II:

Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA), Jul 18 – Aug 5, taught by Dr. Haley Wikoff;

Topics: Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking (EDTL:4096:0WKC), Jul 20 – Aug 5, taught by Gwen Livingstone Pakora, MA; and

Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA), Jul 22 – Aug 5, taught by Lori Danker, MA and MSE.

Learn more about Chautauqua at belinblank.org/chautauqua.

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Teacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses (EDTL:5080:0WKA), available to those participating in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute.  The Belin-Blank Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship, allowing participants to earn two hours for the cost of one graduate credit.  The APSI takes place on campus from Jun 28 – Jul 1.  Contact educators@belinblank.org about information to override the restriction on enrollment. 

APSI participants benefit from earning another credit hour for Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.  APSI participants receive a 50% tuition scholarship for this class, as well.

Fully Online and Asynchronous Courses

In addition to Chautauqua courses this summer, the Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, is offering additional online courses that are fully asynchronous.  Professional learning opportunities began at the end of May, but they continue in July, including:

Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (EDTL:4029:0WKA), taught by Dr. Beth Maloney;

Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.

The practicum experience, required for the endorsement is available every semester, including summer.

For more information about all the summer professional learning opportunities available, visit belinblank.org/courses.

Visit belinblank.org/educators/reg for all the information you need to get registered as a non-degree seeking Distance and Online student.

Welcoming a New Licensed Psychologist to the Assessment and Counseling Clinic!

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Christopher Smith to the Belin-Blank Center! Dr. Smith is joining the Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a licensed psychologist.

Dr. Smith earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and his MA and PhD from Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA. He completed his internship at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Maine, and his post-doctoral fellowship working with children and adolescents at an eating disorder clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds psychology licenses in Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts. Most recently, he worked as a licensed psychologist at ChildServe in Iowa City.

We are looking forward to having Dr. Smith on the team at the ACC! He will be involved in providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting research and other clinic initiatives.

Be sure to check out all of the clinical services we provide in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic. If you are interested in requesting more information about scheduling clinic services, you can do so here!

Acceleration: An Equitable Approach

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Access and opportunity are pillars of an equitable school experience. We know that acceleration is a research-supported method of challenging academically talented students, so we need to provide talented students access to accelerative opportunities. Research confirms that talented students who are allowed to move ahead tend to perform better academically both in the short- and the long-term. How do we make access to acceleration equitable, so that all students who are ready can take advantage of the opportunities that acceleration can provide?

The answer is policy. Acceleration policies can make educational opportunities more equitable for talented students. So, let’s examine our current acceleration policies and practices and see what might be getting in the way of student opportunity.

Some examples of inequitable practices and procedures include:

  • a teacher-initiated review process,
  • unclear information or information that is not adequately publicized on accelerative options,
  • school-sponsored testing scheduled for weekends when students would need transportation,
  • requiring families to pay for individual testing that might be needed for acceleration decisions,
  • information available only in English,
  • rigid criteria for identification that does not allow for alternate assessment data,
  • and single-entry date admission.

School systems need individuals within them to serve advocates for acceleration. Are you an advocate for acceleration in your school?

Resources for Acceleration Policy

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

National Association for Gifted Children Position Statement about Acceleration

With thanks to Randy Lange for providing this content.

Take an Online Course About Acceleration this Summer!

We teach a graduate-level course about academic acceleration – entirely online!

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PSQF:4123:0EXW (3 semester hours). Academic Acceleration

Dates: June 6 – July 29, 2022

Academic acceleration moves high-ability students through an educational program at a rate faster or at an age younger than typical. The goal of acceleration is to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with student’s level of cognitive and academic development.

Academic acceleration has been one of the most debated and misunderstood issues in gifted education. It has decades of research support, yet educators and families are still reluctant to use it for students of high academic ability.

In the course, we will review the research basis for when and for whom academic acceleration is appropriate. The goal of this course is to provide parents, teachers, and administrators with the knowledge of the forms of acceleration, the ability to evaluate students for acceleration, and the skills to practice and implement acceleration effectively.

Course topics include the forms of acceleration, the process of implementing acceleration, suggestions for writing and evaluating school acceleration policies, and advice for effecting attitude change through persuasive communication and media outreach.  We will introduce the new online tool for making decisions about academic acceleration, the Integrated Acceleration System. Students will learn how this new tool is to be used for acceleration decisions and how to support students, families, and educators through the process of collecting data, having a team discussion, and making a transition to an accelerated placement.

Instructor: Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik, Administrator, Acceleration Institute and Research, University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center.

Registration: To take part in classes, participants must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Those earning the Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education may register as either graduate or undergraduate students, regardless of professional status (undergraduates pay less tuition per course but may lose district benefits). Once participants have their “HawkID” and password, they can follow the directions to register for courses that match their interests and needs. Follow the steps at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Questions? Email acceleration@belinblank.org

Big news!

Dr. Foley Nicpon

Congratulations to Megan Foley Nicpon on being named the new director of the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the new Myron and Jaqueline Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education!

Read more on the College of Education’s website.

Full funding available! Remember to schedule I-Excel testing for incoming sixth graders!

UPDATE: I-Excel testing is now available this spring at no cost for incoming 6th graders.

As we begin to look towards Fall 2022, please note that we have changed our middle school testing requirements for IOAPA middle school students. This testing should be scheduled as soon as possible to meet the June 15th deadline for prospective students without previously I-Excel scores.

Middle School Requirements

The Belin-Blank Center has instituted a requirement for current 5th and 6th graders (who will be in 6th or 7th grade in the fall) to take the above-level test I-Excel. The reasoning behind this new requirement is:

  1. On average, IOAPA students taking middle school courses struggled more than IOAPA students taking high school courses. Therefore, we want to help educators identify students who are ready for these rigorous courses.
  2. Research shows that above-level testing provides an excellent method of discovering students who are ready for advanced coursework such as IOAPA courses for middle school students (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2012).
  3. Research shows that even the short-term intervention of taking an above-level test such as I-Excel provides a boost to students’ academic achievement (Rogers, 2015). These opportunities may be especially important for low-income and disadvantaged students.
  4. The Belin-Blank Center has developed I-Excel to provide an above-level test that is affordable and accessible. Typically, the cost of I-Excel testing is $45 per student. However, the Belin-Blank Center has obtained funding for this purpose! So, we are pleased to announce that schools that are considering identifying students for IOAPA courses may offer this testing at no cost to the student or school

To schedule an I-Excel assessment or learn more about the testing process, please email assessment@belinblank.org. In your email, indicate that you are interested in testing prospective IOAPA students. If you have other questions about IOAPA courses, email ioapa@belinblank.org.

Message from the Director: Opening Doors for Talent Development

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“You’re a girl; you don’t need to take calculus.”

I’ve never forgotten those words stated by my high school counselor when I inquired about registering for calculus my senior year. That was then. I didn’t even question the statement. Not taking calculus in high school probably closed some doors for me, but other doors — education and psychology – opened.

Many decades have passed since then. Legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex or “…any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual[i]” has opened doors to more opportunities for more people. We are all better off because of those legalities. Nevertheless, much work remains concerning nondiscrimination, societal racism, and social justice. Furthermore, we have not fully addressed the most significant issue facing students, families, and educators: inequality in educational programming, especially in access to gifted education. The gifted programming inequalities in schools nationwide are society’s way of saying, “You’re a _________; you don’t need access to gifted programming.”  Educators, researchers, and psychologists can do better.

This spring, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) dedicated an entire issue of their flagship journal, Gifted Child Quarterly, to equity in gifted education. I applaud my colleagues who contributed to that special issue, which catalyzed the entire field to reflect and act. We can all make a difference in addressing this pernicious problem in education, which reflects a broader problem related to discrimination and lack of respect for diversity. At the Belin-Blank Center, we continuously aspire to offer services and programming focused on talent development through our student programs and professional development opportunities. We seek to recognize the strengths and potential of a diverse student population more fully.

As a high school junior, I didn’t know then the impact of being excluded from an educational opportunity based on one educator’s bias about girls and advanced math. Now I recognize that that experience was the entry point to a career as an educator, administrator, and researcher dedicated to ensuring that we extend opportunities to all who would benefit from them.

Bias, whether implicit or explicit, leads to exclusion and discrimination that has long-term consequences. It denies marginalized communities and people opportunities that would positively contribute to their lives and to society. Each of us has the power to chip away at discrimination through our words and our actions.

There has been improvement for some, but there is much more to do. I have hope because of a new generation of educators. This generation has greater awareness of the vastness of human potential, which we should not limit based on “classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.” As we look to the future, professional educators must ensure that inclusion and equity become focal points of practice and policy. We aim to lead the way.


[i] The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705, oie-ui@uiowa.edu.

Sign Up for Summer!

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • The Integrated Acceleration System: Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: February 26, 2022
    • Topics in Teaching and Learning (Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner): February 16, 2022
    • Prog/Curr for High Ability Students: March 7, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022, or April 18, 2022
    • Continuing Education Individual Study (Connecting to Align Gifted Programming and Services): April 25, 2022
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: May 16, 2022, June 13, 2022, or August 22, 2022
    • Academic Acceleration: June 6, 2022
    • Senior Honors Project: June 13, 2022
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 17, 2022
    • Practicum: October 24, 2022, or November 14, 2022
  • Summer Programming for Educators:

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

Online Professional Learning in Summer 2022

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John Cotton Dana, an American library and museum director, brilliantly asserted that “who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”  That is certainly true of teachers who support the needs of gifted and talented learners.

Teachers from across the country who are new to the field of gifted education and talent development look for coursework to help them earn the Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  Teachers who already work in gifted programs continue to develop their understanding of gifted children and how to best develop their talents.

Chautauqua

The Belin-Blank Center sponsors Chautauqua in the summer, and many teachers take advantage of one or more of the six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each of these classes meets, either in person on the University of Iowa campus or via Zoom, for the first two days of the class; look for more information at belinblank.org/Chautauqua.

Online Programming

Others might prefer the flexible format of fully online and asynchronous opportunities throughout the summer.  All classes are one semester hour unless otherwise indicated.

May 17 – Jun 6EDTL:4096:0WKA (Topics)Assessing Achievement for Talent Development (Programming strand)Anna Payne
Jun 6 – 24EDTL:4024:0WKADifferentiating Projects with Technology (Programming strand; updated content)Dr. Antonia Szymanski
Jun 6 – Jul 29PSQF:4123:0EXW (3 semester hours [s.h.])Academic Acceleration (1 s.h. each in the Psychology, Programming, and 1 Administrative strands)Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
Jun 13 – Aug 4EDTL/RCE:4137:0EXW (3 semester hours)Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Kimberley Chandler
Jun 20 – Jul 11EDTL:4085:0WKACurrent Readings & Research in Gifted Education (strand based on readings)Anna Payne
Jun 27 – Jul 18PSQF:4126:0WKACognitive/Affective Needs of Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Katie Schabilion
Jul 1 – 22EDTL:5080:0WKATeacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses** (Programming strand)Dr. Randy Lange
Jul 6 – June 24EDTL:4029:0WKALeadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (Programming strand)Dr. Beth Maloney
Jul 11 – 29EDTL:4074:0WKADifferentiation at the Secondary Level (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn

**option for participants in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute (belinblank.org/apsi)

Registration

To take part in classes, participants must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Those earning the Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education may register as either graduate or undergraduate students, regardless of professional status (undergraduates pay less tuition per course but may lose district benefits). Once participants have their “HawkID” and password, they can follow the directions to register for courses that match their interests and needs. Follow the steps at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua—Back with an In-Person Option!

Journalist Charles Bowden once said, “Summertime is always the best of what might be.”  That might be the most accurate way to look at the Belin-Blank Chautauqua, an opportunity to enjoy professional learning with colleagues who enjoy time with others who share their interests.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, bringing Americans together to learn and enjoy time spent with one another.  After two years of hosting Chautauqua only online during the pandemic, the Belin-Blank Center is looking forward to hosting participants who want to participate in person, as well as those who choose to continue to participate via Zoom.

Professional Learning

Our Chautauqua is a unique form of professional learning, offering six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each class meets for two days and continues online with readings, an online discussion or two, and a final project.  All classes end on or before August 5 this summer, the final day of the last university summer session.  Those who are interested in expanding their professional expertise in gifted education may enroll in the combination of classes that makes sense for them, from one to all six classes.

Scholarships

Participants who enroll as graduate students in three classes in one week receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class (you pay for two, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for one).  Participants who enroll as graduate students in all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week (you pay for four, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for two classes).

Coursework

The six classes represent the strands required for the endorsement in the State of Iowa: 

  • the Psychology strand (understanding the nature and needs of gifted/talented learners);
  • the Programming strand (appropriately differentiated programming/coursework for talent development);
  • the Administrative strand (administrative issues in the field that school personnel might now know).

Classes in Chautauqua are different from one summer to the next, so educators can earn the State of Iowa endorsement in two summers!  For those who want to earn the endorsement even more quickly, Chautauqua classes can be combined with online summer classes to complete the endorsement in one summer.  Classes are offered throughout the year to meet the needs of anyone seeking endorsement or seeking professional development in new areas.

Chautauqua in Summer 2022 includes all one-semester-hour courses:                  

Week 1: Jul 11 – 29 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4072:0WKAThinking Skills (Programming strand)Dr. Laurie Croft
Jul 13 – Aug 2 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKB (Topics)Executive Functioning: Skills for Learning and Life* (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn
Jul 15 – Aug 4 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4125:0WKACounseling/Psychological Needs of the Gifted (Psychology strand)Dr. Jean Peterson
Week 2: Jul 18 – Aug 5 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4123:0WKAGender Issues and Giftedness (Psychology strand)Dr. Jolene Teske
Jul 20 – Aug 5 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKC (Topics)Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking* (Programming strand)Gwen Livingstone Pokora
Jul 22 – Aug 5 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EPLS:4113:0WKAStaff Development for Gifted Programs (Administrative strand)Dr. Jolene Teske

*NEW!

Registration

To take part in 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 (scholarships are awarded to those who register as graduate students). Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for courses that interest or benefit you. Follow the steps laid out at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Applications Open for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

What are people saying about the Belin-Blank Center’s new Academy for Twice-Exceptionality?

“The individual weekly meeting helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college overall.”

-Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Student

In Spring 2021, the staff at the Belin-Blank Center began working on a pilot for an Academy for Twice-Exceptionality. Our expertise in twice-exceptionality and experience with university programs (specifically the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy), made us the perfect fit for starting such a program. We are now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 cohort!

Academy students must be high school graduates and ideally entering Iowa as first-year or transfer students. (We will consider students who fit other academic standings.) Currently, students who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or identify as Autistic are the target population. In the future, we hope to be able to expand into other areas of twice-exceptionality. Students must also be registered with the University of Iowa Student Disability Services (SDS).

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality offers a variety of services for its students:

  • a weekly seminar for the entire cohort
  • weekly one-on-one meetings to work on individual needs and goals
  • assistance with connecting to university-based supports and resources
  • helping students better understand their struggles and then leverage their unique strengths
  • consistent communication with parents/guardians.

Start the journey to see if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right fit for you or your student by visiting our website. We are confident we will be!

IOAPA Fall enrollment is now open!

Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) registration for Fall 2022 classes is now open! IOAPA provides free access to asynchronous advanced courses for Iowa students in 6th grade and above. A primary aim of this program is to provide access to students who would otherwise be unable to find these courses offered in their school district. To aid in this goal, the Belin-Blank Center also provides AP exam scholarships to eligible IOAPA students each semester in an effort to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa.

On our website, you can find a wealth of information, including our course catalog, important dates, registration, and information about getting started, along with support materials designed to help you and your students make decisions about course selections.

COURSES OFFERED

  • 15 AP courses are available to high school students. Note: Beginning Fall 2022, the drop deadline and fee will also apply to AP computer science courses.
  • 13 advanced courses are available to middle school students. These courses are designed for high school students and made available to students in grades 6-8. Note: Beginning in Fall 2022, we will require above-level testing for middle school students. More information about this can be found here. When in doubt, you can also review our guidelines.

Course descriptions and syllabi for each course can be located by clicking “Learn More” on the course’s entry in our Course Catalog.

REGISTRATION DETAILS

To begin, visit our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) and review the Getting Started information. When you are ready to register, navigate back to the registration section of our website and click Register.

Step-by-step course registration instructions are included below:

  1. Register your school and assign a site coordinator and mentor. The first step is for principals to register their schools. They can do that on our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) by clicking on Register. As part of this step, schools assign a site coordinator and a mentor. They can be the same person or different people; however, the mentor needs to be a certified teacher.
  2. Nominate the student(s) taking the IOAPA course(s). Completing the school registration page sends the principal an automated email with a link to nominate the student. The principal either needs to complete the nomination or forward the link to the site coordinator or mentor to complete.
  3. Confirm that the student has self-enrolled in the course. Once the student has been nominated, an email will be automatically sent to the student to enroll themselves in the actual course. Be sure to have students check their junk mail folders, as the automated emails sometimes get filtered there. Students should complete this process and be sure to click submit when they’re done.

After registering, be sure to complete any College Board requirements for offering AP courses:

  • Register your school with the College Board.
  • Complete the AP Course Audit process for Online/Distance Learning courses by the end of January in order to be able to label courses as “AP” on students’ transcripts.
  • Encourage high school students to take the AP exam and order all AP exams by the College Board’s deadline. Also, as mentioned above, be on the lookout for emails about applying for our IOAPA AP exam scholarships.

As always, please feel free to reach out to us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions or concerns.

Learn More About Your Child’s Academic Capabilities

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Are you interested in learning more about your child’s aptitude in math, science, English, and reading? If your school doesn’t already provide this opportunity, you can register your 4th-6th grader for individual testing using I-Excel, an online above-level test provided by the Belin-Blank Center. You can arrange for your child to test individually, at a time and place of your choosing.

  1. Parents schedule an individual testing session at a location they select, often at a school, testing center, or local library.
  2. Parents are responsible for finding a licensed educator who is willing to proctor the test. Acceptable proctors include full-time teachers, tutors, and college professors. The proctor must be a college graduate and cannot be a relative.
  3. To initiate these arrangements, parents must submit a request form to their designated proctor.
  4. Test dates are arranged with the Belin-Blank Center, and a few blackout dates apply. We recommend planning at least 3 weeks or more before you’d like to test.
  5. The fee for individual testing is $90 ($45 for students who are eligible for free/reduced cost lunch). Fees are payable to the Belin-Blank Center and can be paid via credit card.
  6. Several families can combine efforts in order to save money. If 4 or more students test at the same time, the fee is $45 per student ($22 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch).
  7. Testing takes about 2 ½ hours but may be split over two days.

Do you have additional questions? See our website or contact us at assessment@belinblank.org.

The ABCs of Acceleration

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Our thanks to Randy Lange for writing this post.

Spring is often a time when teachers or parents/guardians bring up issues about appropriate student placements. The Belin-Blank Center has developed a new tool, the Integrated Acceleration System, to assist schools and families with whole-grade acceleration discussions.  Below are the “ABCs” of this tool. 

All about the Integrated Acceleration System  

The Integrated Acceleration System consists of 10 modules, which foster a comprehensive review of a student by a team of people who know that student best. The breadth of the areas covered through the Integrated Acceleration System results in a thorough examination and discussion of the “whole child” as it relates to the appropriateness of a grade skip. Through this process, team members review data concerning the academic, social, and emotional aspects of a student.  

The Integrated Acceleration System gathers relevant data commonly observed in school, taps extracurricular involvement, and includes input from families. Because the student is an essential voice in the process, several questions for a face-to-face conversation are included. Standardized tests measuring achievement, ability, and aptitude assess a student’s current academic performance and readiness for additional challenges, and additional questions help form an accurate academic performance profile.  

The wealth of data contributes to an informed team discussion. Because questions about social and emotional development are often raised during discussions of a possible grade skip, the meeting provides the platform to address them. During the meeting, team members can review all data. The Integrated Acceleration System generates a report that includes a recommendation for the student. If the recommendation is for the student to skip a grade, team members are encouraged to develop a plan for transition to acceleration.  

Bells & Whistles” of the Integrated Acceleration System 

  • Fosters team-based decision making  
  • Research-based 
  • Utilizes objective and subjective data  
  • Online 
  • Involves the parent/guardian and the student  
  • Generates an individualized written report  
  • Addresses twice-exceptionality  
  • Provides direct email access capability to expertise at the Belin-Blank Center  
  • Is fluid and dynamic (so updates occur in real time) 
  • Permits direct emailing of the team members 
  • Includes a comprehensive guide for educators to use during the transition period  
  • Addresses early entrance to kindergarten and first grade (COMING SOON) 

Collection of supplemental resources included with the Integrated Acceleration System  

The Belin-Blank Center staff members who created the Integrated Acceleration System understand the need for practical suggestions and resources for educators. With the Integrated Acceleration System, users have access to multiple supplementary resources. These are all made available with an access code. 

  • The Integrated Acceleration System at a Glance  
  • Cautionary considerations for Grade-Skipping  
  • Developing a Transition to Acceleration period plan 
  • FAQs 
  • Important Student Considerations 
  • Key Role of Standardized Testing 
  • Overview for the Facilitator 
  • Preparing for the Meeting and Producing the Report 
  • Special Populations 
  • Summaries of Research Findings related to the benefits of acceleration for various stakeholders 

Users are strongly encouraged to model trust in the Integrated Acceleration System and the process it details. It supports a rigorous process, informed by decades of research and clinical experience. It is a team-based approach that focuses on gathering a wide variety of information and building consensus among the members of the child study team.  

The cost of one access code to the Integrated Acceleration System is $59. Bulk pricing is available. The Belin-Blank Center recently hosted an online professional development on the Integrated Acceleration System. Recordings of this event can be purchased for $79. Included in the cost of the recording is one free access code for the Integrated Acceleration System.

Guide for IOAPA High School Courses

We are excited to share the IOAPA High School Course infographic! This infographic uses data from 2020-2021 IOAPA students and may be helpful for upcoming fall enrollment decisions. This infographic, our middle school infographic, and other useful information can be found here on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about policies and individual course options.

Guide for IOAPA Middle School Courses

We are excited to share the IOAPA Middle School Course infographic! This infographic uses data from 2020-2021 IOAPA students and may be helpful for upcoming fall enrollment decisions. This infographic, our high school infographic, and other useful information can be found here on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.

IOAPA AP® exam scholarship winners

This year, the Belin-Blank Center was pleased to continue receiving funding to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for IOAPA students with financial needs. IOAPA mentors were able to submit applications to receive this funding. 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 typically offer these scholarships once in the fall and again in the spring to extend this opportunity to students in both full-year and one-semester courses.

This year we have been able to award over 50 scholarships! We are pleased to congratulate the following school staff who applied for these scholarships for their students!

  • Jadyn Schutjer, Emmetsburg High School
  • Joan Enockson, Estherville Lincoln-Central High school
  • Molly Sterner, Oskaloosa High School
  • Laurie Eyre, Maharishi School
  • Paulina Rodenburg, Glenwood Community High School
  • Jill Janes, Boone High School
  • Patti Kuennen, Oelwein High School
  • Taryn Mottet, Ottumwa High School
  • Hollie Weber, Central Lee High School

Congratulations to all the IOAPA students who received AP® exam scholarships this year! We wish them the best of luck on their AP® exams and other academic endeavors. As funds permit, we will continue to offer these AP exam scholarships. Be on the lookout next year for more information about the application process.

Using Above-Level Testing for IOAPA Decisions: Focus on Current 5th and 6th Graders 

Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, IOAPA will require 6th or 7th grade students to have taken I-Excel in order to be eligible for IOAPA middle school courses. Additionally, we highly recommend using the ACT to inform eligibility for older students to take IOAPA courses. Two programs that are part of the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS), work together to help Iowa teachers discover talented students and develop their abilities. For more on how BESTS and IOAPA work together, check out our IOAPA-BESTS blog roundup.  

Why Test? 

The Belin-Blank Center has instituted a requirement for above-level testing with I-Excel for current 5th and 6th graders (who will be in 6th or 7th grade in the fall) for a number of reasons. 

  1. On average, IOAPA students taking middle school courses seemed to struggle more than IOAPA students taking high school courses. We want to help educators find the students who are ready for these rigorous courses.  
  1. Research shows that above-level testing provides an excellent method of discovering students who are ready for advanced coursework such as IOAPA courses for middle school students (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2012). 
  1. The Belin-Blank Center has developed I-Excel to provide an above-level test that is affordable and accessible. The use of I-Excel also allows IOAPA to offer reduced-cost group testing sessions, as well as no-cost group testing for schools that have not provided I-Excel testing in the past three years.   
  1. Research shows that even the short-term intervention of taking an above-level test such as I-Excel provides a boost to student’s academic achievement (Rogers, 2015). These opportunities may be especially important for low-income and disadvantaged students. 

Now is the time to begin the above-level testing process for current 5th and 6th graders. (IOAPA fall registration opens April 1, and we expect seats to fill quickly.)  There are several steps for participation in BESTS testing prior to IOAPA registration. 

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenges; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90th percentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing. Students who have earned scores at the “Advanced” level on ISASP are also good candidates. 
  1. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in above-level testing using BESTS. 
  1. Contactassessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up I-Excel testing for 5th and 6th graders. I-Excel testing sessions for current 5th-6th graders are flexible to schedule. However, it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s). Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand. I-Excel testing will be required for students interested in taking 6th-7th grade courses next school year, so we highly recommend testing eligible 5th and 6th graders this year. 
  1. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing. 
  1. Use the recommendations found in the individualized student test report to help determine which students to recommend for IOAPA middle school courses. 

Costs 

  • The cost for I-Excel is $45 per student when groups of 4 or more students are testing.  Iowa schools using I-Excel for the first time in the past 3 years can request up to 20 free student test registrations to try out I-Excel with their students. Schools receive group results as well as individual student reports following I-Excel testing. Families also receive the individualized report. 
  • These individualized reports explain their test results and compare them to other talented students in the same grade. 
  • Fee reductions are available for students eligible for the free/reduced cost lunch program. 

PLEASE NOTE: We do not require ACT testing because ACT testing has been difficult to obtain for 7th-9th graders in the last few years, due to COVID. (ACT has prioritized the testing of 11th and 12th graders.) However, the Belin-Blank Center highly recommends that 7th to 9th graders take the ACT before taking high school IOAPA courses. For more information about ACT registration, see https://belinblank.education.uiowa.edu/students/bests/#7-9-grade.  

For more information, see: 

What’s the Best-Kept Secret in Gifted Education? Above-Level Testing — This post offers an overview of the theory and research behind above-level testing. 

An Easy Way to Learn More About Your Students’ Needs— Specific steps for setting up I-Excel are included in this post. 

References 

Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2012). The talent search model of gifted identification. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 30(1), 45-59. 

Rogers, K. B. (2015). The Academic, Socialization, and Psychological Effects of Acceleration: Research Synthesis. In S. G. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses That Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Vol.2 (pp. 19-29). Iowa City, IA: Belin-Blank Center. 

2022 Winners of Iowa Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

Congratulations to everyone who competed at this week’s Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!  

These high school students are doing impressive research projects and did an excellent job communicating their findings to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional winners receive scholarships and an expense-paid trip to compete at the annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

2022 Winners of the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2022 Iowa Regional winners are:

🏆 1st place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) – “Secret Sounds of Bees: Analysis of Honey Bee Vibroacoustics Using Hidden Markov Models”

🏆 2nd place: Kiersten Knobbe (Adair-Casey Guthrie Center High School) – “Turbid or Not Turbid? That is the Question: Creating a Water Filtration and Sanitation Method for Developing Countries”

🏆 3rd place: Alina Markutsya (Ames High School) – “Biomechanical Analysis of Balance Beam Skills in Gymnastics”

🏆 4th place: Libby Knipper (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Efficacy of Antimicrobial Starch-Based Plastic Food Storage Films”

🏆 5th place: Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Novel Mammalian Fibroblast Cell Culture Media Technique for Ultraviolet Cell Reduction”

Message from the Director

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Today’s view from the Blank Honors Center is grey and bare, seemingly devoid of energy. However, activity and enthusiasm abound inside the Blank Honors Center as we prepare for the Belin-Blank Center’s many student and professional learning programs, services, and information sessions scheduled for the next several months. 

This summer, students in grades 3-11 can choose from science, technology, engineering, art, math, and writing options. Whether online or on-campus, full-day or residential, all of our programs give students access to valuable university-level resources and experts in developing talent. 

Educators can earn their TAG Endorsement through our Chautauqua program and fully online classes. Other excellent professional learning opportunities include our Belin Fellowship and AP Summer Institute.

We are also pleased to welcome two new members of the Belin-Blank Center team! Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in our STEM Excellence and Leadership program. Mr. Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is our new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP AcademyAP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. If you encounter either of them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!

New colleagues and changing seasons are but two reminders that change is the only constant. January closed with the very sad news that our friend and colleague, University of New South Wales Professor Emerita Miraca Gross, passed away. Dr. Gross’s work had a profound impact on the field of gifted and talented education. This is especially true in academic acceleration, where her contributions are unparalleled. She will always remain an inspiration, and her impact will positively influence many generations of students, families, and professionals. 

Dr. Gross advocated for tools associated with making acceleration decisions, such as our newly developed Integrated Acceleration System.  We invite you to learn more about this tool during an upcoming online session focused on making decisions about grade-skipping, featuring Belin-Blank Center experts.  

It may still be a grey day in February, but we are staying cozy inside the Blank Honors Center, eagerly turning our eyes toward sunnier days. Whether you are a parent, educator, or student, we hope you will join us for one of the many exciting events and programs we are planning for this summer. We are excited to see you soon!

Two New Faces at the Belin-Blank Center

We are pleased to formally introduce two new colleagues here at the Belin-Blank Center!

Dr. Nesibe Karakis

Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in STEM Excellence and Leadership at the Belin-Blank Center in the College of Education at the University of Iowa. She earned her doctorate in Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies from Purdue University. She is a former middle school math teacher in Turkey. Dr. Karakis’ research focuses on STEM education, professional development, student achievement, quantitative (e.g., statistical analysis, machine learning) and qualitative data analysis, and students from underrepresented populations (e.g., students from ethnically diverse or low-income backgrounds) in gifted education.

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is the Belin-Blank Center’s new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP Academy, AP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University in 2020, where his studies focused on international security and environmental policy. His most recent position before joining the Belin-Blank Center was a US Student Program Fulbright appointment in Trabzon, Turkey, where he taught English speaking lessons at Karadeniz Teknik University. His interests include the intersections between the environment and security, diplomacy, and sustainable agriculture.

Nesibe and Dominic are fantastic additions to our staff, and we are delighted to work alongside them. If you encounter them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!

Strengths-Based Assessment to Better Understand Your Student’s Unique Needs

The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to partner with Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development to facilitate access to their Suite of Tools for our clients.

The Suite of Tools is a strengths-based, talent-focused tool that brings together several different types of assessments to help parents and educators celebrate the unique gifts of a particular student and bring their eclectic profile into better focus. The Suite of Tools (2016) was originally developed by Dr. Robin Schader and Dr. Susan Baum at the Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, and is built on the theme of C.L.U.E.S.: a process of Collecting information, Looking for connections, Uncovering patterns, Exploring options, and Seeking joyful learning.

The first assessment in the Suite of Tools is “My Learning Print,” which explores ways in which students prefer to learn, their specific interests, conditions that enhance understanding, fun hobbies, and family experiences outside of the classroom. The second assessment is called the “Quick Personality Indicator,” which asks participants to rank descriptive statements and then helps students to tally these outcomes to decipher whether they are most like a People Person, Learned Expert, Creative Problem Solver, or Practical Manager. A third tool is the Teacher Feedback form, which offers classroom educators the opportunity to reflect on the core abilities of this student. After a parent interview, each of these CLUES is brought together into a PowerPoint presentation by a seasoned educational therapist who highlights the findings of the Suite of Tools for your distinctive student, and then offers suggestions and direction for talent development opportunities that can enhance this student’s social-emotional growth and promote their intellectual potential. The Suite of Tools is especially helpful to include as an additional lens of insight along with a psychoeducational evaluation, when a learning team is crafting a 504 Plan, or for exploring options of optimal learning during an IEP Meeting.

Bridges Academy case manager Sandra Clifton, supported by her colleague Amy Clark, will be offering these services to interested Assessment and Counseling Clinic clients. For more information, please email sandra.clifton@bridges.edu.

Sandra Clifton

After earning her Masters in English Education and serving over a decade as a high school teacher, Sandra Clifton earned credentials as a professional coach and joined the RULER Team at Yale University to guide teachers in a program of Social-Emotional Learning.  She then opened her own private practice: the Clifton Corner, a safe space of learning to support overwhelmed students who struggle with issues of perfection, motivation, organization, learning differences, and self-esteem. For the past fifteen years, Sandra has worked to promote self-discovery and personal accountability to help young people transform their identity through the tools of mindfulness, creativity, leadership, and positive psychology as a Board Certified Educational Therapist.  Sandra shares a special affinity with both athletes and artists who shine with strengths outside of school–but may encounter challenges with time management, confidence, and/or academic insecurities in the classroom–often identified as gifted, sensitive, and/or twice-exceptional students. Sandra also guides parents through curriculum decisions and school transitions to create more joy in the journey of learning. She is currently working to earn her doctorate in Cognitive Diversity at Bridges Graduate School and is thrilled to be serving as an intern at the Belin-Blank Center.

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a doctoral student at Bridges Graduate School, a solutions innovator, and a mom. She found her love of twice-exceptional education through the creation of Chestnut Ridge Academy, which she founded to serve her son by creating highly customized experiences for gifted and exceptional minds. In addition to her daily role as a tiny-school leader, she supports families on their own unique journeys. She guides parents to better understand their exceptional children and to uncover strategies for both educating and parenting differently through her company, Exceptionally Engaged. Her decades-long career in research and design at some of the world’s most creative companies has helped millions of people to feel empowered with tools that become part of their everyday lives. She continues to impact lives as an education, neurodiversity, and design consultant to those looking to discover the magic that lies at the intersection of technology and learning. 

Save the Date for Summer

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • The Integrated Acceleration System: Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: February 26, 2022
    • Topics in Teaching and Learning (Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner): February 16, 2022
    • Prog/Curr for High Ability Students: March 7, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: April 18, 2022
    • Continuing Education Individual Study (Connecting to Align Gifted Programming and Services): April 25, 2022
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: May 16, 2022 and June 13, 2022
    • Academic Acceleration: June 6, 2022
    • Senior Honors Project: June 13, 2022
  • Summer Programming for Educators:

For Students & Families

Academic Year

Summer Programs

Early Entrance to College: Are You Ready?

With special thanks to Jan Warren for co-authoring this post

Fifteen-year-old Sophie was in Spain as a high school sophomore living with a host family when she decided to apply to college as an early entrant.  Her family lived in a small, rural town in the Midwest.  

 After being accepted to the early entrance program, Sophie received Pell Grants, scholarships, and additional financial aid to cover the cost of attendance. She entered the university as a psychology major at age 16.  She intended to transfer to a more well-known university after her first year but decided against it after becoming engaged both academically and socially. Inspired by seeing a political rally on campus, she declared a Social Justice major. Because of her interest in human rights and policy issues, she added a pre-law designation. Sophie was known for her outspokenness, quick sense of humor, loyalty, and ability to bring everyone together. 

Sophie graduated with honors at age 20. She currently is working in Fairbanks, Alaska through AmeriCorps and is applying to Law School. Sophie says,

“Although I grew up fairly normal, I was always that one ‘nerd’ who went home after school and continued to research in-depth about the topics we were learning about. However, growing up in such a small town never gave me many opportunities to be surrounded by people who enjoy learning and knowledge as much as I do. I put up with this vague feeling of suffocation caused by lack of stimulation until my sophomore year, when I found a study abroad program that would not only unite me with intellectuals and other cultures but also reignite my love for learning and my curiosity about the world. At this moment, I do not want to stop my exploration of the world when I return [to my state].”

Early entrance to college is a great option for students like Sophie who are ready. What do we mean by ready? Students who demonstrate academic ability, who have already taken many of the challenging courses available in their high school, demonstrate maturity, and are ready to live away from home may be prepared for the challenges of entering college early. These students might enter college early on their own, while others might participate in a formal program designed to support young students entering college.

For example, the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy at the University of Iowa is designed for students who have completed 10th or 11th grade. Early entrants live in a cohort on the University of Iowa campus in the honor’s residence hall and attend classes with other college students. Supports offered to the students include a first-year seminar designed to build self-efficacy skills, weekly one-on-one meetings with a graduate student, activities and events designed to challenge and support them, and all types of advocacy and encouragement. After successful completion of the two-year program, nearly all students go on to finish their degrees at the University of Iowa.

Parents might be especially concerned about the idea of early entrance to college. They can be reassured by the body of research supporting early entrance; students have been entering college early for decades, in both formal and informal programs. As a group, they are highly successful. Linda Brody and Michelle Muratori (2015) provide an excellent summary of what we know about early entrance to college. As a group, early entrants achieve at higher levels in college, complete their college degrees and often go on to graduate school, publish professional papers, and earn higher incomes than matched peers who do not enter college early. Socially, this group also performs well – many researchers have concluded that, as a group, early entrants thrive in their new environment.  The research indicates that most participants in these programs are successful in developing satisfying social relationships. Overall, they do well.

Some studies have indicated that a few individuals may encounter social or emotional challenges and find it difficult to adjust to early entrance to college. An important goal at the Bucksbaum Academy is to help identify the students who would find the program a good match—students who are ready for the independence and intellectual challenge of college life.  The application process includes letters of recommendation from two teachers, a series of student essays, parent essays, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores.  All students are required to attend an information session about the Academy and semi-finalists attend a personal interview with their parents/guardians.

Some suggestions for students considering early entrance include:

  1. Take challenging courses in high school. These include honors and accelerated courses, and also the Advanced Placement (AP) courses many high schools provide. AP courses are designed to offer high school students college level material, and they help to prepare students for the challenges of college courses. Talk with your counselor about your interest in leaving high school early so they can assist you in choosing the courses which will best prepare you for life as a university student.
  2. If the high school doesn’t provide enough challenging options, consider attending academic summer programs or online learning courses.
  3. Attend a residential summer camp for the experience of being away from home for an extended period of time. It can be an academic program, a sports camp, or any other summer camp offered on a college or university campus.
  4. Seek out opportunities to develop study skills and time management skills, which will help students be ready for advanced classes and the challenge of managing the independence of a college schedule. For example, students who are used to managing several activities or a job while in high school are better candidates for early entrance because they know how to juggle their time and prioritize tasks.
  5. Talk with your guidance counselor about how your school and community will handle local scholarships for you—will you need to apply as a sophomore? Or wait until your first year at the university, which would have been your junior year in high school?
  6. Recognize that early entrance to college is not the best match for all intellectually talented high school students.  If early entrance isn’t the best match for a particular student, other options can be considered, such as subject acceleration, dual enrollment in high school and college, and academic summer programs. Students might also opt for completing college in 3 years instead of 4, if they are able to get credit for work completed before matriculating in a college.

Resources

Brody, L.E., & Muratori, M.C. (2015). Early entrance to college: Academic, social, and emotional considerations. In S. G. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses That Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Vol. 2 (pp. 153-167). Iowa City, IA: Belin-Blank Center. Access this chapter by downloading the entire publication at www.nationempowered.org

Early Entrance to College page, Acceleration Institute website

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy, University of Iowa

AP Exam Scholarships for IOAPA students

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to continue offering AP exam scholarships for low-income current IOAPA students from rural schools.

We are now accepting applications for AP exam scholarships for IOAPA students! IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors can apply for this funding opportunity until March 17, 2022! 

To complete the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding for this application is only available for students who are taking IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the 2021-22 school year. Funding is limited to only one AP exam per student.

Eligibility

  • Students who qualify for the free/reduced-cost lunch program will receive preference. Low-income students not meeting FRL guidelines will be considered, if funding is still available.
  • Low-income students in non-rural schools will be considered, if funding is available.
  • Students must be enrolled in an IOAPA Advanced Placement course during the 2021-2022 school year. Priority will be given to students taking one-semester spring courses.
  • Funding is to be used for the exam associated with the IOAPA course the student is taking during the 2021-2022 school year, not a different exam.

Funding is limited. Not all eligible students may receive funding.

A Person Wearing a Smart Watch while Holding a Pencil

The per-exam cost for the 2021-22 school year is $62 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools that receive funding should plan to pay the $62 per student to the College Board. These schools will then need to submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam. More information about this will be provided in the acceptance letters that are sent to site staff.

Awards will be announced by March 24, 2022. Also as a reminder, the deadline to order all one-term, spring semester AP exams is March 15, 2022.

Please email us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions!

Professional Learning at the Belin-Blank Center

Nelson Mandela is credited with saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At the Belin-Blank Center, we are among those who believe that this is true. Our tagline, after all, is Nurturing Potential – Inspiring Excellence.

We also know that these years of the pandemic have included the most difficult days for any teacher today. We are committed to providing professional learning to support the needs that teachers of the gifted have, both as they earn the TAG endorsement, and after they are working with students’ evolving needs.

The Belin-Blank Center offers traditional three-semester-hour classes throughout the academic year, and one, (Academic Acceleration, PSQF:4123:0EXW), in the summer. We also offer one-semester-hour classes in a workshop format throughout the year, including the winter session and over the summer.

Workshops provide educators an opportunity to focus on one topic (“Thinking Skills” or “Gender Issues”), and they last for three weeks. Workshops have no additional fees added to the tuition, providing some savings. Some educators find it advantageous to register with Distance and Online Education as non-degree-seeking undergraduates, even though they obviously have degrees, in order to save tuition dollars. Many others prefer to register as graduate students so they can count the hours toward other opportunities in their district.

This summer, the Belin-Blank Center will collaborate with various departments in the College of Education to offer sufficient hours to complete the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement. Participation in Chautauqua provides six of the required hours. Fully online classes, including the individualized practicum experience, provide the additional hours.

Over the next two weeks, we will update our professional learning schedule with the classes available this summer. You can also get started this spring to free up some time to relax over the summer! Visit belinblank.org/courses to see what is currently available.

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. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All of our classes fulfill the strands required for endorsement.

Questions?

Contact us at educators@belinblank.org!

Advanced Placement Summer Institute and Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

Summer has traditionally been a season for teachers to refuel and refresh. Many times, the “refueling” portion centers on acquiring new learning through professional development. The Belin-Blank Center will be offering multiple learning opportunities in Summer 2022. Two excellent examples are our Advanced Placement Summer Institute and the Belin-Blank Fellowship. You are invited to both!

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Who: Middle School & High School Teachers; Gifted Coordinators

What: APSI is 30 hours of content-rich training. It is designed to strengthen both instruction and core curriculum. While it seems to target new or current AP teachers, the strategies will bolster the teaching repertoire of middle school teachers and gifted coordinators. Academic credit is available and includes a 50% tuition scholarship.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

When: There are two options! The Summer 2022 on-campus session is June 28 – July 1; the fully online session is August 1 – 5.

Where: The on-campus courses are held at the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The online classes allow you to learn from anywhere with an internet connection.

Why: The Belin-Blank Center is committed to professional development for educators!

For more information about the AP course content offered and the Iowa teacher grant scholarship):

belinblank.org/apsi

Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

Who: The program, in its 42nd year, is designed for educators with limited expertise working with gifted and talented students. This summer, priority will be given to those in instructional coaching roles in a school.

What: The Belin-Blank Fellowship is a unique opportunity for a select number of educators, nominated by their schools, to receive professional learning in gifted education through a five-day summer residential workshop at the University of Iowa. The program aims to help educators new to gifted education (especially those in an instructional coaching role) understand the characteristics and needs of gifted individuals so they can better teach and develop the potential of gifted and talented students.

When: The Summer 2022 Fellowship will be held June 20 – June 24.

Where: The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program will be held on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  Room, board, and materials are provided as part of the Fellowship; academic credit is available and includes a 50% tuition scholarship.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

Why: The Belin-Blank Center has been committed to professional development for educators since 1980, even before the Center became a center!

The application process will be open by Monday, February 14th.

For more information:

belinblank.org/fellowship

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

The Chautauqua Institution is truly a national treasure. It is a place for contemplation and a place for reflection, a place where platitudes and slogans can be set aside and be replaced by thoughtfulness and introspection.  (E. Spitzer)

As someone who taught U.S. History for several years, I always loved talking about the Chautauqua movement popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Chautauqua was an adult education movement, and people from all over the country would gather to learn about a wide variety of topics. Chautauqua was loved as a social movement as well as an educational opportunity.

The Belin-Blank Center was the first TAG endorsement program in the State of Iowa to offer sufficient online course offerings to allow candidates to complete the entire program. As fewer and fewer opportunities exist for teachers to collaborate in professional learning in a face-to-face format, the Center decided to offer its own version of the Chautauqua (belinblank.org/Chautauqua).

For several years, the Belin-Blank Center has dedicated two weeks in July to an accelerated professional learning format. By participating in Chautauqua, a teacher can complete half of the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement one year and complete the second half the next summer.

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers a full scholarship for one class each week to anyone who enrolls in all three classes during one week (or for two classes to anyone who enrolls in all six classes during the two weeks)

This summer, Chautauqua begins on July 11, and each of the six one-semester-hour classes that begin during Chautauqua has a unique format.

The first class meets from 9:00 am – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm (Central Daylight Savings Time) on Monday, July 11, and Tuesday, July 12. The format will include a Zoom option. Some instructors may Zoom in for the class, and at least some of the participants may Zoom in for those meetings, too. Although this was fully face-to-face on campus in the past, we’ll be flexible about the meeting time this summer and, perhaps, in the future! The workshop will last for three weeks (July 11 – July 29), with all the work that follows those first two days taking place online, via our ICON online course platform. The additional work typically includes readings, one or two additional questions for online discussion, and a final project.

The second class meets from 9:00 am – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm on Wednesday, July 13, and Thursday, July 14. The class continues on ICON after that for three weeks (July 13 – August 2).

The third class during Week I of Chautauqua meets on Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16. The class continues on ICON after that for three weeks (July 13 – August 4).

Week II looks much the same!

Over the course of the two weeks of Chautauqua, no classes are repeated from the previous summer, ensuring that the endorsement can be completed. Over the two weeks, classes are offered from each of the strands required for the endorsement.

Chautauqua is a wonderful option for those who want to take one workshop on a new subject, useful for their school. It’s an equally terrific option for those who want to complete their endorsements over two summers. We’ll be updating the schedule soon.

We look forward to seeing you in July 2022!

Congratulations to the 2022 Virtual JSHS Region Winners! 🎉

Congratulations to all who participated in the Virtual Region of the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium! Students competed for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of original research projects. The following students will be advancing to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A panel of experts judged 10 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists are: 

  • 1st place:  Jacqueline Prawira (Mountain House High, CA) — “Cyclo.Plas 2: A Dual Focus Development as Alternative Materials to Plastic by Upcycling Fish Scale Waste Components” 
  • 2nd place: Michelle Park (Solon High School, OH) — “The Search for Dark Matter Through Soft Unclustered Energy Patterns at CMS” 
  • 3rd place: Jordan Prawira (Mountain House High, CA) — “Spira Aer: A Novel Hurricane-Inspired Logarithmic Spiral Fan Design for HVAC System Applications” 
  • 4th place: Aryan Jain (Amador Valley High, CA) — “Using Deep Learning to Estimate Greenhouse Gas Emissions via Satellite Imagery”
  • 5th place: Henry Yao (Lynbrook High, CA) — “From Food Waste to Food Guard: Creating A Novel Chitosan Bioplastic Using Nanoparticle Coating and Its Unique Effect in Food Packaging and Preservation” 

See you in Albuquerque!

Farewell to Professor Miraca U. M. Gross

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé. 

This French saying, loosely translated as “one sole person is gone, and everything is amiss,” captures my sentiment when I learned that my dear friend and colleague, Professor Emerita Miraca U.M. Gross, passed away on Friday, January 28, 2022.

(L to R) Dr. Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center; Professor Emerita Miraca Gross; Ms. Bronwyn MacLeod

My mind overflows with 30 years of memories, I think of her in my solid Midwestern English, but when I “hear” her, it is always in her lovely Scottish brogue, modestly accented with Australian. Miraca lived on three continents. She started her life in Edinburgh, Scotland; she earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University; and she lived most of her adult life in Australia. She was a professor of Gifted Education at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

She traveled the world sharing her wisdom about gifted children and their profound educational and social-emotional needs, but her academic home was the University of New South Wales (NSW) School of Education. Early in her career at UNSW, she founded the Gifted Education Research, Resource, and Information Center (GERRIC), which in many ways was a sister gifted education center to the Belin-Blank Center.

My heart is heavy, but that heaviness is lightened when I think of how her life’s work, truly an oeuvre, continues to change the lives of children, their families, educators, and researchers. Tributes have been flowing on various education listservs, and Dr. Ann Robinson’s observation that “she moved a continent” soundly resonates. Hundreds, if not thousands, of adults are making a difference in the world because Dr. Miraca Gross advocated at the individual, school, and policy level for their educational and social-emotional well-being.

Miraca was a paradox. In addition to the memorable Scottish accent, she was also petite, almost diminutive, in stature. She often used herself as an example when individuals would put forth the excuse of a student being “too small” to be considered for acceleration. By those standards, she would argue, she would still be in first or second grade. As a scholar, she was a giant.

In 2005, Dr. Gross received the National Association for Gifted Children’s Distinguished Scholar Award, the only international recipient of this prestigious award. In 2008, Miraca was inducted into the Order of Australia, an honor that was of tremendous significance to her.

I was first introduced to her scholarship through my postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Julian Stanley, who had just read Miraca’s enormous dissertation at the recommendation of Professor John Feldhusen of Purdue University. If Dr. Stanley was impressed, then I knew that there was good reason to pay attention to what was in that dissertation, which was published in 1993 under the title of Exceptionally Gifted Children. For decades, I would continue to learn from her.  I still do.

Professor Gross was a strong advocate for acceleration. One of the most delightful writing experiences I had was co-authoring with Miraca and Dr. Nicholas Colangelo the watershed publication, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. Although the publication focused on schools in the United States, it was widely disseminated in Australia and around the world. This publication was the core of what would become the Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute and served as the impetus for the 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered:  How Evidence Trumps Excuses that Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. Dr. Gross and her colleague Professor Jae Jup Yung co-authored the excellent chapter for Nation Empowered on radical acceleration.

Dr. Gross was instrumental in advancing gifted education in the whole continent of Australia, but especially in the state of New South Wales. I had the good fortune to meet her early in both of our careers at one of the Belin-Blank Center’s very first Wallace Research Symposia on Talent Development. She was a regular at our symposia and always had something new to say. I was particularly impressed with her work on the social-emotional development of exceptionally gifted students. It is not an exaggeration to say that she followed in the footsteps of Leta Hollingworth, one of gifted education’s pioneering scholars focused on social-emotional development in extraordinarily gifted children.

Dr. Gross and her brilliant husband, John, did not have children of their own. I vividly recall one evening, after a day of teaching in the teacher education program she founded. Miraca softly shared that even though they did not have children, they did have their beloved cat. She was quick to say, “Of course, he’s not like a child or anything…” John, who always quietly supported and steered her, said, “Like hell! He is exactly like a child.”  The tenderness they showed to living creatures – be they four-legged, furry, and precocious, or two-legged, furless, and precocious — nurtured the lives of hundreds of children around the world.

I miss her, and the world of gifted education seems amiss knowing that she is gone. I see her in my daily work and know that her legacy will continue to be felt in the Belin-Blank Center and around the world.

Fois dhut.

Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: The Integrated Acceleration System

Figuring out whether to accelerate a child is a major decision; accounting for all the relevant information can feel overwhelming. The Belin-Blank Center has developed an online system that helps educators and families gather the correct information, targets the essential factors, and produces a report which recommends whether acceleration is a good fit for a particular student.  

The Integrated Acceleration System, an online tool developed by leading researchers in gifted education, guides participants through integrating information about acceleration. 

On February 26, we will be hosting an online professional development session about using this new tool when considering a grade skip. The session will focus on: 

  • Best research-based practices in using academic acceleration,  
  • How to use the online Integrated Acceleration System, and 
  • Suggestions to coordinate communication among the relevant team members and support the student’s transition to acceleration.  

Informed by decades of research, the Integrated Acceleration System includes all the significant factors to consider and produces a report about readiness for one of the many forms of acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten, subject acceleration, and early entrance to college. The Integrated Acceleration System is designed for users in the United States. However, the flexible framework can be applied to international educational systems. 

This online session will focus on grade-skipping. Future online presentations will focus on early entrance to kindergarten, early entrance to college, and subject acceleration. 

  • Presenters: Dr. Susan Assouline, Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, and Dr. Randy Lange  
  • Session fee: $79. Includes one access code to the Integrated Acceleration System (valued at $59). 
  • Date/Time: Saturday, February 26, 2022; 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Central Time (The last 30 minutes is an optional question/answer segment.) If you cannot attend the live session, the session will be recorded. 
  • Location: Online, via Zoom. Registrants will receive location details via email. 

Understanding Autism

We don’t know enough about autism – that’s why we need your help.

The Belin-Blank Center partners with many units across campus including our colleagues in the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. Our colleague, Dr. Jacob Michaelson, Roy J. Carver Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Neuroscience, directs the University of Iowa site for the SPARK study, the largest genetic study of autism ever.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

SPARK is building the nation’s largest research community of individuals with autism and their families.  Participants are asked to share medical and genetic information with scientists and agree to be contacted about future research studies. All it takes is to register, complete a few questionnaires online, and provide a saliva sample via a kit mailed to your home. In return, you will receive a gift card valued at up to $50. You will also contribute to a better understanding of autism and help provide meaningful information and resources to individuals with autism and their families.  

Please consider participating if you are able!

Social Skills Intervention Group

It’s not too late (yet!) to inquire about participating in a social skills intervention group through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.

Eligible students will be in grades 7 through 9 and demonstrate high cognitive and/or academic ability as well as social skills challenges (either due to Autism Spectrum Disorder or another diagnosis). Students will join 12 weekly hour-long virtual group sessions beginning in February through April of 2022.

Contact Amanda Berns, PhD at bbc-clinic@uiowa.edu for more information and to express interest in participating.

Message from the Director: Talent Scouts Not Deficit Detectives

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Be a Talent Scout, Not a Deficit Detective” 

University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education

This slogan, courtesy of our colleagues at the University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), appeared on large buttons at the November 2021 National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) annual conference. I made sure to display mine prominently. Although the Belin-Blank Center refers to discovering talent rather than scouting for talent, either verb captures the essence of the Center’s daily work. Discovering talent in partnership with families and colleagues worldwide and in our home state is essential to developing thattalent. 

Below are a few examples of ways in which we partner with schools and families to discover and develop talent: 

STEM Excellence and Leadership is a long-running partnership between the Belin-Blank Center and rural middle schools in Iowa, funded by NSF grants and recently featured in the Phi Delta Kappan’sspotlight on rural education (December 2021/January 2022). STEM Excellence and Leadership focuses on increasing the achievements andaspirations of bright rural middle-school students to better prepare them for advanced coursework in high school. 

Students from rural communities are less likely to attend college and, if they do, they are 60% less likely to enroll in STEM majors. This discrepancy may be partly because under-resourced rural schools typically cannot offer the same advanced math or science courses that well-resourced urban and suburban schools have available to their advanced students. Positively, rural areas are often very desirable places to live because of their strong sense of community. In general, smaller school systems are typically less bureaucratic, and educators and administrators often have more flexibility in creating specialized opportunities for advanced students. These upsides enable the STEM Excellence and Leadership program to make a difference in rural schools. 

Academic accelerationis a broad topic, encompassing everything from minor adjustments to the curriculum to grade skipping. The Belin-Blank Center offers a wide variety of information about acceleration through our Acceleration Institute website and more individualized advice with the Integrated Acceleration System tool. Through our collaboration with the NCRGE, we’ve reached an even broader audience on the benefits of appropriate acceleration. For the next few weeks, educators have an opportunity to indicate their interest in participating in an upcoming NCRGE academic acceleration study, which will provide free professional learning, universal screening, and stipends for participating educators. Watch a two-minute informative video to learn more about the study and how partnering with the NCRGE can benefit gifted students in your school. More details are available on NCRGE’s website.  

Finally, we are in the final stages of developing a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development, an online 14-semester-hour graduate certificate for full-time professionals, non-degree students, and degree-seeking students. Coursework spans multiple theories and perspectives across several talent domains (e.g., art, writing, sports) and culminates with an independent capstone exploration. We expect coursework to be available in Fall 2022. Stay tuned for more about this graduate certificate in the coming months! 

There are only a few more weeks remaining in 2021.  I hope you are inspired to join us in discovering and developing talent in the coming year.  

Best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy 2022. 

Metaphors for Gifted and Talented Students

In a recent one-semester-hour class about Differentiated Instruction strategies, members of the class shared their similes and metaphors for their gifted and talented students; the way they perceive their students powerfully impacts the way they provide appropriate differentiation in the classrooms (Godor, 2019).

Here are their ideas, lightly edited for length.

Gifted/talented students are like lichen

They are unique organisms that come in many different varieties, are a combination of two worlds, are equally hidden as they are noticeable, and are sensitive to their environment.

I try to use this umbrella as much as possible when I refer to GT student services. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to serving students under the GT umbrella…Like lichen, the variety and specific needs for a GT student to grow and remain connected are vast. 

When talking with colleagues about GT students, I often notice the lack of awareness about their unique needs…I hope to create an environment where lichen thrives, and our entire ecosystem is enhanced.  

In differentiating for gifted and talented students, it’s important to remember more work doesn’t equal differentiation. With each student being in a different space under the umbrella, it’s essential to understand how there may be support for each enrichment. 

Gifted/talented students are cheetahs

Most cheetahs have many easily identified characteristics, but they possess many other traits that are not as easily identified.   If cheetahs are not provided the proper environment to thrive and fully reach their potential, then many of their strongest talents–speed and agility, for example–may only partially develop.  Like cheetahs, students with gifts and talents need the proper environment and the proper “diet” of challenging instruction to fully develop their abilities. 

As educators, it is our responsibility to develop the skills and potential of gifted/talented students.  Differentiated instruction–beginning in the earliest stages of education–is an essential piece of the puzzle for these students. 

I cannot take credit for this metaphor; however, I feel that the article titled Is It A Cheetah?  (Tolan, 1996) accurately describes the experiences that many gifted students encounter when they enter the school system. 

I see gifted/talented students as geodes.

A geode is a rock that might look very similar to those around it, yet when it is cracked open has a crystal-like formation on the inside. Sometimes, I think it is easy to view a classroom of students as the same… a group of 30 second graders, for example, and in this metaphor, that would be like seeing a bed of rocks. This, however, is not accurate. Each rock is different and possesses various characteristics that make it unique.

Geodes can sometimes be difficult to crack open. However, once the inside is exposed, it is beautiful. In terms of differentiation, I think it is important to recognize that each student may need various support to succeed in school. It is vital that gifted students are challenged academically and receive the support necessary in order to develop their crystal-like gifts and talents.

Square pegs that don’t fit in round holes.

A few years ago, I attended a workshop led by Rick Wormeli. He mentioned that we need to stop trying to fit students into the round peg and instead need to let them be the square peg. I think this is the perfect metaphor for gifted/talented students. They’re definitely the square/star/diamond/dodecagon/etc. that we try to force into theround hole. They think in different ways, and instead of adapting our activities and instruction to their ways of thinking, we just try to make them fit our way. If we modify and differentiate our instruction, they can find a way to better fit into our pegboard without us forcing them to modify their way of thinking and what they need from us. This will help them to not stagnate but instead blossom into what they were meant to be.

Godor, B.P.  (2019). Gifted Metaphors: Exploring the Metaphors of Teachers in Gifted Education and Their Impact on Teaching the Gifted. Roeper Review, 41(1), 51-60. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epub/10.1080/02783193.2018.1553219?needAccess=true.

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education: December 20, 2021
    • Program Models in Gifted Education: January 18, 2022
    • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs: January 18, 2022
    • Admin and Policy in Gifted Education: January 24, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: April 18, 2022
    • Belin Fellowship: June 19-24, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (On Campus): June 28 – July 1, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (Online): August 1-5, 2022

For Students & Families

Save the Dates for Professional Learning

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

SAVE THE DATES! The Belin-Blank Center will host several professional learning opportunities for educators in Summer 2022.

The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program is a unique opportunity for a cadre of educators to learn more about the area of gifted education, through a five-day summer workshop. Its purpose is to help teachers learn better methods for working with gifted children in their classrooms. The program is designed to help educators provide an appropriate program for gifted students, develop in students a heightened sense of social responsibility in the use of their talents, and provide leadership in gifted education. For Summer 2022, priority will be given to those in instructional coaching roles. The dates for Summer 2022 are June 20-24. Applications will be available on our website in mid-February.

Want to prepare for teaching an AP class? The Belin-Blank Center will be hosting BOTH on-campus and online Advanced Placement Summer Institutes (APSI). The on-campus APSI will be held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from June 28 – July 1. The online APSI will take place from August 1-5.

The planned ON-CAMPUS classes are:

Biology, Calculus AB, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Government & Politics, Human Geography, Psychology, US History, and World History

The planned ONLINE classes are:

Computer Science Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

Stay tuned for more professional learning opportunities in spring and summer 2022. We hope you will plan to join us!

Free Day Camp for 2e Students

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022. This post is the second in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:


This summer, the Belin-Blank Center is excited to build upon our collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute by inviting twice-exceptional (2e) high school students to the University of Iowa campus for a one-day neuroscience experience.  

2e students currently in grades 8 through 11 with an interest in neuroscience careers are invited to spend Monday, July 25, 2022, in the Carver College of Medicine interacting with University of Iowa faculty and graduate students. Participants will also get to complete a neuroscience laboratory experiment under the supervision of research staff. 

There is no cost to participate in this program, but spaces are limited. Contact the Belin-Blank Center’s Katie Schabilion, Ph.D., (katherine-schabilion@uiowa.edu) for more information on the program and the registration process. 

Social Skills Intervention Group for 2e Students

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022. This post is the second in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:


The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to invite students grades 7 through 9 who demonstrate high cognitive/academic ability and social skills challenges (either due to Autism Spectrum Disorder or another diagnosis) to inquire about participation in a social skills intervention group, based on the UCLA PEERS Curriculum.  

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The UCLA PEERS Curriculum is an empirically supported curriculum that has been shown to increase social knowledge and social engagement for adolescents with ASD through group social skills instruction and parent support. Students will learn skills to support appropriate social interactions, such as building conversations with others, entering or exiting conversations, and using humor, as well as learn ways to manage teasing or bullying. Parents will support students to complete weekly assignments, such as helping students identify a social group to join, encouraging their participation in the group, and practicing newly learned social skills. 

Participation will involve 12 weekly group sessions conducted virtually, each 60 minutes in length, beginning in February through April of 2022. Parent support is required for participation. While the services are provided virtually, all clients must reside in the state of Iowa to participate in the intervention, due to Iowa licensure laws. Questions about the social skills group should be directed to Amanda Berns, Ph.D., at bbc-clinic@uiowa.edu . Please send inquiries by January 24th to be considered for participation.

Preparing for an Acceleration Meeting: What’s an Educator to Do?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

One of the students in your school is being considered for acceleration, and you are facilitating this discussion. You have talked about this with the family and other teachers, strategized with administrators, gathered the data, and scheduled a meeting. What are the final steps you need to complete as you prepare for this meeting?

The regular classroom teacher who is invited to attend the meeting may not have had any significant training in gifted education or academic acceleration, but they would have been exposed to surface level concepts such as academic rigor, Bloom’s Taxonomy, or the wide variability among their students in terms of their academic abilities; these ideas direct our thinking to considering options such as acceleration for individual students. Resources such as Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and the educator page of the Acceleration Institute website will provide an introduction to acceleration and answer basic questions about the short-term and long-term impact of acceleration.  Parents or guardians and school administrators would also benefit from similar introductory materials (e.g., see the parent’s page).

The team of individuals who come together to talk about acceleration for a particular student generally includes the parent or guardian, an administrator, the current classroom teacher, receiving (future) teacher, gifted teacher or coordinator, and others who have information and knowledge relevant to the discussion. Whether you’re using the Integrated Acceleration System or another tool to help guide you through the process of making decisions about acceleration, you’ll want to consider these items before the team meets:

  1. Answer team members’ questions through individual meetings or via email/phone. Make sure they have informative resources such as the ones listed above.
  2. It is likely the current classroom teacher has already been talking with gifted education staff about the student concerning strategies and options for meeting the student’s needs. Your support might be needed in these discussions.
  3. Determine the purpose of the meeting. Is it to introduce acceleration as an option or to make a decision about acceleration?
  4. It is important to present to the parents the options that have already been made available to their student. These might include special projects the student has completed, distance learning options, and/or flexible grouping for high-ability readers. Highlighting strategies that have already been in place starts the meeting off on a positive note.
  5. Pre-plan possible options. For example, consider what additional supports might be offered to the student and regular classroom teacher if the decision is not to accelerate the student. Consider when and how the student will be advanced to the next grade, if the decision is made to accelerate. Consider how subject acceleration might be implemented if that is the option chosen for the student.
    • Key “If We Grade Skip” questions might be: What scaffolding might be needed? What coordination (e.g., desk in the room, name added to classroom charts, consumables acquired) needs to be addressed? What closure might be needed in the current grade? Which grade level state testing will be administered? Who will be the receiving classroom “buddy”?
    • Key “If We Do NOT Grade Skip” questions might be: What are the student’s key strengths and areas requiring growth? Is the student a candidate for subject acceleration? What classroom differentiation as well as outside of school enrichment opportunities might be appropriate? How might the parents/guardians be assured that the student will be challenged in school?
  6. Make a list of topics to be discussed at the meeting, such as:
    • Discuss the data that were collected, including standardized testing results and informal information about what the student does in the classroom and at home.
    • Discuss the student’s approach to something novel and challenging.
    • Give stakeholders the opportunity to share what they know about the student.
    • Prepare questions that will get the family involved in the discussion, such as “Tell us about your child?” “What do you see at home?” Ask what they might have observed from the past year or previous years.
    • What does the student do outside of school? These might include online opportunities, community activities, museum visits, public speaking opportunities, and/or mentorships.

Sample Team Meeting Agenda

11:00 AM – Introductions and brief general overview of the tool used, the Integrated Acceleration System, and its purpose

11:10 AM – Overview of Integrated Acceleration System Sections A-D.

11:15 AM – Discuss items of interest from previously completed sections.

11:25 AM – Discuss achievement, ability, and aptitude testing information. Consider strengths and opportunities for growth.

11:35 AM – Discuss Questions for the Meeting from the Integrated Acceleration System.

11:45 AM – Review the email list of who will receive the student report. Generate the report. Read the recommendations and discuss them. Make a decision.

12:00 PM – Plan next steps (including any additional data that needs to be collected)

12:15 PM – Determine who will monitor the transition, if the decision is to accelerate the student.

Special thanks to Randy Lange for a productive discussion that informed this blog.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

A Summer Research Program That Boosts Your College Applications

Do you want an in-depth insight into university-level research? Check out the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) for students in grades 10-11. Applications are open now!

SSTP is an intensive summer research program that connects high-achieving high school students with world-class faculty research mentors from the research-intensive University of Iowa. SSTP offers rare access to elite opportunities that help students realize their academic and professional goals. Students participate in classes and events that will stretch them as researchers and scholars. They have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore their interests, enhance their academic skills, and make meaningful friendships with intellectual peers.

Research areas include:

On-Campus

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Health & Human Physiology
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Internal Medicine
  • Mathematics
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
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  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychology

Online

  • Biology
  • Business Analytics
  • Chemistry
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Genetics
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical Therapy and Rehab Science
  • Physics & Astronomy
  • Religious Studies

Applying to college? This program can help your application stand out. Also, students in SSTP can earn 3 hours of university credit. 

Check out the SSTP website for more information on SSTP and the application process. Start your application today!

2e at the B-BC: New Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

Twice-exceptional (2e) students experience co-occurring high ability and disability that can make it difficult to access appropriate services for both their strengths and their challenges. The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is excited to introduce several new programming options for twice-exceptional students in 2022.  This post is the first in a series detailing these opportunities. Be sure to check back soon for the next installment!


Many individuals who identify as autistic also have exceptional gifts and talents.  When cultivated, these gifts and talents contribute to great advances across a variety of domains in society.  However, many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also experience difficulty with a variety of skill areas, like executive functioning and adaptive skills that are necessary for flexibly navigating everyday life.  While many individuals who identify as autistic may have been supported within their primary and secondary education, there has been a proverbial “cliff” described for the significantly fewer services and supports they receive after leaving high school.  The Belin-Blank Center is bringing a new program to the University of Iowa to support college students who otherwise might have come upon such a cliff.  This program is called the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is for University of Iowa college students who are on the autism spectrum or identify as autistic and have high cognitive ability and/or academic achievement.  Such students are also known as “twice-exceptional” (2e), given their exceptionality in both their cognitive ability and/or academic achievement, as well as in their neurodevelopment that results in a disability.  Participants in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality will be supported through weekly meetings with a graduate assistant, organized social events, and a weekly seminar, where they can identify goals, as well as gain knowledge and skills to support their adjustment to campus life and the increased expectations for greater independence. Additionally, professional staff at the Belin-Blank Center will communicate and work closely with parents to support their student’s success.   

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently in a pilot year, supporting 2e University of Iowa students who identify as autistic.  Activities include individual goal setting, and assistance navigating and adjusting to campus life.  Emily (Emmy) Kuhlmann, a graduate assistant for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, meets with students on a weekly basis, to encourage their overall well-being and offer information regarding ways to seek appropriate supports if needed, either on- or off-campus.  She described her work with the students: “I have been working with students on individual goals to ease their transition into college student life. Some students wish to discuss organization and time management, others want to discuss stress and imposter syndrome. All are hoping to work on their goals to be successful college students – beyond the classroom.” Additionally, she added, “Goal setting and adjusting are a big part of my work. I want students to feel they can set big goals. I also encourage them to take smaller steps to reach their goals or adjust their timeline or approach if it’s not going well.” 

One current participant in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality shared how they have found meeting with the graduate assistant to be helpful.  They shared, “Emmy helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college, overall.”  This U of I student identified organized social events as helpful in introducing them to new people on campus, as well. 

Emmy also described the importance of a strong working relationship with students.  She stated, “with my background in counseling, I have learned that the most successful growth and change comes through the support of a strong working relationship. With each student I am working with, I try to build relationships to really get to know the students – their interests, their strengths, and their needs. It is only by understanding more of who they are that I am able to assist with individualized support to work towards their goals. This has also been the most enjoyable part of my job, as I now know many wonderful students!” 

In addition to these invaluable relationships and weekly meetings, which are supervised by a licensed psychologist, weekly seminars are designed to support University of Iowa students who are in the Academy.  More specifically, seminars were developed with input from University-wide stakeholders who share expert knowledge regarding the needs of college students who identify as autistic.  Seminars were designed by Belin-Blank Center experts in education and clinical psychology to provide instruction aimed at building important knowledge and skills for independence, social-emotional maturity, effective communication, and career readiness, Belin-Blank Center professional staff and faculty also utilize instructional strategies and accommodations to help twice-exceptional students understand the importance of gaining and using new skills, such as instruction with visuals, support in perspective taking, and peer-mediated instruction.  “It has been such an honor to be a part of developing this much-needed service,” shared Dr. Amanda Berns, a clinical psychologist at the Belin-Blank’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic, with expertise in supporting twice-exceptional individuals who identify as autistic. An integral team member in the development of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, Dr. Berns also indicates, “I am so excited to see the impact the Academy will have in so many young autistic people’s lives!”  

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is currently accepting applicants for the 2022-2023 academic year.  If you or someone you know is interested in attending the University of Iowa and participating in the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, more information about the academy and the application can be found on the Belin-Blank Center’s website: belinblank.org/2eacademy. Questions can be sent through the website or via email at 2eacademy@belinblank.org . 

Research Opportunity for Autism Study – Recruiting Participants With and Without Autism

Check out this research opportunity from our friends in the Kliemann Lab! If you are interested in more information, please reach out to PBS-kliemann-lab@uiowa.edu or 319-467-3161. 


Researchers in the Kliemann Lab of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at the University of Iowa are currently inviting participants for a study investigating social behavior in individuals with and  without autism. You may be eligible if you:

  1. Are between 18 – 50 years old.
  2. Are fluent in English.

For interested participants with autism, you may be eligible if you fill the above criteria and you:

  1. Have been diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

This study consists of completing one or more of our ongoing experiments in this study. These range from simple behavioral tasks, to measuring where participants look at during a task using noninvasive eye-tracking, to questionnaires assessing social behavior, to a research brain scan.

 The specific parts (behavioral, eye tracking, and/or MRI) you participate in will depend on the current needs of the study, your eligibility for each procedure, and your desire to participate in each procedure. You may choose to participate in one, multiple, or none of these procedures upon our further correspondence and confirmation of your eligibility. These procedures will take between 1-3hours each and can be spread over multiple days.

Participants receive a compensation amount of $10 to $15 per hour depending on which procedures you are eligible for and choose to participate in.

If you are interested in participating, please email our lab at PBS-kliemann-lab@uiowa.edu, or call us at 319-467-3161. 

Message from the Director: Thinking Again

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center

Longer nights, cooler days, and brightly colored falling leaves signal that the school year is well underway, and it’s time to start planning for summer! Yes, that’s right, summer is very much on our minds, and we look forward to implementing all that we’ve learned over the past year and a half. 

Recent director’s messages have addressed the collaborative efforts of the fantastic Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff to re-imagine our services and programming during the pandemic. However, I hadn’t discussed how we adjusted our thinking, accepting a new level of ambiguity and change. This message offers a glimpse into that process.  

Late November afternoon light illuminating the Pentacrest.

A colleague recently discussed Adam Grant’s newest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, with our first-year Bucksbaum Academy students. It’s been many years since I was a first-year student; however, we all get a fresh start at the beginning of each academic year. Because “thinking again” seems to dominate my thoughts these days, I  downloaded the book and was captivated from the start. There are many takeaways from Grant’s book, but two crucial words capture its essence: “humility” and “flexibility.” 

Humility has many dimensions, but at its core, it is the acknowledgment that even if we know a lot, we don’t know everything. As knowledge in all fields increases exponentially, there is little hope of keeping up entirely. Grant suggests that if “knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” 

Flexibility, too, manifests itself in multiple ways. The consequences of showing cognitive flexibility – or inflexibility – can be far-reaching. If my colleagues at the Belin-Blank Center were not cognitively flexible, our services and programs would no longer be relevant. Thankfully, they have demonstrated cognitive flexibility in spades and our services and programming are more relevant today than ever. We also understand the process is continuous.  

The combination of intellectual humility and cognitive flexibility leads to progress. We are not only thinking about summer when the days will be longer and hotter, and we will look for shade under lush green trees. We are “thinking again” well beyond summer 2022.  

To be the first to know about the many exciting things to come, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow @belinblank on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Important Dates for Student and Educator Programs

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Differentiation Instruction for Gifted: October 25 – November 12, 2021
    • Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students: November 22 – December 14, 2021
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention: November 17 – December 9, 2021
    • Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education: October 25 – December 3, 2021 and November 8 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

Introducing the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

The college experience is an excellent opportunity for academic and personal growth. It is also a time that comes with unique challenges for first-year students. Academic expectations, time management, prioritization, staying healthy, and feeling disconnected are just some of the potential struggles. These areas can be more amplified and burdensome for twice-exceptional students. Twice-exceptional students have the potential for high achievement and also have one or more learning disabilities.

Twice-exceptional students are arguably an underrepresented population in gifted and talented education. Too often, this unique population is missed or denied access to programs and services for advanced learners. Experts at the Belin-Blank Center found that more than 50% of the twice-exceptional students in one study would have benefited from acceleration in school. As the number of students with learning disabilities attending the University of Iowa increases, resources and services to assist and support this population become very important.

Using its expertise in twice-exceptionality, the Belin-Blank Center is collaborating with other UI offices, including Student Disability Services, to establish the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality for individuals with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Too often, the school experience for twice-exceptional students is laden with walls and barriers.

The recent emphasis on inequity and injustice in schools has resulted in courageous conversations about the underrepresentation of specific populations in programs and services for advanced learners. Many times, individuals addressing the need for positive change in schools use a metaphor of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Two goals of the Belin-Blank Center’s Academy for Twice-Exceptionality are to support twice-exceptional students (an underrepresented population) and to tear down the walls and barriers facing these students, replacing them with mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.

Mirrors (Finding Community)
The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality aims to dispel any sense of not belonging. A group living situation in one of the campus residence halls is crucial to fostering relationships with others like themselves. Through a weekly meeting with other Academy students, individuals have a place to “see” others who are like them and are reaching for the same goal – success in college. The feelings and perceptions regarding the collegiate experience will undoubtedly be different for twice-exceptional students. Through discussions facilitated by the Belin-Blank Center staff, students will learn with and from one another about ways to address issues that arise.

Windows (Learning Opportunities)
As a world-class institution, the University of Iowa seems to have limitless possibilities for its students. The numerous options include programs and degrees, extracurriculars, campus services, fitness and wellness, and student research. With this incredible breadth of opportunities, students can become overwhelmed, especially twice-exceptional students. The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality includes individual sessions with a staff member to assist students in better navigating a large university by pointing them in the right direction.

Sliding Glass Doors (Support for Reaching Goals)
The Belin-Blank Center established the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality with one fundamental purpose. We aim to provide better access for success at the University of Iowa for students with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Twice-exceptional students can do great things, especially with support. The support features that are unique to this Academy help to “slide” open the door of access to all that the University of Iowa offers. Specific areas targeted include adjustment to campus life, communication, creating a sense of community, living independently, organization, self-advocacy, and setting goals. Through this Academy, we are committed to opening the University of Iowa’s “door to possibilities” and walking alongside students through it.

We are confident that the Academy’s combination of well-planned support structures and regular communication with families converts the goal of success in college to reality for twice-exceptional students. Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors are commonly found in a home. This Belin-Blank Center Academy strives to create a “sense of home” for twice-exceptional students at the University of Iowa.

Are you interested in finding out if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right match for you? The Belin-Blank Center would love to share more with you. Contact us today to connect and start the conversation.