Author Archives: belinblank

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Launch Today!

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

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

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

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Message from the Director: When the School Bell Rings

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Writing Community is Waiting

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

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

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

Join the community

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

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

– Summer 2020 student writer

Get your seat at the table

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

Professional Learning in Fall 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invent Iowa…Online!

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

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

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

The free National Invention Convention curriculum can be accessed here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk 2e! Virtual Conference for Parents

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

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

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

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

We hope you’ll join us! Register here.

Message from the Director: The Mission Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Online Courses for Teachers

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

Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek writer, early 20th century

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

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

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

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

Online classes continue in July and August:

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

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

Want to Support a Student?

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

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

Message from the Director: New Normal, Unchanged Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Time for Learning

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

J.R.R. Tolkien

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

An Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

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

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

Online classes continue in July and August:

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

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

Chautauqua classes include:

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

Get Registered

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1:           

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

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

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

Week 2:           

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

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

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

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

Get Registered

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

Summer 2020 Student Programs Update

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

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

Photo by Magda Ehlers

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

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

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

SSTP Acceptance Status FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What about COVID-19 concerns?

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

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

Q: I’m accepted! What’s next?

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

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

COVID-19 Update

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

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

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

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

Assessment & Counseling Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Your Ordinary Science Fair

Conducting original research projects will spark students’ curiosity. Through research processes, students develop 21st-century skills and meet Next Generation Science Standards. Ok, you’re convinced. You’re ready for students to work on research projects. But how do you take student research out of the classroom and into the world? 

The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium. 

The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community. 

Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at jshs@belinblank.org and check out our website

Everything Needed for the State of Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

For someone with the desire to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement, the Belin-Blank Center provides choices of classes across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/endorsement)!

Here, we’ve compiled a list of the available options to earn all 12 hours of credit for the endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center this summer.

Online Classes (various semester hours)

Summer classes begin in June with fully online options:

  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  • Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4125:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).

Online classes continue in July:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4976:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)   

Additional opportunities in July include face-to-face time on the University of Iowa campus:

Advanced Placement Teacher Training

EDTL:5080:0WKA (2 semester hours) plus EDTL:4976:0WKA (1 semester hour)

The AP Summer Institute sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center will take place from June 29 – July 2. The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Institute on July 6 – 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to get enrolled.  Those who choose to enroll in this two-semester-hour credit receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship applied to the cost of graduate credit.  The credit is earned through participation in the Institute, as well as any follow-up assignments from the College Board Consultants.  Those APTTI participants who choose to extend their learning experience by enrolling in Differentiation at the Secondary Level (am additional 1 semester hour; see above) receive a 50% scholarship for that class, as well.

Neuroscientific Implications for the Gifted

(PSQF:4128:0WKA – 1 semester hour)

The Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will take place on July 20 – 21 on the University of Iowa campus.  The Summit will bring educators an opportunity to interact with researchers, clinicians, and parents to address the state of research on twice-exceptionality, as well as best practices for supporting 2E students.  The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Summit on July 27 – August 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to enroll.  The credit is earned through reflecting on the Summit, selecting relevant readings, and designing an action plan for advocacy or instruction, meeting personal needs.  Summit participants receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship, applied to the cost of graduate credit.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

(up to 6 semester hours)

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua mirrors the adult-education movement that was so popular in the late 1800s – early 1900s!  Classes bring teachers together for an accelerated learning experience, as well as time to interact with one another.  Chautauqua features six separate workshops meeting for two-days each on campus, with additional online components.  You can choose one class, or the three classes in one week, or all six classes over the two weeks, from July 6 – August 6.  Those who attend all three workshops in one week receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class (you pay for two, the Center provides a full scholarship for one); those who attend all classes over both weeks receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class each week (you pay for four, the Center provides a full scholarship for two).

It’s easy to earn the endorsement over two summers through Chautauqua, receiving scholarships both summers. Classes are always different from year to year; the one-semester-hour classes this summer include:

Week 1:            Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans for Gifted (EDTL:4096:0WKB), July 6-7 on campus – July 24 (Lora Danker

Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA), July 8-9 on campus – July 28  (Dr. Hallie Edgerly) July 10-11 – July 30:         

Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving  (EDTL:4073:0WKA), July 12 – 13 on campus – July 30(Dr. Kristine Milburn)          

Week 2:            Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset  (EDTL:4065:0WKA), July 13-14 on campus – July 31 (Stacey Snyder)

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

                        Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4133:0WKA), July 17-18 on campus – Aug 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

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

For those who already have the endorsement, the focused one-semester-hour workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills. 

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

Springing into Professional Development

In the spring—and it’s looking like spring in Eastern Iowa–a teacher’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … professional learning opportunities in the summer.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, originated the wording for a different audience, but it’s true that teachers are always looking for better ways to help their students achieve.  The Belin-Blank Center offers professional learning opportunities throughout the spring and the summer to provide educators with more opportunities to understand the unique needs of gifted learners, supporting their social emotional needs and challenging them academically.

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars by registering for undergraduate credit.  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 strands required for endorsement.

This is a list of classes still available this spring:

  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

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

Thinking About Perfectionism

By Gerald Aungst

Thanks to Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com) for writing this guest post.

Parents have many questions while raising a gifted child. Some seek advice about perfectionism.

Many sources, including some psychologists and the National Association for Gifted Children, refer to two types of perfectionism: “healthy” and “unhealthy.”  The healthy type, sometimes called adaptive perfectionism, describes people who consistently pursue excellence and persist in reaching those goals. Greenspon (2000) argues, though, that this isn’t actually perfectionism because those people aren’t seeking perfection. Instead, their behavior may be better described as perseverance, high achievement, and having high standards.

Although it is often listed as a common characteristic of giftedness, research has failed to find a link; in general, perfectionism is as likely to appear in both gifted and non-gifted populations (Pyryt, 2004). It is still worth understanding perfectionism and asking how to support and help gifted children who are perfectionists.

Characteristics of perfectionism

Though perfectionism can manifest differently in different children, there are a few common characteristics:

Perceived conditional acceptance

Perfectionists believe their worth as a person hinges on their ability to perform perfectly. They cannot see their own worth and accept themselves only if they are perfect. This leads to a dichotomy: the child and their work is either perfect, or it is worthless.

Procrastination

Perfectionists can feel intimidated by the need to complete the task perfectly, so they delay or avoid it.

No satisfaction from achievement

Since perfection is not actually achievable, perfectionists gain no satisfaction from real achievements. It doesn’t matter how well they perform or what they accomplish; the child believes their work is never good enough.

Transforming desires (wants) into demands (musts)

When perfectionists want to do something well, they interpret that as a requirement to perform perfectly. This can lead to a compulsive drive to succeed. Perfectionists may also feel guilty if they are not constantly working. There is no downtime.

Addressing perfectionism

Research suggests several things that can help.  Perfectionism is not a disease or disorder. It is a mindset and belief system. Changing this mindset takes time and persistence. Steady, consistent, patient guidance from parents and others over the long term is the most effective course.

Don’t tell them how to be

 “Telling a perfectionist not to be so hard on him- or herself may make logical sense; what he or she is likely to hear, however, is the criticism that he or she has not been a good enough perfectionist” (Greenspon, 2000, p. 206). Remember that they already believe their worth in your eyes is tied to their perfection, so directly telling them what to do or not do will be perceived through that filter.

Recognize that perfectionism isn’t a positive trait

Perfectionism doesn’t necessarily result in high performance. Perfectionism can impede productivity through procrastination and learned helplessness (Ullrich, 2013).

Affirming environment

To turn around a perfectionist child’s self-perception requires the adults around that child to build an affirming environment:

  • Point out your own imperfections and failures, modeling how to persist and feel valued even when you do not succeed.
  • Emphasize effort and process, not end results.
  • Give affection, support, and encouragement liberally regardless of whether goals are met; withholding these can promote perfectionism.

Help children set realistic expectations

Perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for themselves. They set goals beyond their capabilities.

  • Avoid setting high standards that are non-negotiable.  Show children how expectations can change when circumstances change.
  • Know when good enough is good enough. Teach children how to recognize that it is time to be done and move on.
  • Teach children to allocate their time based on the importance of an assignment; perfectionists will spend large amounts of time on a low-value or small task just to keep fine tuning it.
  • Change the goal. Instead of an end-product, focus on improvement and enjoyment.

Study lives of successful people

Though successful people may seem to be models of perfection, help children to learn that most successful people have flaws and failures in their lives.

Perfectionism is a challenge, but with perseverance and support from adults, a perfectionist child can learn to see their inherent worth and that they do not need to be perfect to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to their world.

References

Greenspon, T. S. (2000). “Healthy perfectionism” is an oxymoron! Reflections on the psychology of perfectionism and the sociology of science. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 11(4), p. 197-208.

Greenspon, T. (2010). Tips for Parents: Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10567

National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Perfectionism. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents/social-emotional-issues/perfectionism

Pyryt, M. (2004, June). Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10459

Ullrich, J. (2013, September 26). Perfectionism as a Roadblock to Productivity: The truth behind the personality trait. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-modern-time-crunch/201309/perfectionism-roadblock-productivity

Message from the Director: Visions for 2020

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  

-Jonathan Swift

With the year 2020 staring us in the face and ushering in a new decade, it’s hard to resist “vision” metaphors.  I’ve always appreciated this quote by Jonathan Swift; in fact, we featured it during the January 2004 opening of the Blank Honors Center, where the Belin-Blank Center is housed.  In retrospect, this quote was a great choice for the occasion, because it characterizes the optimism and collective energy that the Belin-Blank Center’s staff pour into our work for bright students and their teachers. Over the past 16 years, we have enjoyed this wonderful space and created many engaging opportunities, always looking toward the goal of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence. 

Looking forward, opportunities in 2020 abound! Indeed, there is no better time than the shortest days of winter to envision the long, warm days of summer 2020 and the classes being planned for students and teachers. We are pleased to let you know that applications for our student summer programs are now open!

In our planning, we aspire to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our program participants.  For example, for several years, we’ve offered University of Iowa credit to high school students enrolled in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Residencies.  New in 2020, we will offer 1 semester hour of University of Iowa undergraduate credit to students attending the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI).

2020 brings additional changes to our elementary and middle school student programming. Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create a new commuter program for 2nd – 8th graders, called the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Through JSA, the full complement of coursework offered in the two former programs will be available to students who live within commuting distance to the Blank Honors Center (on the University of Iowa campus).

Our high school programs have always been residential because that aspect is a very important component of the whole-student experience.  We will maintain a residential component for 7th and 8th graders through the Blank Summer Institute (BSI).  BSI, a signature program for junior high school students, was the original Belin-Blank Center student program.  Co-founders Myron and Jacqueline Blank had phenomenal vision; they saw what was invisible to others, which is that junior high is a critical time for students to have enriching and engaging learning experiences in order to be successful in school.

Educators will also have a new opportunity this summer. In addition to the Chautauqua series, professionals will be able to participate in our inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and our Iowa Neuroscience Institute colleagues.

A proper December message requires mention of New Year’s resolutions, which are usually intended to help us improve in some way.  Making a resolution requires vision.  Take a peek at our many opportunities available for students and educators seeking improvement through engagement and challenge, especially during the long days of summer when school is not in session.  Such experiences are life-changing and profound in ways often invisible to others. We hope to see you next summer!

May this season of gratitude and giving usher in a bright new year and a decade of promise and inspiration.

Professional Development in 2020

Oprah Winfrey is one of the many notables that have contributed thoughts for the new year, saying, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

At the Belin-Blank Center, we have been getting professional development right for four decades!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook (facebook.com/BelinBlank), and Twitter (@belinblank) accounts, through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  We know that you are committed to understanding the varied needs of gifted/talented children, and learning about ways that parents, teachers, and friends can meet those needs. 

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

Here is a list of what’s coming up, organized in chronological order. All of these are online and asynchronous. Courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), winter session class shaped to your needs, December 30, 2019 – January 17, 2020.
  • Practicum in Gifted Education (various start dates for different populations—EDTL:4188:0001 is for full-time students in the College of Education and spans the entire semester; EDTL:4188:0EXW is for educators who want to earn more than one hour of practicum, March 24 – May 9; and EDTL:4188:0WKA is for educators who want to earn the one required hour of practicum, April 14 – May 4.  One ICON site that opens in January.).
  • Program Models in Gifted Education (EDTL:4199:0EXA – 3 semester hours), first spring class offered in an accelerated format from January 21 – March 14.
  • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs (PSQF:4121:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from January 28 – March 27. (Dr. Susan Assouline)
  • Administration and Policy in Gifted Education (EPLS:4110:0EXW – 2 semester hours), offered from February 4 – May 1. (Dr. Randy Lange)
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students (EDTL:4067:0EXW – 1 semester hour), February 26 – March 24. (Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik)
  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

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

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

Belin-Blank Fellowship Program

The new year, 2020, will be the 40th year for The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education.  This prestigious fellowship program attracts applicants from across the United States and often has at least one participant from another nation. 

The Belin-Blank Fellowship is designed for educators who are NEW to the field of gifted education and have not already had opportunities to learn as much as they want and need to know about the gifted/talented students in their schools and districts. 

Please share details about the Fellowship with colleagues and friends who have an interest in Gifted Education!

Forty years of experience have convinced the Belin-Blank Center that the most effective way to provide meaningful educational experiences to gifted students is to provide a special program for classroom teachers, school counselors and psychologists, and school administrators.  Through an immersive educational journey, educators will develop the skills to better understand and work with gifted students as well as the knowledge and skills to provide leadership for others.

Varying approaches to professional development in gifted education exist, but no program provides the incentives for educators, as well as the intensive individualized approach, offered by this fellowship program.  The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education makes it possible for a select number of educators, nominated by their schools/districts, to participate in professional development in gifted education.

The Fellowship will take place from June 21 – 26, 2020; the application process begins by January 27 and ends on March 2, 2020

Please visit belinblank.org/fellowship for more details.  Invite those who will serve as effective allies in developing the talents of our gifted learners to apply in late January.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

Invent Iowa Winner Featured on Good Morning America!

Congratulations to 6-year-old Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) for his appearance on Good Morning America! Charles is a winner of our 2019 Invent Iowa competition who went on to win 1st place in his grade level at the National Invention Convention

Charles invented the Benge Beacon, a device to help firefighters find the exits in a smoky house. See his invention in action and watch his national television debut! (Trust us, you won’t regret it.) 

Charles also won $5,000 in seed money and a mentorship opportunity with entrepreneur Chelsea Hirschhorn through the SSK Kidventor $25,000 giveaway! 🤩 (Watch the announcement here: https://gma.abc/2O3XmJW)

After all that excitement, Charles got a hero’s welcome open returning home to Ottumwa and getting back to school. Watch here: https://www.kyoutv.com/home/2019/11/11/first-grade-inventor-welcomed-home-at-eisenhower-elementary/

We are so proud of you, Charles! Keep up the GREAT work.

For information about how your student can follow in Charles’ footsteps, check out Invent Iowa!

New 2020 Summer Program for Students!

Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.

JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.

Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.

Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:

  • Session 1 is June 15-19
  • Session 2 is June 22-26
  • Session 3 is July 6-10
  • Session 4 is July 13-17

Find more information here: www.belinblank.org/jsa.

Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.

Applications for all of our student summer programs open December 15th at belinblank.org/summer. Please email us at summer@belinblank.org with any questions!


We hope to see you this summer!

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

Winter Break Opportunity for Professionals and Parents

The fall semester has flown by, and it’s almost 2020!  Happy holidays and we hope you are looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year.  Goethe has a quote that seems so appropriate for a new year:  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Wishing is not enough; we must do.

Over the short winter break (December 30 – January 17, 2020), educators and/or parents can take advantage of one of our most useful classes entitled Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA)!

As the title suggests, this is your opportunity to read that book you’ve heard about (or at least several chapters of that book, since a one-semester-hour class requires only about 150 – 175 pages of readings).  NAGC has awarded three 2019 book awards:

Scholar
Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools (Prufrock Academic Press) by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena F. Subotnik, and Frank C. Worrell

Practitioner
A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Publishing) by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown

Parent/Caregiver
Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (Workman Publishing) by Deborah Reber

If you attended a state conference or the national convention, you might have heard about other materials that would help you better advocate for or meet the needs of your own advanced learner(s).

You can also read research-based articles for this credit; we give you the tips you need to find your own journal articles (and while you are enrolled for credit, you have full access to all the online materials in the University of Iowa libraries!).  We can also help you find the most useful materials on a topic of importance to you (e.g., how to support twice-exceptional learners, or what articles would be most helpful to you for that upcoming professional development session you’re providing at your school later in January).

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

All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.  All will help you better understand important issues in the field.  Billy Wilder, journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, is given credit for saying, “Hindsight is always 20 : 20.”  Let’s plan ahead for 2020, identifying and implementing best practices for gifted children.

Scholarships for High School Students Conducting Research

Interested in doing research, but worried about the costs? Looking for an outlet to share your ideas, that may lead to college scholarships? We’ve rounded up a helpful list of funding sources and prizes for you!

Iowa students who conduct research related to pigs, pork, pig production, swine care, or in a related subject area will be eligible to receive a $200 scholarship for their project from the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. This scholarship can assist in the development of a project, be used to purchase supplies to conduct or present research, or for travel to one of Iowa’s science competitions like the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium! The deadline for application is February 1, 2020.

For students seeking creative solutions to environmental problems, check out the International Young Eco-Hero Award. This award is offered by Action for Nature and recognizes students between the ages of 8 and 16 for environmental action. Students can receive up to a $500 cash prize for creative and independent environmental research projects. The deadline for application is February 28, 2020.  

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is one of the oldest national science competitions for high school seniors. To enter, students complete an online application that includes a research manuscript describing their original research. Around 2,000 students submit the application each year with 300 of them becoming scholars receiving $2,000 each; each of the scholars’ schools receive $2,000 as well. The top 40 scholars are selected to travel to Washington D.C. to present their research and compete for one of the top ten awards ranging from $40,000 – $250,000. The deadline for application has passed for this fall but be sure to check them out next year! (And consider submitting a project to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium to prepare for next year’s Talent Search competition.)

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has been named one of the ten biggest scholarships in the world and is available to extraordinary young people 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. The Davidson Institute awards scholarships in categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. The Davidson Institute denotes on their website that this award is for students whose projects are at, or close to, the college graduate level with a depth of knowledge in their particular area of study and not geared toward students at the novice level. Applying to this scholarship is worth the time as the winners are awarded $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 and are honored with a trip to Washington D.C. for some congressional meetings and a special reception. The deadline for application is February 12.

Even though it is not a requirement for an applicant to conduct high school research for the National Institutes of Health NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program, we thought this would be of some interest to students who love research. This scholarship program offers up to $20,000 per year in aid and summer research training at the NIH! High school students must be in the top 5% of their class, from a disadvantaged background, and enrolled in a University committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, or social science – health related research.

The Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is supported by the Army Educational Outreach Program, which hosts a variety of apprenticeships that create opportunities for high school students to conduct research with scientists and engineers. They also have a variety of scholarships and grants.

With these and other scholarship opportunities, publicly available data sets, and ways for teachers to incorporate student research into their regular curriculum, it’s never been easier for high school students to contribute brand new knowledge to the world. And if you’re still unsure, be sure to check out this guide to getting started on a research project. We hope you’re inspired to get out there and start researching!

Message from the Director: Homecoming

Fall often signals homecoming, which the Belin-Blank Center experienced in full swing this past month.  At our annual advisory board meeting, we welcomed “old” board members, some of whom have served on the advisory board since its inception in 1999, and “new” members, some of whom are alumni of our programs. Everyone on the board enjoys one or more connections to the Belin-Blank Center, and everyone truly loves coming home.

As with all homecomings, feelings are mixed.  Reminiscing about our co-founders and our legacy evokes nostalgia and pride for the work we do and the impact we have on students and educators.  There is also great excitement for new initiatives and updates.  One of the most significant updates concerns our website, designed to help you feel at home wherever you are!

The Belin-Blank Center is home for students who show a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area.

TAG professionals seeking their TAG endorsement have a home here, too.  

And we are your home for research about:

Visit the new website to see for yourself and… welcome home!

Will We See You in Albuquerque?

Our staff is gearing up to head to the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Convention from November 7-10 in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

If you will be attending too, be sure to check out our presentations and stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to say hello! Here’s where you can find us:

We hope to see you there!

This I Believe: Abby Wilcox

This is another example of an assignment completed for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class, based on “This I Believe,” an organization that builds on essays published by National Public Radio, and the thoughts captured during a radio show in the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Morrow.  From their Website:  Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman said, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

To read the other posts in this series, see below:
This I Believe: Nicole Behrend
This I Believe: Marcelina Bixler


This I Believe
by Abby Wilcox
Math Teacher in Ankeny, IA and completing the University of Iowa College of Education MA in Teaching, Leadership, & Cultural Competency

I believe all students deserve to feel like they are cared for and respected while they are learning to their highest potential. Students deserve to come to school each day knowing the people in the school believe they are capable of succeeding in academics and in life, in general. I believe educators should show up to work every day with a fire ignited inside them for their plan to help make the world a better place by educating the future within their classrooms. Growing up, my dad was my principal from K-6th grade. For this reason, I don’t think anything will ever feel more significant to me as an educator than striving to make students feel like school is a second home to them where they are cared for and appreciated.

Education is the foundation for future success, and it is important for educators to provide the best curriculum for the students who enter their buildings. Parents and guardians trust educators to provide what it best for their children, and we need to do that by being flexible and attentive to the needs of the individual students in our classrooms.

Although the needs of the gifted are tremendous, my hope is to continue to push students within the classroom so that all individuals believe they are gifted and capable of reaching goals they never imagined possible. The passion for education and learning is something educators and high-ability students should be proud of sharing with others around them. It is important to take this passion and energy and turn it into motivation for challenging tasks to create resilient, life-long learners. I definitely want all students to continue to feel like they are capable learners, but I also want to challenge my high-ability students. I want them to reach the point where parts of school are challenging to them now because they shouldn’t have to wait until later in their academic careers to face academic challenges. They need to be prepared for success beyond high school by facing challenges head on with the support of teachers. School shouldn’t be wasted time. It should be challenging and spark new ideas every single day. A child should never end a day of school feeling like they didn’t learn anything.

It can sometimes be hard or feel overwhelming for teachers to meet the needs of everyone in their classrooms, but it is important for teachers to lean on each other for support and build a foundation of educators who strive to empower. There will always be controversial topics about what is the right or wrong thing to do or teach students who are talented and gifted, but teachers need to trust in the abilities of their students and always support them as they grow and develop into world changers.

My role as a teacher of all students, including those labeled gifted and those not, will be to spread my passion and desire to be a lifelong learner onto others in the hopes that my excitement lights a spark within them to go and change the world someday.

Professional Learning Continues

Neil Gaiman, listed as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, is quoted as saying, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Professional learning is one of the things that educators are always doing, independently, with their professional learning communities, and with the Belin-Blank Center!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook account (facebook.com/belinblank), through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  The varied classes we plan throughout the year provide you with tools to better support the needs of gifted and talented learners. 

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

Here is a list of what’s coming up; all of these are online and asynchronous. Some Spring classes have not been added to the schedule yet (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted Students (EDTL:4096:0WKB – 1 semester hour), final fall class, November 12 – December 4. (Dr. Jenelle Miller)
  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), winter session class shaped to your needs, December 30, 2019 – January 17, 2020.
  • Program Models in Gifted Education (EDTL:4199:0EXA – 3 semester hours), first spring class offered in an accelerated format from January 21 – March 14.
  • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs (PSQF:4121:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from January 28 – March 27. (Dr. Susan Assouline)
  • Administration and Policy in Gifted Education (EPLS:4110:0EXW – 2 semester hours), offered from February 4 – May 1. (Dr. Randy Lange
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4022:0WKA – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students (EDTL:4067:0EXW – 1 semester hour), February 26 – March 24. (Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik)
  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus on one topic over three weeks.

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

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

Gifted & General Education Collaboration

The Belin-Blank Center has asked Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com), to teach pre-service and practicing teachers about Gifted & General Education Collaboration (course number EDTL:4153:0WKA), from October 8 through October 28. 

Referring to the class, he noted, “gifted learners aren’t gifted only when they are in their gifted education classes; it is critical for gifted teachers and general education teachers to work together. This collaboration can be challenging due to conflicting goals, competing schedules, or incompatible philosophies. Learn strategies for making it work despite the complications.” 

Describing collaboration as key for successful programming, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has a position statement dating back to 2014, emphasizing that, “Collaboration among gifted, general, special education and related services professionals is essential to meet the varied needs of today’s diverse student population.”

This online class, like all those offered through the Center (in partnership with the College of Education), fulfills a requirement in one of the strands (the Programming strand) necessary for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Gifted Education

Online classes have research support for benefits including “time for deeper reflection and the elimination of traditional professional development’s social and physical boundaries” (Edinger, 2017, p. 301).  Edinger cites Little and Housand (2011), who found that educators wanting to better serve gifted learners can benefit from online teacher professional development (oTPD) “since these small groups of teachers are separated from one another by distance, but can make professional connections to each other in an online environment” (p. 301).

This one-semester-hour asynchronous class is offered through Distance and Online Education at the University of Iowa; participants must register as Distance Education Nondegree-Seeking students (no cost for registration).  Classes offered in this focused workshop format have the same tuition for in- and out-of-state students, and they have no extra fees.  Tuition is currently $560 for graduate students per hour and $337 for undergraduate students per hour.  Anyone may register as an undergraduate through Distance and Online Education; undergraduate credit is accepted by the State of Iowa for the endorsement (you should always check with your own district if you want to apply the credit for other opportunities). 

More information about professional learning through the Belin-Blank Center is available at belinblank.org/educators.  Upcoming courses can be reviewed by following the links to the four strands at belinblank.org/educators/courses.

Reference

Edinger, M.J. (2017). Online teacher professional development for gifted education: Examining the impact of a new pedagogical model. Gifted Child Quarterly, 6(4), 300-312.

High School Research: Your Guide to Getting Started

Getting started can sometimes be the most challenging part of a new project. You have too many ideas. You have no ideas. Your ideas are too big. Your ideas are too small. Don’t panic, our Junior Science & Humanities (JSHS) team has got your back! We are starting a series of blog posts to help you get your original research off the ground. 

An original research project is just that: original. That means no one has investigated the same question you are interested in learning more about in the same way that you are planning to tackle it. Reading about a topic that interests you is also a great way to narrow down your ideas (if you have too many), come up with an idea (if you are stuck and don’t yet have an idea), or right-size your project (if your ideas seem too big or too small).

Our advice is to avoid doing a general internet search for your topic. You know where that will end up— cat videos.

Instead, search reputable open access journals. They publish primary research articles that you can read for free.

Here is a list of trusted open access sources:

  • Elsevier, a global information analytics business, has made available several open access journals to the public through ScienceDirect. Here, you can browse all their open access journals by name or narrow the search by selecting a topical area of interest. Not all the journals on ScienceDirect are open access. However, the search capabilities allow you to select only journals that are open access, or even journals that may not be completely open access but contain some open-access articles.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals provides almost 14,000 open access peer-reviewed journals from 130 countries. The topics covered in this directory range from agriculture to technology, including anthropology, medicine, and social sciences. Articles and journals on DOAJ are searchable via key terms or are browsable by subject.
  • Nature Communications and Scientific Reports are open access research journals that publish major science research that doesn’t quite have the impact to be published in the major science research journal, Nature. The articles are high quality and have gone through stringent peer-review.
  • Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a mega journal that started with PLOS One, the world’s largest multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal. PLOS Journals are free to search, access, and redistribute. 
  • Sage Open is an open access journal published by Sage publishers that is dedicated to the social sciences.
  • SpringerOpen is a place where one can search and access any of Springer’s 200+ open access journals. Springer journals use high-level peer-review practices to provide a trusted source of primary research.
  • Wiley, a large publishing network that has been around for over 200 years, provides a listing of open access journals that they publish. These journals can be browsed by the journal name or by subject area.
  • Check out this new browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that finds open access versions of journal articles that would otherwise be hidden behind a paywall! The best part? It’s 100% legal and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, so you can be assured it’s legitimate.

If you are reading an open access journal that isn’t listed above, take a moment to evaluate if the journal is trustworthy.  CrossRef maintains a listing of member journals. Members must maintain compliance to certain terms and can and will be removed if those terms are not met. Another evaluation tool is Ulrichsweb. This directory can tell you if a listed journal uses peer-review and more.

Next time, we’ll be discussing the structure of a research article. We’ll be sharing tips for how to quickly get the most out of an article, leaving you with time for a few more cat videos.

We look forward to learning about your research projects at JSHS!

Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students

The Belin-Blank Center is offering a new book study this fall for one semester hour, available online from September 10 – 30 and taught by Dr. Kimberley Chandler. Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students, reviewing the book by the same name, helps educators better understand essential elements of curriculum design and delivery for gifted students.  Importantly, at a time when gifted programs are attempting to identify traditionally underserved students, the class will explain the need for a differentiated curriculum for typically underrepresented students, including children of poverty and those who are from culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Students will develop confidence in using practical, evidence-based strategies with high-ability learners.

Dr. Chandler noted that “This book study will help to bridge research and practice through examining effective strategies gleaned from various studies conducted with underserved populations.”

You can review upcoming credit options at belinblank.org/educators/courses; registration information is available at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  No out-of-state tuition or additional fees for this class.

Please share with your own social media networks!  Suggested hashtags include #gifted #GiftedEd #GiftedCurriculum #GiftedDiversity

Message from the Director: What We Do Matters

What we do matters…I had just typed those words as the title to this message when an email from a teacher-mom who has advocated extensively for her twice-exceptional student crossed my screen.  Of course, I switched screens and opened her email.  Her message concluded with these words, “I’m so very grateful that this middle school has seen that 2e kids are HERE and they MATTER.”

You might think that being a teacher would make it easier to advocate.  No.  Being a teacher in the district where your child attends school requires extra effort when advocating for your child’s academic needs.  When a child is twice-exceptional, or 2e (that is, have very high ability and have a learning, behavioral, or social-emotional disability), the effort required increases by magnitudes. This mom has assiduously navigated her professional and personal roles and responsibilities over the past several years to ensure that educators (a) understood the complexity of her child’s strengths and diagnoses and (b) that her child’s needs were being met. 

This teacher-mom effectively advocated for her child and blazed a trail for other 2e students.  What she did matters, and we know this because the school counselor called her to share that the educators and administrators at her child’s school recognized that traditional approaches for identification for gifted services are not enough for twice-exceptional students.  The final phrase, “2e kids are HERE and they MATTER”, captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s tagline: Nurturing Potential/Inspiring Excellence.

Each day, my colleagues and I recognize the wisdom expressed through the psychological principle known as individual differences,. Basically, individuals vary across a variety of traits, including physical size, behaviors, emotions, cognitive ability, and achievement.  The licensed psychologists in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic experience this with every client.  Understanding the variation in twice-exceptional students from typically-developing students allows psychologists  to generate evidence-based recommendations that can be tailored to the student’s needs.  When recommendations are translated into advocacy by parents and action by teachers, it can change a child’s educational and overall life trajectory. Our work matters. 

Help us understand what matters to you – fill out our thirty-second survey.

During the weeks of summer programming for gifted students and professional development for educators of gifted students, this notion of doing something that matters is apparent each day – often multiple times a day.  Sometimes what matters emerges in a class discussion among educators.  Other times, we know that what we do matters when we a student in one of our programs expresses that they were able “to try things that I thought I could never do.”

A new school year is upon us.  The Belin-Blank Center’s amazing faculty and administrative, clerical, and student staff are already busy planning for another summer that will matter to students and teachers and to us!  

You don’t have to wait until next summer…check out the Weekend Enrichment classes, professional development, above-level testing, or the twice-exceptional research project.  Opportunities like these have the potential to make a real difference in a child’s life.  As we start this school year, we applaud the educators and parents who pursue these opportunities on behalf of their gifted learners.  This work matters.

Invention Curriculum

Looking for a creative and fun way to kick off the year?  If so, consider adding the National Invention Convention curriculum to your lesson plans. This is free, open-access curriculum that supports the type of critical thinking necessary to participate in programs like Invent Iowa. The framework of the curriculum is developed around the 7 steps of the Invention Process: Identifying, Understanding, Ideating, Designing, Building, Testing, and Communicating.

The curriculum was designed by the STEMIE Coalition. STEMIE is an education framework that elevates youth invention and entrepreneurship education to a core part of K-12 education. It contains lesson plans, rubrics, assessments, and other resources. Students have the opportunity to think creatively while using the invention process to design and test their work. It is a great way to help students better understand ways of solving real-world problems that they encounter on a daily basis.

Find the National Invention Convention curriculum here.

Resources for Invent Iowa can be found here.

Happy inventing!

Professional Learning in Fall 2019

Michelangelo is credited with saying, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” 

Fall 2019 is the right time to expand our toolkits to learn new ways to support the needs of gifted and talented learners.  Of course, teachers earning their endorsements in gifted education have registered as distance learners and enrolled for credits this fall (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Psychology of Giftedness (PSQF:4120:0EXW), offered over Fall semester. (Dr. Toni Szymanski)
  • The Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE/EDTL:4137:0EXW and 0EXU) has two sections for the first time.  Offered in an accelerated format over the first eight weeks of the semester, the class has more students than ever before. (Drs. Laurie Croft and Kim Chandler)
  • Conceptions of Talent Development (EDTL:4067:0EXW), offered in the second eight weeks of the semester.
  • Beginning at the ITAG Conference, October 14-15, Des Moines, two semester hours of credit can be completed by teachers new to gifted education (RCE:5237:0EXW Seminar in Gifted Education –  TAG: You’re It).  This section helps guide participants through basics that they will need to consider throughout their first years in gifted education.

Several one-semester-hour classes, offered in the workshop format, are available this fall.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus over three weeks on one topic:

  • EDTL:4096:0WKA Topics: Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students tackles one of the field’s greatest challenges through a study of the book by the same name (September 10 – 30, 2019).  (Dr. Chandler)
  • One or two semester hours can be earned by attending the ITAG Conference, October 14-15, Des Moines (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education ITAG 2019), and completing projects of benefit to the gifted program.
  • Another semester hour (PSQF:5194:0WKC Continuing Education Individual Study: Identifying and Serving Young Gifted Children) begins at the ITAG Pre-Conference facilitated by Dr. Sally Beisser, Distinguished Professor of Education at Drake University, and continues online with Dr. Croft.
  • One or two semester hours are also available for those who have the opportunity to attend the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Convention in Albuquerque, NM, November 7-10.  (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education NAGC 2019).
  • One more semester-hour this fall, EDTL:4096:0WKB Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted and Talented Students,  helps teachers understand the advantages and disadvantages of involving gifted learners in competitions.  (Dr. Jenelle Miller)

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

Aim high as this new year begins.  Develop your understanding of the nature and needs of high-ability learners, as well as ways to begin to meet those needs.

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

This I Believe: Marcelina Bixler

This is a second example of an assignment completed for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class, based on This I Believe,” an organization that builds on essays published by National Public Radio, and the thoughts captured during a radio show in the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Morrow.  From their Website:  Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman said, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

To read the first post in this series, click here.


This I Believe
by Marcelina Bixler
Proud Harrison Elementary (Davenport, IA) Teacher, also pursuing the University of Iowa College of Education MA in Teaching, Leadership, & Cultural Competency

I believe in believing in your students. I believe as educators we have many roles and responsibilities, we have at school for students of such diverse backgrounds and home life.  The role I believe that connects us to our students, not only in teaching and instructing, is building relationships with our students.

All my life I always knew what I wanted to be a teacher.  My mom would encourage me and say I would make a good teacher as I gave my younger brothers instructions and always made them be my students when I played school.  I think it was a nice way of saying I was a “bossy” sister.  Neither of my parents graduated high school, so they believed in me and supported my dream.  When I was in high school, just to be sure that education was the route I would take after high school, I took a couple of business classes and I was in a co-op class for Business Professionals of America.  I did the books and accounting for a local salon.  I remember one of my teachers asked what I wanted to be, which a teacher had never asked me before in school.  I responded proudly that I wanted to be a teacher.  She smiled and responded that I would make a good secretary and walked away.  I was crushed because as a teenager and student, you want your teachers to believe in you. I was an average student and had to work hard for my grades.  I was a bit crushed and wondered if college and my dream of being a teacher would be attainable.  Because I had a strong support system at home and I believed in myself…I became a teacher.

This is why I believe in believing in students.

Believing in their abilities, believing in their contributions, believing in their dreams, believing that we can get them one step closer and guiding them there. 

I believe in knowing our students’ abilities whether it is a disability to our talented and gifted.  What I don’t believe is that the talented and gifted are getting what they need in a pull out program once or twice a week in just the subjects of math and reading but also incorporating the arts.  We are motivators, encouragers, and believers in our students from the toughest of students to the most talented and gifted.  I believe our responsibility is a great one, but a rewarding one knowing we did our best in providing an education and built a relationship. I choose to believe in believing in students by knowing their abilities, learning styles, and interest so that I can challenge their strengths as well as work on what they need to progress in while building a relationship and providing a culturally responsive classroom.

You’re Invited: SSTP Public Poster Session

Only a week remains in the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program, which means that the students are busy putting the final touches on their research. By this Thursday, each participant in the program will have produced a poster detailing their findings.

To celebrate their accomplishments, the students will first present their work in a final poster competition. On Thursday afternoon, a panel of judges will hear the students’ presentations and view the posters. On Friday morning, the students’ work will then be officially unveiled in a public poster session.

This year, the public poster session will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge from 9:00-10:00am on July 26. Everyone interested in SSTP research, and research at the University of Iowa, is warmly invited to attend!

Meeting Your Goals for the Precocious Teens in Your Life with Real-World Data Sets

You can create engaging learning experiences for teens by making it possible for them to conduct original research and connect with a larger scholarly community through citizen science. While collecting original data has tremendous merit, sometimes barriers to the necessary equipment or resources for effective data collection are challenging to navigate. Publicly available real-world data sets are one way to circumvent these obstacles and get teens researching—for real.

Did you know that there are more than 244,000 data sets publicly available to anyone on data.gov? This website has data from a wide variety of sources from agriculture, climate, and ecosystems, to manufacturing, energy, and finance. Looking at the available data, you and your teen might wonder how public parks might affect a neighborhood’s resilience to natural disasters. With a research question in mind, teens are ready to learn how to design their investigation and then dig into those data!  

Perhaps you have teens interested in developing a deeper understanding of how life in the United States compares to life around the world.  Through international datasets from the United Kingdom (https://data.gov.uk), Australia (https://data.gov.au/), Singapore (https://data.gov.sg/), for example,  teens can mine data to answer specific questions and better understand international relationships and trends. Many teens are passionate about global and social justice issues. UNICEF publishes data on the lives of children from around the world, and the World Health Organization publishes global human health data. Societal viewpoints can be analyzed using data sets available from the Pew Research Center.

If economics and mathematics are where a student’s interest lies, then have them check out the international financial data released by the International Monetary Fund, weekly Dow Jones Index data, or sales datasets from stores such as Walmart.

Our technology-based lives generate datasets that may surprise teens! There are publicly available data on reddit user comments and Airbnb worldwide locations even challenges its users to “Discover what insights lie hidden in our data.” Wikipedia, Google, and Amazon make their data available, too.

Student research doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense or fancy equipment. With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, students can produce high-quality original research from their bedrooms or the classroom. Publicly available data sets abound and they can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of STEM curiosity.

For more information on student research, be sure to check out our other posts on this topic!

Message from the Director: Welcome Home!

Our June newsletter coincides with the start of six weeks of amazing energy and enthusiasm for our myriad pre-college and professional development programs.

Our elementary (Blast) and junior high students (Junior Scholars Institute, Blank Scholars Institute) will be challenged in their areas of interest and strength, digging into an advanced course during the day, all while having fun with other bright kids who share their level of interest and ability. Junior high and high school students also get to experience life on a college campus, living in the residence halls and hanging out with new friends at cultural and recreational activities in the evenings.

Our high school students will experience life-changing opportunities for personal and academic growth. Our summer programs include a behind-the-scenes look at research careers and the ways and places we discover new knowledge on many different topics (Perry Research Scholars Institute); an intensive, highly selective, STEM research experience (Secondary Student Training Program); and art and writing residencies (Summer Art Residency, Summer Writing Residency) here at the University of Iowa, one of the premier arts campuses in the US, also home to the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

This summer, educators will be making progress toward their TAG endorsements, maintaining their license requirements, or pursuing career advancement through a variety of online and on-site courses and workshops or Iowa Licensure Renewal Units. We will also have the pleasure of spending time with many who join us on campus! Some will be here for the Chautauqua program, which carries the benefit of enabling educators to earn half the credits they need for a TAG endorsement in just two weeks! Others will become qualified to teach Advanced Placement (AP) courses, increasing the number of subject acceleration opportunities for gifted students across the country, at our AP Teacher Training Institute.  Still others have been admitted to the prestigious Belin-Blank Fellowship, which aims to help teachers new to gifted education understand the qualities and needs of gifted individuals so they can better teach and develop the potential of those students.

This month, “welcome” is the most often-used word in my vocabulary, as I meet dozens of students and educators new to the Center.  I greet returning students, families, and educators with a warm “welcome home!” Expressing both of these words — welcome and home — sparked my curiosity about the etymology of each.  That curiosity, in turn, led to a few reflections about the next six weeks of summer programming.

“Welcome” comes from the Old English, wilcuma, “a wished for guest.”  Indeed, we absolutely wish for individuals to join us in our programs. We spend months preparing for them to ensure that they will have an engaging and energizing experience.  We know that for many participants their time on the UI campus in a Belin-Blank Center program offers a pivotal, often life-changing, experience.  We never tire of hearing these stories, and now that we are entering our 31st year of programming, we have heard from people who had that experience 10, 20, or 30 years ago! 

We also “welcome home” past participants and use the word “home” with great warmth.   As a noun, home, comes from the Old English, ham, and implies a “dwelling place.”  That is exactly how we want everyone who attends our programs to feel.  We want them to know that we have created a place that inspires them to reach beyond their current level of performance, where they can inspire others to extend their reach, and assure them that professors, residence advisors, and Center staff are dedicated to their well-being and happiness.   Attaining that goal is an indicator that we truly have welcomed our newest participants and welcomed home those who have returned. 

Here’s to the start of a great summer that concludes in late July!  We would love to welcome you at two very special events at the conclusion of the summer program. 

Even if you can’t join us in person this summer, be sure to connect with us by following along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our blog. However, if you are joining us this summer, welcome home!

Using Citizen Science to Increase Engagement in Summer Learning

As the school year has come to a close, excitement and planning for summer fun is in the air! What are you imagining for these sun-drenched days—beaches, camping, novels, hiking, blockbuster movies? If you are a teacher, which of your students might be dreaming about digging into a science or engineering challenge this summer and how can you encourage them? Perhaps you have a child whose curiosity needs an outlet and encouraging nudge. Summer science to the rescue!

With the increase in the number of researchers looking for everyday citizens to aid them in research projects, opportunities to contribute to actual research projects right from home or the classroom are more abundant than ever! In today’s information-rich world these opportunities are available to anyone.

We have collected a few projects that span a variety of interest areas to nurture the curious indoor and outdoor kids in your life:

  • Join the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) and get connected to projects ranging from analyzing images identifying wildlife, analyzing images and data identifying celestial bodies, to transcribing historical documents. These projects seek out ordinary individuals to contribute to research, making an impact in the world. One example project is Bash the Bug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug), a project in which an individual analyzes the antibiotic resistance of M. tuberculosis, helping hospitals around the world accurately predict which antibiotics are effective at treating this disease.
  • National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/) lists several projects on their website such as bird counting projects, monitoring light pollution with the night sky, or participating in water quality monitoring with people from around the globe. Some of the projects such as the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (https://garlicmustard.wordpress.com/) even give teachers tips on how they can use the project in their classroom: “Educators can offer their students an invaluable opportunity for hands-on participation in peer-reviewed scientific research, and compare class results to the larger dataset involving hundreds of populations.”
  • Journeynorth.org is a website in which students can help track seasonal changes and seasonal migrations of different species right where they live. This site also offers teacher resources (https://journeynorth.org/tm/educators_index.html) to help a teacher drive discussion using data that was input by citizen scientists just like your students.
  • If you want to search for projects by location, then check out Scistarter.org. This website connects citizen scientists to local projects. Projects range from migration tracking to water and air quality. One project, School of Ants USA, (https://www.scistarter.org/school-of-ants-usa) asks citizen scientists to help track ant diversity by collecting and sending in a sample of ants. 

What if you have a high school student on your hands who wants to take summer science to the next level? No problem! Citizen science projects and the associated publicly available data sets can be used by students to ask their own questions and conduct their own research. Then, they can submit their work to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!

Iowa JSHS showcases research conducted by high school students each year to provide students with an outlet to share their work and be recognized for their efforts. Attending the symposium provides youth with exposure to Iowa high school research, and they also benefit from networking opportunities with other student researchers and research professionals.

Want more information on student-led research? Be sure to check out our previous posts on this topic!

Professional Development Opportunities

The Belin-Blank Center is home to one of the oldest gifted education professional development programs in the country.  The last week in June, 2019, the Center will have educators living on campus and immersing themselves in the field of gifted education and talent development during Belin-Blank Fellowship XXXIX!  For almost 40 years, the Center has been committed to offering the coursework that educators need to earn the required Talented and Gifted Endorsement, but even more, to providing the understandings that make teachers feel much better informed about the nature and needs of gifted/talented learners as the new academic year races toward them. (Where DOES the summer go?)

The Belin-Blank Center TAG Endorsement  program is aligned with the Faculty Standards for Teacher Preparation Programs in Gifted & Talented Education, developed by NAGC to ensure that educators learning about the field participate in research-based classes taught by highly-qualified professionals.  As well, all of our coursework is aligned with the NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted and Talented Education and with the Pre-K – Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards.

The summer opportunities listed below are offered as workshops (with no additional technology or other fees added to the basic tuition); all of these classes that are still available allow educators to focus on specific topics that are beneficial to their gifted and talented learners.  These are described in more detail at belinblank.org/courses:

  • EDTL:5080:0WKA Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses, July 1 – 22, is available for those who attend the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute the last week in June; the Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship off the cost of graduate tuition since participants are also paying to attend the College Board-approved summer institute (since teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom supplies, we try to provide financial assistance whenever we can!)
  • EDTL:4074:0WKA   Differentiation at the Secondary Level, July 8 – 26, emphasizing the importance of differentiation rooted in content areas, including specific strategies to strengthen secondary courses; those who attend APTTI receive the same automatic tuition scholarship for this class;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKF   Topics: Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  Mathematics, July 17 – August 6, utilizing a NAGC publication about strengthening standards developed for general education to provide differentiated learning for meaningful experiences in math for advanced learners (participants do NOT need a background in mathematics to understand the needs of their mathematically gifted youth);
  • EDTL:4085:0WKA   Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education,  July 29 – August 16, allowing educators to focus on the topics the most need to master for their students, schools, and districts (the credit may be applied, depending on readings, to the Psychology, Programming, or Administrative strand for endorsement);
  • RCE:4119:0WKA    Family Issues in Giftedness, August 7  – 27, the last of the summer classes, designed to allow teachers to be ready to work with parents in the new school year, better understanding their concerns and planning effective ways to communicate with parents as the school year begins.

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua will begin on July 8, and will provide six classes in a hybrid format that includes two days on campus with online opportunities for reflection, reading, and final projects submitted online.  The Belin-Blank Chautauqua includes three classes in Week I:

These classes are available in Week II:

Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four).  Chautauqua includes a lunch on Friday of each week, provided by the Belin-Blank Center, when participants can enjoy talking with nationally recognized leaders in gifted education. 

We look forward to working with you this summer; we appreciate your commitment to the needs of gifted and talented learners!

This I Believe: Nicole Behrend

This I Believe is an organization based on both a more recent collection of essays shared on National Public Radio, and on a radio show in the 1950s.  From their website:  “Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.”

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman said, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

Inspired by this idea, Dr. Laurie Croft, our Associate Director for Professional Development, assigned essays on this topic for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class. Over the next few months, with permission, we will share those responses on our blog.


This I Believe 
by Nicole Behrend
Elementary Education major, University of Iowa College of Education, also pursuing the Talented and Gifted Endorsement

I believe education is a tool used to provide individuals with the knowledge to change the world and make it a better place. I think an educational setting is a place for students to learn how to work with peers, engage their critical thinking skills, and prepare them for the future.   Education should be meeting the needs of all children. In education, educators need to differentiate instruction so that gifted students are being challenged to their highest potential. 

In elementary school, I was a TAG student. For 1 hour, 2 days a week, myself and two others from my grade level would meet with the TAG teacher. In the class, I learned things at a faster pace and I was learning things I found interesting. I remember one thing I learned in my TAG class was Braille. Being a young elementary student and learning how to communicate in a way different than what I was used to was such an eye-opener for me. We wrote our names with the special machine and learned how braille was used around the world. After class, I bragged to my friends, family, and parents about what I had learned. 

When I look back at my elementary years, most of the academic topics I remember were from my TAG class. After being a TAG student myself, I know how beneficial it is for students and how they look forward to that attention from the teacher. I want to be the teacher that my TAG teacher was to me. She made learning fun and made me excited. I want to instill enthusiasm about school in my students. I think more than anything, our gifted students need to be motivated to learn; they need to know there is a reason for the process.

Curriculum for gifted students needs to be differentiated to address their individual strengths, talents, needs, interests, and characteristics.

I believe I will have to modify the basic curriculum to meet the needs of my gifted students. I will provide enrichment opportunities to challenge students and allow them to explore areas of interest. I believe gifted and talented students need to be challenged. They need assignments that are modified or accelerated to meet their advanced needs. Gifted students also need to be with students like themselves. Advanced students benefit greatly from being with students of the same ability. To bring out the best potential for gifted students, the basic curriculum will not meet their needs. Gifted students need to explore their interests and the community they live in. 

My role as a gifted educator will be to educate, assist, and encourage my students. I will need to educate my students and their parents on the opportunities and difficulties associated with exceptional students. I will need to assist my students in their learning and opportunities past the school. I will also need to encourage my students to develop creativity, productivity, and leadership skills. Our gifted students need motivation and attention just as much as the typical student, but they also need the modifications to help them continue on the path of high abilities. 

Iowa Wins Big at the National Invention Convention

For the second year in a row, Iowa students have earned national recognition for their innovative inventions!

Winners of the 2019 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention qualified to compete at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in May. Of the six qualifying inventions, three earned national prizes!

Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) won 1st place at the Kindergarten grade level for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.

Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) won a Patent Application Award for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.

Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), won an Inventor Communication Award for “Best Pitch” while presenting their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.

A full list of national winners is available here. Congratulations to all who competed, and especially to our Iowa representatives. We are proud of your hard work and inspiring ideas!

Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented: English/Language Arts

As summer vacation draws closer, we want to remind educators of upcoming online opportunities for professional development!  We have one class underway: Teaching Outside the Lines, focused on Doug Johnson’s book by the same name, thinking about creativity in the schools today.

Our next class is EDTL:4096:0WKB, Topics in Teaching and Learning: Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented: English/Language Arts. This class begins on May 28 and continues through June 17, and it’s an important option for those who collaborate with classroom teachers or include ELA in their gifted programs.  This class helps you conceptualize the alignment of CCSS with classroom activities and assessments—WHILE differentiating the classroom for high-achieving students.  This class will use a book published as a service publication of NAGC’s, and edited by Dr. Joyce VanTassel Baska (Using the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts with Gifted and Advanced Learners) and benefit from the expertise of the instructor, Gwen Livingstone Pokora.

You can read the National Association for Gifted Children’s page about Frequently Asked Questions about the Common Core and Gifted Education and review their main points about aligning standards (even if they’re NOT CCSS and might be a state-based version) to gifted education programming standards.  If you, or administrators and colleagues, wonder about the need for a class like this, review and / or share the NAGC Position Statement about the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards for Gifted and Talented Students.

Some of your schools may still believe that the use of standards has made curriculum more challenging for ALL of your students—meaning the gifted program doesn’t really have to facilitate more challenging curriculum—but we know that’s NOT true.  Perfect your “elevator pitch” with this online only class beginning on May 28 (next week!).

We have two additional ELA-focused workshops as part of our 2019 Belin-Blank Chautauqua.  Chautauqua offers classes that meet for two days on campus, typically providing materials online through our ICON platform, as well as a project uploaded online after the meeting on campus:

EDTL:4096:0WKD Topics:  Writing for High Ability Learners, Jul 12 – 13, on campus;

EDTL:4096:0WKE Topics:  Bibliotherapy for the Gifted, Jul 17 – 18, on campus.

We also are offering another fully online class focused on the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics from Jul 17 – August 6:

EDTL:4096:0WKF Topics:  Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  Mathematics.

We welcome you and your colleagues to these and our other very focused professional learning opportunities over the summer! 

You can learn more about these at belinblank.org/educators.  Follow the link to “Register” for information about registering as a Distance and Online Learner (non-degree seeking)—you can even register as an undergraduate with the lower tuition rate of $324 if the graduate tuition won’t help you progress on your salary scale.  The full summer schedule is here:  belinblank.org/educators/courses

Message from the Director: Springtime Renewal Extends to Gifted Education through Javits Grants

Conducting research focused on gifted education and talent development is central to our mission. The Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute, featuring A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (2015), is a prime example of how gifted education research assists educators and policy makers in better understanding and developing the talents of bright students. While gifted education research has had many advocates, there were perhaps none whose reach has extended quite as far as Jacob K. Javits.

Q: Who was Jacob K. Javits and what does he have to do with gifted education?

A: In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed the only federal legislation for gifted and talented education. It was named in recognition of its primary advocate, Jacob K. Javits, a long-serving Congressman (R-NY, 1947-1954) and Senator (R-NY, 1957-1981). As the National Associated for Gifted Children explains, the “purpose of the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is to orchestrate a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students.” Javits grants typically focus on students who are traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs, and the Javits Act provides opportunities to better understand best practices in gifted education.

Q: How does the Javits Act fit into current federal legislation for education?

A: Federal legislation for education has existed for more than 50 years (first passed in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA; currently known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA). Ten years later, special education programs became mandatory with the 1975 passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (re-authorized and re-named the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, in 1990). The original IDEA legislation was an essential mandate to ensure that every student had the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. IDEA protects society’s most vulnerable individuals, which is essential to any society.

Q:  What does ESSA or IDEA have to do with gifted students?

A: Importantly, when the 1990 IDEA was re-authorized in 2004, there was – for the first time – recognition that gifted and talented children may also have diagnosed disabilities or disorders. These students are referred to as “twice-exceptional.” Shortly thereafter, when the 2005 request for proposals for Javits Grants was issued, the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Department of Education submitted a proposal to further investigate a specific group of underrepresented students, those who are twice-exceptional. That proposal was funded, thus launching our work in the area of twice-exceptionality and significantly impacting the field.

Q:  Has the Belin-Blank Center been awarded other Javits grants? 

A: Yes! We were awarded a second Javits grant in the late 1990s to investigate gifted and talented students attending alternative schools. Most recently (2017), the Belin-Blank Center and the UI College of Education were awarded a third Javits grant to explore the effects of a talent development model along with a career intervention program on underrepresented gifted students.

Q:  How much funding is available from the Javits Act?

A:  The short answer is, “not that much.” This is a true statement in absolute terms, as well as relative to other education initiatives. Since 1988, annual funding has varied from $5 million to $12 million, which is about 1 to 2 cents for every $100 spent on education. In 2013, no funding was available and in 2011 and 2012, there were no new awards presented. It is important to know that, even at the modest levels at which monies are allocated, Congress must reauthorize funding for the Javits Act each year.

Every year, the Javits funding is tenuous. However, the impact of Javits awards on participating students, teachers, and schools is far from tenuous. We have experienced the positive impact first hand.

In addition to the Javits demonstration and scale-up grants awarded to states, there is periodic funding for a national gifted and talented center. The original Javits legislation funding in 1988 resulted in the establishment of the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented ([NRC/GT]; 1990-2013), housed on the University of Connecticut campus.  After the funding was re-established in 2013, the National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), also on the University of Connecticut campus, was established. Current Javits funding supports the NCRGE, which offers a prolific research agenda. Most recently, researchers presented an impressive study investigating the (mis)alignment of identification for gifted programming and the content of the programming. This NCRGE research project, in addition to three other relevant projects, was reviewed in a recent Education Week article, “4 Ways Schools Help or Hinder Gifted Students,” by Sarah D. Sparks.

There is no shortage of excellent research in the field of gifted education, and we are grateful that the Javits Act has advanced the field in significant ways over the past 31 years. We are also grateful that we have had a role in that advancement. We look forward to continuing to contribute to a broad research agenda and collaborating with teachers to improve programming for gifted students.

Hope springs eternal for continued funding to support this important research!

Iowa Students Attend the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In March, students from across Iowa competed at the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). A panel of experts judged 15 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists were:

  • 1st place: Pooja Kasiviswanathan (Ames High School) — “Farming on Mars: potential strategies for sustainable agriculture in Martian conditions”
  • 2nd place: Isabella Hoeger-Pinto (Iowa City West High School) — “Examination of plasma etch rate on silicon substrate with photoresist mask”
  • 3rd place: Radha Velamuri (Valley High School) — “Involvement of the AhR in reproductive function with exposure to PCB 126”
  • 4th place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) — “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III”
  • 5th place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) — “What is honey? A comparison of honey from Iowa beekeepers versus national store brand honey using pH, pollen, and chemical composition analysis”
Winners of the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 57th Annual National JSHS in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.

Approximately 230 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences.

Iowa representatives at the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Like the Iowa finalists, these impressive students qualified for the symposium by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. Approximately 130 high school teachers, mentors, university faculty, ranking military guests and others also attended to encourage the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrate student achievement in the sciences.

Students had the opportunity to tour labs such as the Air Force Research Laboratory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Sandia National Laboratories—Security Technologies, and the University of New Mexico’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine—Emergency Medical Services.

Students participated in round table discussions on topics such as ocean trace elements, agile aerospace, energy and shear stability, academic STEM careers, and engineering satellite thermal systems. Students also had the opportunity to listen to an array of distinguished keynote speakers, including Dr. William Swartout, the Chief Technology Officer of University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies and Research Professor in the USC Department of Computer Science. Dr. Swartout shared his involvement in research and development work based on his interest in virtual humans and the development of new Artifical Intelligene architectures through the Shoah Foundation and the New Dimensions in Testimony project. Together they are creating a unique collection of interactive historical biographies that allow people to converse with pre-recorded video images of Holocaust survivors.

For the second consecutive year, an Iowa regional finalist placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) won second place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” Congratulations to Kayla, as well as her teacher, Amanda Schiller (a former JSHS competitor herself)!

Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit: