Author Archives: belinblank

Message From the Director: The Last Word

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Welcome back! 

After a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus from onsite professional development and on-campus residential student programs, the hallways of the Blank Honors Center resound with the happy voices and excited footsteps of students and teachers. Their faces reflect the anticipation of making new friends and engaging in meaningful new learning. None of this would be possible without months of careful planning. Multiple teams of Belin-Blank Center colleagues attend to the details so participants can enjoy our comprehensive programming. I am very appreciative of my colleagues’ unflinching commitment to excellence. 

Welcome to our summer faculty and staff! Serving several hundred students and teachers takes many sets of hands, ears, eyes, feet, minds, and hearts. From residence hall advisors to student assistants to front-desk support, many of the summer program staff are undergraduate and graduate students. Their praises often go unsung, so I want to take this opportunity to thank them. 

Welcome to our many faculty colleagues who mentor and instruct students and teachers. This summer, we are pleased to have Ms. Cori Milan as the student program coordinator for our residential student programs, the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP), Perry Research Summer Institute (PRSI), and Summer Art/Writing Residencies (SAR/SWR). In addition to Ms. Milan, we will work with our colleague, Dr. Barry Schreier, a clinical professor in counseling psychology and the Director of Higher Education Programming at the Iowa Center for School Mental Health. Dr. Schreier leads our efforts to enhance the student experience through increased attention to social-emotional well-being and the professional development of the staff who support our students.  

Welcome to licensed psychologist Dr. Christopher Smith, the newest Assessment and Counseling Clinic staff member. Dr. Smith joins a dedicated team of professionals who kept the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic open throughout the pandemic. 

Welcome to Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, recently named the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and the new Belin-Blank Center Director. Dr. Foley-Nicpon brings a wealth of experience to this position and is singularly qualified to become the third director of the Belin-Blank Center. Watching Dr. Foley-Nicpon present her formal job talk was one of the more joyous moments of my 32-year career. We’ve been colleagues since 2004, and she has enhanced the reputation of the Belin-Blank Center in multiple areas, including twice-exceptionality and talent development. Dr. Foley-Nicpon will begin her tenure as director in August, making this my final post as director. 

Welcoming new colleagues and delighting in the wonder of a Belin-Blank summer makes my last “Message from the Director” bittersweet. Nostalgia fills my thoughts as I reflect on the many moments that form decades of personal, professional, and organizational growth and development. We have done so much together during this time, and I know this team of professionals will have many more triumphs to come. 

I have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and a dedicated advisory board. I have a loving family who has graced me with their phenomenal support throughout my entire career.  

I am now approaching my final weeks as the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and Director of the Belin-Blank Center. Only one word adequately captures the sentiment that fills my heart: Gratitude. 

Belin-Blank Center Finalists Win Big at Nationals!

Finalists from two of our programs, Invent Iowa and the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), recently competed at the national level in their respective programs.

2022 Invent Iowa Finalists at the National Invention Convention

Invent Iowa finalists advanced to the National Invention Convention, hosted by the Henry Ford Museum.

Charles Smith (Ottumwa) won 2nd place in the 3rd-grade division, as well as Best Video Presentation, for his E.F.A.F. (Emergency Floor plan App for First responders). Jason Ahn (Ames) won a Patent Application Award and Best Logbook for his ARE Board (Auto Rolling & Erasing Whiteboard). Those who are interested can view the complete list of winners or watch the award ceremony replay.

Finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS earned an expense-paid trip to compete at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the oral presentations, Amara Orth (Lewis Central High) won 2nd place in the Life Sciences category, for an $8,000 scholarship! In the poster competition, Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) won 3rd place in the Biomedical Science category and a $350 scholarship. A full list of winners is posted here.

Congratulations to all!

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

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

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For Educators

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

AP Summer Institute – Online!

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

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

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

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

NEW! Graduate Certificate in Talent Development

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

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

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

1) required coursework (6 semester hours),  

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

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

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

We would love to learn with you!

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

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

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

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

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

Professional Learning Makes All the Difference

by Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development

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

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Belin-Blank Chautauqua 2022

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

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

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

Chautauqua Courses in 2022

Chautauqua courses include the following in Week I:

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

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

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

Chautauqua continues in Week II:

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

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

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

Learn more about Chautauqua at belinblank.org/chautauqua.

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

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

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

Fully Online and Asynchronous Courses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big news!

Dr. Foley Nicpon

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

Read more on the College of Education’s website.

Message from the Director: Opening Doors for Talent Development

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sign Up for Summer!

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

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For Educators

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

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

Online Professional Learning in Summer 2022

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

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

Chautauqua

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

Online Programming

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

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

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

Registration

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

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

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

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

Professional Learning

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

Scholarships

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

Coursework

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

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

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

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

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

*NEW!

Registration

To take part in classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status (scholarships are awarded to those who register as graduate students). Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for courses that interest or benefit you. Follow the steps laid out at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Applications Open for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

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

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

-Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Student

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

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

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

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

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

2022 Winners of Iowa Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

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

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

2022 Winners of the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2022 Iowa Regional winners are:

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

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

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

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

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

Message from the Director

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two New Faces at the Belin-Blank Center

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

Dr. Nesibe Karakis

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

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Clifton

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

Amy Clark

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

Save the Date for Summer

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

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

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

For Students & Families

Academic Year

Summer Programs

Professional Learning at the Belin-Blank Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All of our classes fulfill the strands required for endorsement.

Questions?

Contact us at educators@belinblank.org!

Advanced Placement Summer Institute and Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

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

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Who: Middle School & High School Teachers; Gifted Coordinators

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

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

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

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

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

belinblank.org/apsi

Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:

belinblank.org/fellowship

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week II looks much the same!

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

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

We look forward to seeing you in July 2022!

Congratulations to the 2022 Virtual JSHS Region Winners! 🎉

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

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

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

See you in Albuquerque!

Farewell to Professor Miraca U. M. Gross

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fois dhut.

Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: The Integrated Acceleration System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Autism

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

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

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

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

Please consider participating if you are able!

Social Skills Intervention Group

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

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

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

Message from the Director: Talent Scouts Not Deficit Detectives

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Be a Talent Scout, Not a Deficit Detective” 

University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metaphors for Gifted and Talented Students

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

Here are their ideas, lightly edited for length.

Gifted/talented students are like lichen

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

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

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

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

Gifted/talented students are cheetahs

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

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

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

I see gifted/talented students as geodes.

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

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

Square pegs that don’t fit in round holes.

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

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

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

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

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

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

For Students & Families

Save the Dates for Professional Learning

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

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

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

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

The planned ON-CAMPUS classes are:

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

The planned ONLINE classes are:

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

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

Free Day Camp for 2e Students

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


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

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

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

Social Skills Intervention Group for 2e Students

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


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

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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

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

A Summer Research Program That Boosts Your College Applications

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

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

Research areas include:

On-Campus

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

Online

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message from the Director: Thinking Again

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

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

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

Late November afternoon light illuminating the Pentacrest.

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

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

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

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

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

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Important Dates for Student and Educator Programs

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

For Educators

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

For Students & Families

Introducing the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STEM Research Mentorship Opportunities for Students & Teachers

We are pleased to share two fantastic opportunities for high school student researchers and their teachers!

Mentorship for High School Student STEM Researchers

JSHS is offering a virtual mentoring program for high school students involved in STEM research.

Is this mentorship for me?

Any student who starts a research project and intends to submit their research at the regional Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) competition can participate. This resource is free for students and supported by JSHS.

How can mentors help?

  • Mentors share their expertise and advice to help guide and encourage you throughout your research.
  • Mentors can provide assistance and feedback on your original research concepts.

How will I work with my mentor?

Chronus is a virtual mentoring platform that houses the JSHS virtual mentorship program. Through Chronus, you will be able to:

  • View mentor profiles and find mentor matches based on shared interests.
  • Connect with mentors for flash (one-time consultation) or long-term mentoring (on-going mentoring) year-round.
  • Receive valuable resources that help you get the most out of your mentorships.
  • Set up virtual meetings, ask questions, and manage your mentorships online or through the Chronus app.

How do I sign up?

Visit https://virtualmentoring.jshs.org/chronus to register today or reach out at admin@JSHS.org!

Mentorship for High School STEM Teachers

For STEM teachers, the Advancing Science Research Teaching (ASRT) program is accepting applications for their free, in-person, educational outreach program. This program is designed to equip high school teachers with the knowledge, insights, and activities to increase the amount, type, and scope of science research projects for their high school students.

Is the ASRT program for me?

The ASRT program is customized to help high school teachers who provide science research opportunities within a traditional STEM classroom setting, or helping those with a small, growing research program/club, or even helping those with more established Science Research Programs/Clubs. High school teachers may apply individually or as a group.

How are participants selected?

Applicants will be evaluated by a committee from Regeneron and/or ZEISS, based on a number of different criteria including, but not limited to:

  • Their interest in increasing the number of activities that build understanding & critical thinking, technology-based skills, networking skills, presentation skills, and lifelong skills.
  • Their interest in increasing the number of high school students who carry out projects and participate in regional, state, national and international science fairs.
  • Their interest in increasing the quality/level of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their interest in increasing the types/categories of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their level of support from the school community and their administration for creating science research/STEM opportunities for high school students.

How do I apply?

Visit https://forms.gle/W3335h1vRFP6aojVA to apply by November 14, 2021. The FAQ section of the www.ASRTprogram.com website has additional information.

Computer Science for Talented Students

We are hard at work creating new computer science opportunities for academically talented students! We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, check out these popular options. Registration is open!

Advanced Computer Science
4th – 6th grade students,
Starts November 1st

Advanced Computer Science currently has one course open for registration. Explorations in Computer Science is an introductory course based on Project STEM curriculum that empowers students to engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. Through a series of real-world scenarios, projects and challenges, students are introduced to foundational concepts that they will return to repeatedly throughout the course.


Computer Science Python Fundamentals
7th – 9th grade students
,
Self-paced; start anytime

Computer Science Python Fundamentals is an entirely self-directed learning experience to complete whenever and wherever you want. Computers are simple. They do only what you tell them. Through a series of interactive online modules, with built-in support from experienced programmers, you will learn to talk to computers using the Python programming language. You can progress through the modules at a pace that is just right for you, with access to an exclusive expert forum to have your questions answered along the way. During the course, you’ll learn more about programming, create programs of your own using Python, and have a lot of fun along the way. And, who knows, you may end up writing the next big program!

Welcome to Another Year of Invention!

Are you a teacher who works with students during the invention process? Invent Iowa will return in a virtual format on April 18, 2022. Now is a great time to make sure your budding inventors and entrepreneurs are getting started on their projects!

We are excited to announce a new platform from our colleagues at Invention Convention WorldwideInHub is a collection of professional development, curriculum resources and information about experiences and field trips. This is a free resource to learn and share with other inventive educators and students. 

If you are a student or have a student who would like to participate in Iowa’s State Invention Convention, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates:

  • January 20, 2022: Registration opens
  • February 22, 2022: Competition materials are due
  • March 22, 2022: Students are notified of their qualification status
  • March 28, 2022: Qualifying students must commit to State Convention
  • April 18, 2022: State Invention Convention

For a helpful overview of the Invention Convention program, be sure to check out this helpful How-To Guide. Happy inventing!

Professional Learning Continues this Fall!

Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

In Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery declared, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables is a great read for young gifted readers, as well as for you, if you haven’t read the classic!)  We look forward to collaborating with you this October and beyond!

October brings the midway point in the fall semester, but we have more offerings coming up than classes that are ending.  If you have at least one other person from your school/district interested in taking a class with you, in the spirit of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), contact us at educators@belinblank.org, and we’ll give all the members of your PLC a 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290/hour).

For those who are interested in continuing their professional learning about gifted education (whether earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement or not), consider some of these options, all critical for your practice. (All credits apply to one of the strands for the endorsement.)

Workshops

For these options, the cost is tuition without any technology fees.

Programming Strand

EDTL:4153:0WKA Gifted and General Education Collaboration (1 semester hour)
October 11 – 29
Instructor: Gerald Aungst
What is more important than collaboration to ensure the best for our gifted students?

EDTL:4025:0WKA Differentiated Instruction for Gifted (1 s.h.)
October 25 – November 12
Instructor: Debra Judge
One of the foundations of gifted education, especially since all educators have a responsibility to differentiate for gifted learners (e.g., see MTSS for Advanced Learners)

EDTL:4096:0WKB Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students (1 s.h.)
November 22 – December 14 
Instructor: Antonia Szymanski
HOT off the press, from Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, to help empower students who have been overlooked for gifted programs.

Administrative Strand

PSQF:5194:0WKB Leadership in Gifted Education:  ITAG Conference (1 or 2 s.h. )
October 21 – November 10 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange
Those interested in Iowa Talented and Gifted Conference credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

PSQF:5194:0WKA Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention (1 or 2 s.h)
November 17 – December 9 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange 
Those interested in NAGC credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

Practicum Strand

EDTL:4189:0WKA Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education (1 s.h.)
November 8 – December 3 
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Those interested in practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

Extension Classes

The cost of these classes is tuition plus technology fees.

EDTL:4067:0EXW Conceptions of Talent Development (3 s.h.)
October 18 – December 17  
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Psychology strand (2 sh); Programming (1 s.h)
This credit applies to both the Psychology and the Programming strand, exploring issues that are important to the focus on talent development in our field.

RCE:4188:0EXW Practicum in Gifted Education (1, 2, or 3 s.h.)
October 25 – December 3
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Practicum strand
Those full-time students or those interested in more than one hour of practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement.  Visit our website for instructions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148!  We look forward to collaborating with you this fall to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

Message from the Director: First Days and Next Steps

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“It’s not up to you to finish the task… neither are you free to ignore it.”  –Ethics of our Fathers (and Mothers) 

The first bell of a new school year signals a fresh start for millions of families, students, and teachers. Beginning a new year is a natural moment of transition and reflection as well as a shared human experience that evokes many emotions. 

Our first-year Bucksbaum Academy students arrived last week, a momentous first day for them. A week later, our upper-class students returned to campus. It is energizing to have students and their fresh approach to learning in our midst. 

As an educator for over four decades, I have experienced many unique and energizing first days. This year, my professional first day of school coincided with a personal one. My grandchildren had their first days of preschool, kindergarten, and fourth grade! When the current 4th grader started school four years ago, I was entering my 4th decade as an educator. 

At that time, I offered my wishes for her as she began her academic journey: 

  • Find challenges in learning, both in and out of school. Learners, and those who teach them, know the optimal learning environment contains challenges. Challenged learners are neither bored nor frustrated but empowered. They seek new knowledge and develop further the sense of curiosity with which we are all born. 
  • Build resilience to become an empowered learner. She will need to recognize that there will be favorite subjects and those that are not favorites. She will have good days and days that are not as good. The latter is important to practice bouncing back to enjoy the good days and revel in great days! 
  • Develop leadership skills for a meaningful life and a positive impact on society. Sure, that is a tall order for a kindergartner, but it is an important aspect of learning and becoming. When she looks back on her career someday, I hope she will be able to see how her leadership benefited society. 
  • Hone a sense of humility to be grateful for her opportunities and gifts and mindful of privilege. 

These last four years – like the preceding 40 — have flown.  

This year juxtaposes my own educational path with that of my family’s young learners. They are setting out on their journeys of lifelong learning. My professional journey is nearing the end because, after 45 years as an educator, I will retire at the end of the current academic year.  

Thus, the start of this school year was a momentous first day for me as well.  

I will always be an educator. But with the support of family, colleagues, University of Iowa leadership, and our visionary advisory board, it is time for new leadership at the Belin-Blank Center. Although I will step aside as a professional, I will continue on a new personal path of lifelong learning. 

I am pleased to say I have not “ignored the task,” and I find it reassuring to know that I am not obligated to complete it.  

I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that a new director will appreciate. They will lead an exceptional team dedicated to nurturing potential and inspiring excellence. Together, they will bring a fresh perspective to a well-established center.  

I will always be grateful for my energizing, creative, and dedicated colleagues. They made my career possible, and I look forward to acknowledging and supporting their creative endeavors throughout the year.  

As I look back on a long, yet rapid, journey and ahead to a new one, I have a few more wishes for all lifelong learners. From those starting their educational journey as preschoolers to those nearing the end of a career in education, I hope you will: 

  • Continue to be curious 
  • Keep a sense of optimism  
  • Express gratitude each day 
  • Convey a sense of compassion  

Astute readers note that I focused on the cognitive aspects of learning four years ago but am now placing an emphasis on the psychosocial. The COVID-19 pandemic makes me appreciate their equal importance to a lifelong learner’s educational journey. 

As I embark on the next stage of that journey, I wish you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling year.  

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for the many exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators that are happening at the Belin-Blank Center this year! Even more to come soon.

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: August 23 – October 18, 2021
    • Practicums: October 3 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

10 Reasons to Get Started on JSHS Projects

Now that the school year is underway, it’s time for Iowa high school students and teachers to get started on projects for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Your future selves will thank you!

If you are a high school student thinking that you would like to solve a problem, stretch yourself, and stand out – now is the time to get started on an original research project so you can present it at the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

If you are a teacher looking for opportunities for your students to present their work to an authentic audience of experts, explore STEM careers, and build a sense of belonging, start planning for JSHS now

Top 10 Reasons to Join Us at the 2022 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium:

  1. The symposium is returning to the University of Iowa campus!
  2. Learn how you can use publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project to conduct research without a lab.
  3. Get hot tips from the brains behind a video series we made to teach you how to conduct a data science project. Check it out!
  4. Get a backstage pass to cutting edge University of Iowa research facilities like the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Since we know you can’t wait, here’s a 360 virtual tour to tide you over. 
  5. Trivia night is back! Geek out with nerds from across the state in a friendly competition. 
  6. Experience the wonders of the newest dining hall on campus where you can have sushi, a made to order burger, a Southwest salad, and pancakes all for lunch.
  7. Be inspired by research presented by students in Iowa who win big scholarships at National JSHS.
  8. Every high school in Iowa can bring 5 students and a teacher for FREE. We sponsor housing, meals, and all activities – including a trip down the lazy river
  9. Five students will win scholarships and an all expense paid trip to National JSHS in Albuquerque, NM.
  10. If we can’t meet on campus, we will meet online for virtual presentations, tours, and activities that span the globe. 

Join us on Monday, March 7 and Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 

Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education

The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) hosted a virtual conference over the summer, and one of the most exciting things shared was the new “Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education.” 

In the United States, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has provided sets of standards to help define best practices in Pre-K – Grade 12 Programming, Teacher Preparation in Gifted Education (in collaboration with the Council for Exceptional The Association for the Gifted [CEC TAG], and Knowledge and Skills in Gifted & Talented Education for All Teachers. The new WCGTC principles suggest the 10 most important concepts for professional development in gifted education, to strengthen local and regional practices on behalf of gifted children around the world.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several scholars involved in the development of the principles share a presentation available to the public. A poster with the 10 global principles is available to download and share or post. The full document, with research-based rationales that could be of interest to educators anywhere, is available at https://world-gifted.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/professional-learning-global-principles.pdf.

The last of the 10 principles, Empowering, is one of the most important to the Belin-Blank Center. The Center has long committed its professional development opportunities to empowering the gifted community, and throughout the academic year, educators can enroll in a variety of classes, including three-semester-hour coursework as well as one- and two-semester hour “workshops” that expand understanding about themes significant to identifying and understanding gifted children and their unique needs. Coursework, aligned with NAGC standards, encourages professionals to adopt best practices for meeting the needs of advanced learners, from acceleration to classroom differentiation to homogeneous grouping. Classes also provide insights into programming options that facilitate optimal learning environments.

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement. Visit our website for directions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148! We look forward to collaborating with you to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

Research Study for Academically Talented Students

We understand that COVID-19 has affected everyone in many ways, and that, particularly as a family with a gifted and talented child, things may have changed dramatically for you over recent months. The Belin-Blank Center is conducting a research study to assess how COVID-19 is affecting families. We would like you and your child to participate in the study by completing this electronic survey. If you have more than one child, please make sure to select a child who is at least in 6th grade and if you still have more than one, please take the survey once for each child. 

Sharing your experiences, both negative and positive, will equip us with information that can help us be more efficient and effective in preparing and allocating future resources that can help families like yours. The survey will take about 5 to 10 minutes for you and about 15 minutes for your child to complete. It is completely voluntary. Your identity or any other identifying information will not be linked to the survey. Whether or not you participate in this survey will have no bearing on your standing with any of our programs.

SURVEY LINK: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_02pwgvzVHGwYJ4W

We encourage you to consider sharing your experiences through this survey. We are so proud of all the ways that we have seen families respond with resilience and adaptiveness to the challenges of this pandemic. And, as always, if there are ways that we can help support you during this time, please let us know by reaching out to us.

Thank you, and stay well.

Brandon LeBeau

Belin-Blank Center

Message from the Director: Continuity and Change

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

In early June, the University of Iowa campus opened, and we returned to our offices at the Belin-Blank Center. The first day back was a little like the first day of school! Things had changed, yet there was a sense of continuity and familiarity.  

Sitting in my office on the 6th floor of the Blank Honors Center, I can see a sweeping view of the campus out my window. I reflect on those contrasting ideas of change and continuity as I look out at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. There, clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine occurred. I’m grateful to the frontline professionals and researchers who made it safe to return to campus after 16 months of remote work. They changed our lives and allowed us to continue to serve and pursue our mission in person.  

Shifting my view to the ground below, I see the top of a beloved 150-year-old copper beech tree. This tree suffered tremendous damage during the derecho of August 2020, yet the campus arborists did not give up on it. Although 25% of the tree was gone in an instant, it is full of leaves today. Its branches now represent survival through a challenging year, a metaphor for change and continuity.  

A large copper beech tree in front of the University of Iowa's Blank Honors Center.

The tree reminds us of our connection to the land, made up of the homelands of multiple tribal nations, upon which early Iowans built this campus. We acknowledge this complicated history by sharing the UI Acknowledgement of Land and Sovereignty. “To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory [we] reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial.” 

I reflect on the past 16 months, during which we continued our mission by adapting student and educator programming in response to the pandemic. The most recent of these efforts was the inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality in May. Over the past few months, we also welcomed new staff who will help us continue our dance of continuity and change.  

School is out, and summer is beginning. At the Belin-Blank Center, that means our summer programs have started. We have ongoing online programs for educators and students and the first of our in-person student programs begins again in late July. Our staff, like many people, are easing our way into a changed world. We continue to think about what that means for us.  What will remain consistent, as always, is our commitment to nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.  

Welcome back! 

Dr. Randy Lange Joins Our Staff

Dr. Randolph (“Randy”) Lange was recently appointed as the Coordinator for Professional Development and Curriculum at the Belin Blank Center.

Prior to joining the Center, he served as the Talent Development Services Program Coordinator for Illinois’ La Grange School District 102. There he developed a comprehensive K-8 program that includes: curriculum for accelerated mathematics & language arts, classroom-based differentiation, enrichment offerings (summer, evening and/or weekend), above level testing, mentorships, collaboration with community organizations, grade skipping, and support for families. Before joining District 102, he used his dissertation findings as a catalyst in developing a more equitable identification protocol in his former school district (Indian Prairie School District 204).

Randy has presented at the National Association for Gifted Children Convention, the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Conference, and the Center for Gifted Education National Curriculum Network Conference.  Over his career, he has taught a variety of courses through the Belin-Blank Center and professional development opportunities for educators. He currently serves on the Board of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. Randy holds a Doctorate (Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Measurement, and Gifted Education) and Masters (Education Administration) from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelors (Elementary Education) from the University of Illinois.

We welcome Dr. Lange to the growing administrative team of the Belin-Blank Center and look forward to the many contributions he will make to programming, services, and research.