Category Archives: Belin-Blank Center News

Message from the Director: When the School Bell Rings

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

Photo by Pixabay on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Writing Community is Waiting

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

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

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

Join the community

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

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

– Summer 2020 student writer

Get your seat at the table

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


Stay Tuned for New Online Opportunities for Kids!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message from the Director: Welcome Home!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IOAPA: Spring Dates & Deadlines!

We want to help you keep on track for 2019! Here are all of the important dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses for the spring semester.

  • January 25, 2019: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee. (Note: Per the IOAPA drop policy, these fees are waived for students in middle school and computer science courses.)
  • January 31, 2019: Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2018-2019).
  • February 22, 2019: Deadline for submitting testing accommodations requests for students with disabilities who plan to take AP Exams. See our post about the changes to this process that took effect in January 2017.
  • March 13, 2019: Deadline for pre-administration materials for AP Computer Science Principles.
  • March 29, 2019: Deadline to order 2019 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2019: Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 10, 2019: IOAPA spring courses end.
  • May 6-17, 2019: AP Exams are administered. A complete schedule of exam dates is available on the College Board website.

Ordering AP Exams

Students (generally with advice from teachers, parents, school counselors, or other school personnel) are responsible for deciding whether to take AP Exam(s) for the courses in which they enrolled. Schools are responsible for ordering those exams from the College Board for all students who indicate intent to complete exams. More information about specific procedures for ordering exams is available from the College Board.

Different states and schools handle exam fees differently. In general, for 2019 exams most students will pay the school $94 per exam. The College Board offers reduced-fee exams for students with financial need; these students generally pay the school $53 per exam. Further information can be found on the College Board website.

The Belin Blank Center is pleased to announce that we are offering a new funding opportunity to pay for the cost of AP exams for low-income students in rural schools.  Stay tuned for more information, coming soon!

Follow IOAPA on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA for reminders about deadlines, as well as other useful information to support mentors and students.

Register for APTTI and Apply for Funding Opportunities!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

Start the New Year off right by planning your summer professional development! Make sure to save the date for the 2019 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019. Registration is now openWe will be offering workshops for AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Physics I, and AP US History.

AP Teacher Training Institute instructor demonstrating a lesson to smiling AP Biology teachers.

APTTI is a College Board-approved AP Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit current teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course. Teachers who attended our previous institutes shared some of their valued experiences:

It gave me a framework for how to structure my course, wording for my syllabus for the College Board, and very valuable information to prepare my students for the AP exam.

Not only did I gain more resources to further my instruction, but I also learned many strategies for implementing these materials. I had the opportunity to learn from an instructor who was vastly knowledgeable and taught us as if we were students…so we could better understand how to teach our own students. This knowledge was immensely valuable!

I feel like this program has a direct impact on high school students…I am more confident in the material and the course/text structure, and my experience as an AP teacher has been much more successful than it would have been without an APTTI.

It was a wonderful course that prepared me to teach AP. The instructor modeled an AP class for us, so we not only left with content knowledge, but methodology knowledge as well. These methods can extend beyond just our AP classes and into our general classes as well.


We want to inform you of scholarships funded by the College Board that support teachers in attending an APSI. Applications for these scholarships are due Tuesday, February 12th, 2019. Scholarships offered by the College Board are listed below, and you can find more information about these scholarships and the application process here.

  • AP Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving minority or low-income students
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,000 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)
  • AP Rural Fellows Program: For teachers at rural schools
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,500 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) also offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI. (Participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 (more than 80%) of the $550 registration fee.  Click here to learn more and click here to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2019. 

Don’t miss the chance to apply for these great scholarships, especially since deadlines for some are approaching quickly! If you’re considering attending an AP Summer Institute and/or our AP Teacher Training Institute, apply today!

Celebrating 30 Years of Nurturing Potential and Inspiring Excellence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.  That long name packs an abundance of information about who we are and what we do.

Named for two of the four co-founders of the Belin-Blank Center, the name pays tribute to the founding families and honors their philanthropic contributions to the center.  The name also references our international connections and the fact that we address both gifted education and talent development, which are complementary concepts.

Over the years, the Belin-Blank Center has been committed to providing programming and services to educators, students, and their families.  Our aim is to empower the worldwide gifted community through exemplary leadership in service, research, and advocacy. Through our work, supported through the generosity of our benefactors, funds from private foundations, and federal and state grants, we aim to eliminate barriers that impede the full development of students and educators. 

Belin-Blank staff 6/2018

Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff


The Belin-Blank Center is part of the University of Iowa’s College of Education.  For the first fifteen years of our existence, the Lindquist Center housed our center.  Early in 2004, we moved from the Lindquist Center to the newly built, six-story Blank Honors Center. This move was essential because over the decades, our staff and faculty have grown; that growth matches the growth in our programs.

Blank Honors Center-0101

Blank Honors Center, home of the Belin-Blank Center, on the Unviersity of Iowa campus

Through all of this change, our values have never wavered; in particular, our strong belief in the benefit of recognizing and validating talent.  Ceremonies such as our annual Recognition Ceremony increase awareness of the needs of gifted and talented students and teachers; simultaneously, they acknowledge for the students, teachers, and their families that their efforts matter.  We have noticed, and we know that they will make a difference. 

30th invitation graphicAn anniversary is an opportunity for reflection and celebration as well as for dreaming about the future.  Thanks to our benefactors, our faculty and staff, and the University of Iowa, this year we celebrate a decades-long reality created from a single vision.  We step into the future empowered to create a better world for the gifted and talented community. Paraphrasing an observation and a question attributed to Sidney Parnes, an early leader in the field of creativity, “We are already living in someone else’s dream of the future; why not make it your dream?”

An Exciting Javits-Funded New Project

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a Javits grant!  The joint project – by co-PIs Professors Susan Assouline, Saba Ali, and Megan Foley-Nicpon, and methodologist Dr. Duhita Mahatmya – consists of a five-year, $2.1 million plan to increase educators’ capacity to identify and provide talented and gifted programming to underrepresented students in Iowa.  Dr. Ali, Associate Dean for Research in the University of Iowa College of Education, and Drs. Assouline, Foley Nicpon, Mahatmya, of the Belin-Blank Center, will use a career intervention Dr. Ali developed, along with I-Excel, a Belin-Blank Center online above-level assessment, to further the goals of this project.

We are fortunate to bring talent and career development opportunities to students with disabilities and students of color living in rural Iowa communities…I look forward to the difference we will make for many students who otherwise would never have been seen or heard.

– Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon

The title of the effort is the “Culturally Responsive Talent Identification and Career Exploration (TICE).”  According to the project abstract, “[u]nderrepresented students, especially students from economically  disadvantaged backgrounds, students of color, rural students, and students with disabilities, are at risk of being overlooked for participation in talented and gifted programs. Project personnel will integrate an expanded talent development model…and a career intervention program…to maximize the identification and development of underrepresented talented and gifted students.”  The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) will also contribute to this project, broadening the courses available to these students by offering online coursework in the schools.  We look forward to this opportunity to use the experience and knowledge of the Belin-Blank Center and the College of Education from the last several decades to impact bright students who are so often overlooked.


Back to School with the Belin-Blank Center

Our August newsletter is in an inbox near you!

What Will You See Through The Window?

The Belin Blank Center is proud to announce the official launch of The Window podcast.  Hosted by the Center’s Director Emeritus, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, The Window can now be found on SoundCloud, in the iTunes Store, and on The Window’s website.

Our current episode features Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek.  Kathy is the Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  Her research in the areas of early language development and infant cognition has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and Human Development, and the Institute of Education Sciences resulting in 14 books and over 200 publications.  Kathy is an advocate for the importance of play and playful education in early childhood, and should be of particular interest to parents and educators alike.

The Window podcast is designed to engage thought leaders on issues relating to maximizing human potential and directing talent toward a larger social good. We invite you to open the window and listen in.

Join Us for Saturday Fun on September 9th!

UPDATE: All seats are now filled for September 9th; however, we do still have availability in our October date for 4th-6th graders and 6th-8th graders, and February classes will be up soon.  You may also join the waitlist for classes that are full – occasionally we have drops and can add students from that waitlist.

Do you have a 2nd-8th grader with an interest and talent in robots, circuits, geography, art, or science fiction?  Check out the classes for our upcoming WINGS date on September 9th in Iowa City!

A variety of classes are available, such as Watercolor Science (grades 2-4). In this workshop, students will use chemistry to create their very own watercolor paints. Using cabbage dye and household items, students will learn about the pH scale and mix their own liquid watercolor palette. Using our homemade watercolors, we will learn about other nifty watercolor tricks and techniques including using salt, rubbing alcohol, and wax to create watercolor works of art!

Another option is Making A World Through Science Fiction Writing (grades 6-8).  Want to build and explore your favorite sci-fi setting in VR? In this course, we’ll talk about what makes our favorite sci-fi worlds so rich and enjoyable.

We’ll try designing and possibly exploring some of these worlds using the virtual reality design program, CoSpaces. Once we’ve spent some time exploring, we’ll work on coming up with ideas for worlds of our own and some stories that could happen there.

And if you already have plans on the 9th, we have several additional WINGS dates coming up, too.

Furthering STEM Excellence and Leadership

We are delighted to announce a nearly-$2-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation that will strengthen our STEM Excellence and Leadership (STEM Excellence) program.

The NSF award of $1.98 million dollars to the Belin-Blank Center is recognition of the Center’s dedication to STEM education for high-ability students who attend under-resourced schools in rural communities.  The four-year grant will permit the research team of Drs. Lori Ihrig, Duhita Mahatmya, and Susan Assouline, who will be assisted by several graduate and undergraduate students, to delve deeply into the experiences and outcomes at districts that implement STEM Excellence.  The program was originally funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF; funded 2014-2016); early this summer, STEM Excellence also received one of the JKCF’s Rural Talent Initiative awards to expand the STEM Excellence program to grades 8 and 9 over the next two years.  With the JKCF funding to expand the STEM Excellence program for students in ten rural Iowa schools, the NSF award to investigate best instructional practice of the STEM Excellence program teachers, and the Belin-Blank Center’s dedication to researching best practice for students and teachers, the University of Iowa is well-positioned to take the lead in advancing STEM learning in rural settings.

Wallace Research Symposium

Wallace postcard 2017Registration is open for the Wallace Research Symposium on Talent Development, to be held April 29-May 1, 2018 at the Mt. Washington Conference Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.  The Wallace Research Symposium is the premiere scholarly conference for the latest research findings in gifted education and talent development.  The call for papers is open until September 15th.

Featured speakers include:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Camilla Benbow
  • Linda Brody
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Elaine Hansen
  • David Lubinski
  • Matt Makel
  • Besty McCoach
  • Paula Olszewski-Kubilius
  • Jonathan Plucker
  • Sally Reis
  • Joseph Renzulli
  • Ann Robinson
  • Nancy Robinson
  • Robert Root-Bernstein
  • Michele Root-Bernstein
  • Del Siegle
  • Amy Shelton
  • Rena Subotnik
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Frank Worrell

The Wallace Research Symposium for Talent Development is co-hosted by the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, and the Vanderbilt University Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. For more information, please visit For questions, please contact

Welcome to Summer at the Belin-Blank Center!

Get the latest news from the Center in our June newsletter!

We’re Prepping for Summer Programs

…and whole host of other things!  Check out our April newsletter for what we’re looking forward to:

APTTI Registration Opening January 30

While the snowflakes are flying in Iowa City, think warm thoughts and start making plans to attend this year’s AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI)! Registration opens Monday, January 30. The institute runs from June 27th to 30th on the University of Iowa campus. This year, we are offering workshops in AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science A, AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Physics 1, and AP US History. (If there’s a course you’d like to see us offer in the future, send the course name to Katie Schabilion at and we’ll consider adding it in future years.)

Who says teachers can’t have fun, too? Last year’s APTTI included social media giveaways, Twitter competition between science workshops, and a whole lot of learning. Who knows what might happen in 2017!


Financial assistance is available through IOAPA and through the College Board. College Board scholarship application materials must be submitted by February 15, so don’t wait too long! For more on funding opportunities, visit our website.

To learn more about our workshops, instructors, and schedule, and to register for APTTI 2017, visit We’d love to see you there!

We’re Wrapping Up 2016 In Style

…with a holiday greeting and the December newsletter!


Happy Holidays from the Belin-Blank Center!

Making Sense of Test Scores

ideal-solutions-rocketWe are thrilled to announce the launch of IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration, the platform for understanding I-Excel and ACT test scores.  A comprehensive, easy-to-read report helps educators and parents decide the best curricular fit for one or more high-ability students.  IDEAL Solutions helps to translate data into research-supported action.

The type of information provided by above-level testing (via I-Excel or ACT) helps parents and educators make decisions based on facts and research.  IDEAL Solutions provides individual reports, as well as group reports useful for teachers looking for ways to challenge their high-ability students.

I-Excel, offered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders, licenses content developed by the testing company, ACT, that was designed to measure the academic progress of junior high students.  From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th-6th graders for over 20 years.

After testing, I-Excel scores appear in IDEAL Solutions automatically.  I-Excel is available in three different ways:

  1. BESTS In-School: For groups of 4 or more students, educators can set up a test date in their school any day of the week. Learn more.
  2. Individual Testing: For 1-3 students, parents or educators can set up a test date any time. A licensed educator must proctor the test.  Learn more.
  3. Test dates are also periodically offered at the Belin-Blank Center. Learn more.

ACT, offered to high-ability 7th-9th graders, is primarily used in the college admissions process and is available only through national testing dates established by ACT. Locations are available throughout the United States.  The ACT takes approximately three hours to complete.  Learn more.

For more information, visit the new IDEAL Solutions website!

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Get the Latest From the Belin-Blank Center

Our October newsletter has TAG identification advice, online courses, a roundup of media from the Recognition Ceremony, and more!


Join us at #NAGC16!


Will you be at #NAGC16?  The Belin-Blank Center staff will be attending and presenting at this year’s National Association for Gifted Children conference, and we hope to see you there!  Below are listed the NAGC sessions by Belin-Blank Center staff members:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

7:30 AM – 2:30 PM  –  Pre-Convention Program: Models to Implementation: From Theory to Practice Room: Fiesta 5

Susan Assouline et al.


Friday, November 4, 2016

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM  –  Addressing the Needs of Today’s Gifted Learners: Putting Research into Practice Room: Fiesta 6

Susan Assouline et al.


8:00 AM – 9:00 AM  –  Making Informed Decisions About Early Entrance to Kindergarten Room: Fiesta 3

Joyce Goins & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik


1:15 PM – 2:15 PM  –  Imagine the Possibilities for Arts and Humanities in an Era of STEM Enthusiasm Room: Exhibit Hall – Roundtable

Clar Baldus, Lori Ihrig, Ashlee Van Fleet, Jan Warren


2:30 PM – 3:30 PM  –  It Takes a Village: Partnerships to Support the Whole Gifted Child Room: Durango 2

Susannah Wood et al.


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM  –  Inspiring Innovative Thinking to Develop STEM Talents Room: Exhibit Hall – Roundtable

Laurie Croft & Ashlee Van Fleet


Saturday, November 5, 2016

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM  –  Helping Gifted Students Reach Infinity and Beyond: Effective Collaboration Between Teachers and Counselors Room: Fiesta 4

Erin Lane & Susannah Wood


9:15 AM – 10:15 AM  –  A Nation Empowered: Professional Learning About Acceleration Is Essential Room: Coronado D

Laurie Croft


9:15 AM – 10:15 AM  –  Imagining the Possibilities for Underserved Students: How to Make Online Courses Work Like Magic Room: Exhibit Hall – Roundtable

Kristin Flanary & Emily Ladendorf


9:15 AM – 10:15 AM  –  Research and Statistics Made Easy (and Relevant!) Room: Coronado B

Megan Foley Nicpon et al.


9:15 AM – 10:15 AM  –  Understanding One of the Best-Kept Secrets of Identifying Gifted Students: Above-Level Testing Room: Monterrey 1

Susan Assouline & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik


12:00 PM – 1:00 PM  –  Identification for Academic Acceleration: Recommendations for Best Practice Room: Exhibit Hall – Poster

Katie Schabilion


1:15 PM – 2:15 PM  –  Early Entrance Programs and Academies: Four Diverse Approaches with a Common Mission Room: Monterrey 2-3

Susan Assouline, Jan Warren et al.


2:30 PM – 3:30 PM  –  Lightning Talks: Innovative and Collaborative Professional Development Exemplars Room: Monterrey 2-3

Laurie Croft et al.


2:30 PM – 3:30 PM  –  The Arts and Humanities: Swimming Upstream in a Sea of STEM Room: Exhibit Hall – Roundtable


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM  –  The Coalition for High Performance: Advancing the Psychological Science of Talent Development Room: Coronado N

Megan Foley Nicpon et al.

5:00 PM – 6:15 PM  –  Celebration of Excellence Awards Ceremony (followed by reception) Room: Coronado H-J

Sunday, November 6, 2016

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM  –  Academic Acceleration Policy and the Talent Search Model: Using Evidence to Guide Policy Room: Coronado F

Susan Assouline, Nick Colangelo, Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Joyce VanTassel-Baska


8:00 AM – 9:00 AM  –  Career Counseling and the Gifted Student: Making Possibilities Happen Room: Coronado C

David Duys, Carol Smith, Susannah Wood


9:15 AM – 10:15 AM  –  Imagining the Possibilities: Effective Teacher Preparation in Gifted Education Room: Coronado A

Laurie Croft et al.

What Will the Next Innovations in Education Be?

Recently, we were lucky enough to host Sally Krisel and Holley Murchison at the Belin-Blank Center!  Sally is President-elect of the National Association for Gifted Children and Director of Innovative and Advanced Programs for Hall County Schools in Gainesville, Georgia.  Holley founded the Hall Pass Tour and Oratory Glory and was an Inspiration Director at The Future Project.

We had a fantastic group discussion about serving high-ability and highly creative students in new ways.  Sally talked about how Hall County Schools created a completely different, interdisciplinary, interest-focused gifted program and the challenges that come with a massive change in a school’s culture.  Holley told us about the common denominator in all of her projects: helping people own their voice.  Whether this happens with a group of students planning a concert for their school or a professional learning how to give a presentation with confidence, it’s all about learning to communicate effectively.   Thanks, Sally and Holley!

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Our Back-to-School Picture

It’s that time again!  Like students across the country, our staff took a back-to-school picture, and we just had to share:

Belin-Blank staff, Belin-Blank Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 8/19/2016.

We’re proud to embark on another school year of supporting the needs of high-ability learners.

World Teacher’s Day

Happy World Teacher’s Day! As William A. Ward once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates.The great teacher inspires.”

As part of the Belin-Blank Center’s Recognition Ceremony, honored students were asked to nominate one of their teachers and answer the question “Why did you nominate this teacher?” See the slideshow below to see why students think you’re awesome.

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Belin-Blank Center and all its staff want to thank the teachers who inspire our students every day!

Message From the Director: Keeping Time

These two words capture the perennial essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s buzz during the summer weeks and months.  Like a world-renowned orchestra, we’ve been rehearsing our opening number for months.  Like a world-renowned orchestra, we have multiple sections (programs for educators, pre-college students, clinic and assessment services, and research).  And, like a world-renowned orchestra, our professionals are extremely talented artists (administrators) who are trained on a variety of instruments. They are poised and ready to strike the first note as soon as the conductor raises the baton.

Why does the “music” of Belin-Blank Center programming sound so rich and fulfilling?  Because we’ve learned to keep time.  We’ve learned how to balance the benefits of exact timing with the nuances of human expression.   The end result is a polished performance that sounds comfortingly familiar, yet offers a new approach through creatively applying a new tempo, a new instrument, or a new combination of notes.

I hope that educators, parents, and students will experience first-hand the joy of the music we make each summer (and throughout the year!).  If you can’t experience the Belin-Blank Center’s summer in person, tune in to our blog, Twitter feed (@belinblank), or check out photos on our website.  Read our newsletter to stay informed about our newest compositions.

At the end of July, the music softens and the tempo slows, but we never completely stop.  We pause just long enough to take a breath, re-tune our instruments and get ready for our fall performance.

The 2016 Iowa AP Index Is Out!

2016 Index

The 2016 Iowa AP Index has been released, and for the eighth straight year, George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids is the Top School in AP participation. The Index, calculated using the previous year’s AP exam and graduation data, recognizes the Top 50 schools in Iowa for their commitment to offering advanced learning opportunities through the College Board’s Advanced Placement program.

The Index reflects one facet of service delivery, rather than overall quality. However, “schools that make [advanced learning] opportunities available to the students are clearly committed to the success of the entire student body,” said Dr. Susan Assouline, director of the Belin-Blank Center.

To learn more about the Index, and to see the top 50 AP schools in Iowa, visit

Discovering Talented Students

BBC students outside

As you are thinking about ways to challenge your students next year, consider investigating above-level testing with the Belin-Blank Center’s new online test, I-Excel. I-Excel is an above-level test for high-ability 4th – 6th graders and assesses in the areas of math, science, English, and reading.

What is different and exciting about this?

  1. I-Excel assesses in science, which is not always addressed in above-level testing.
  2. I-Excel is online and can be delivered in your school at a time convenient for you and your students (weekdays or weekends).
  3. The Belin-Blank Center provides an extensive interpretation of scores allowing educators to make data-driven decisions and differentiate for their students through curricular intervention and enrichment. Educators receive a group report plus an individual report for each student.
  4. I-Excel licenses content developed by ACT that was designed to measure academic progress of junior high students. From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.
  5. I-Excel helps educators discover exceptionally talented students.

Learn more at:

Or contact with any questions.

The Latest News From the Center, All In One Place

Our April newsletter is out!  We’ve got free AP Exam Reviews for Iowa students, professional development, why acceleration is important, and more!

February Newsletter

Message from the Director: What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

An appealing refrain plus a catchy tune find their way into our heads and often stick.  This is exactly what happened to me during a recent Zumba class when the refrain, “What’s wrong with being confident” from Demi Lovato’s song “Confident” started. During Zumba, my thoughts are typically absorbed with upcoming Belin-Blank Center programs or events, the director’s message, or a research project.  These thoughts often flit from one to the next and back and forth like a moth in a room with lights on opposite sides of the space.  It’s no big surprise that these simple words, with the subtle, yet profound message, infiltrated my mind.

First I thought about two special events hosted in March.  The month started with the highly successful, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), at which 13 high school students confidently presented their research findings to an audience of nearly 200 teachers and students from around Iowa and 5 were selected to attend the National JSHS.  We finished March with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Recognition Ceremony, where Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mentions from Iowa were recognized for their creativity.

How wonderful to meet these young, talented, creative, and confident students and – for both programs — to have the support from the national offices of these long-running, prestigious recognition programs.

Everything that we do at the Belin-Blank Center is designed to nurture potential and inspire excellence and thereby support the development of self-confidence. We live up to our tagline through well-established programs and service as well as through new, innovative programming:

“Confidence” is a longish song, one reason it’s good for a Zumba warm up!  My thoughts jumped to a current research project, based upon previous Belin-Blank Center research findings that investigated the differences in the attributions boys make for success in math or science compared to girls.

The answer to the research question “What attributions do gifted boys and girls make for success – and failure—in math and science?” was juxtaposed with Lovato’s words and appealing tune: “What’s wrong with being confident?”

The respondents in the study were asked to choose among ability, effort, luck, or task difficulty as attributions for success and failure. Ability and effort were overwhelmingly the two categories selected (these two attributional choices accounted for 75% or more of the responses for success in math or science). However, the two choices with the highest percentages for ability for both math and science varied significantly for boys and girls: 44% of the boys chose ability as their reason for their success in math and 42.5% made the same choice for their success in science. The next highest choice for boys was effort, 32% and 37%, respectively. Girls’ choices, however, varied significantly from boys: 26% of girls chose ability as the attribution for their success in math and 23% chose ability as their attribution for success in science. Nearly twice as many girls (50%) chose effort as their attribution for success in math and more than twice as many (55%) chose effort as their attribution for success in science.

Attributional research is but one facet of the complex topic known broadly as motivation, an area that is extremely important to our understanding of patterns that could impact, positively or negatively, the performance of students. Attribution theory represents a well-researched cognitive model. However, despite its relevance to our understanding of gifted students, attributional research specifically investigating the beliefs that gifted students have for their academic successes and failures has not been thoroughly researched.  Results from the study mentioned above are much more extensive than reported here; however, they are the foundation for a new investigation of attributional choice regarding success and failure from a current generation of students.

For educators and psychologists to be effective in designing curricular or counseling interventions, it is important to know an individual’s motivational mindset. It is also important for society to recognize these mindsets. As we concluded a decade ago, “We see potential negatives for girls [or boys] who do not accurately recognize their academic abilities. They may be more tentative about undertaking challenges or putting themselves in competitive situations” (Assouline et al., 2006, p. 293).

These findings, along with our new research, lead back to the question: What’s wrong with being confident?

Welcome, Duhita and David!

Our staff continues to grow!  In the past few months, we welcomed Duhita Mahatmya, who is the College of Education’s new Research Scientist, and David Gould, who is a program administrator for the Honors Program and the Bucksbaum Academy.

Duhita Mahatmya

Duhita Mahatmya


Duhita Mahatmya is the new Research Methodologist for the College of Education. At the Belin-Blank Center, she works closely with faculty and staff to evaluate and assess the programs offered through the center.






David Gould

David Gould


David Gould will assist in coordinating the promotion, development, and administration of the Bucksbaum Academy.







Duhita and David bring unique skill sets to the Center, and we’re excited to have them on our team!

What Are Your Students Ready to Learn?

Feb16_IExcelAfter two years of planning, we are launching I-Excel, an above-level test for high-ability 4th – 6th graders. I-Excel tests students in science, mathematics, reading, and English.


I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format that can be administered in the classroom.  Test results are interpreted and educators quickly receive group and individual reports.

Visit or contact Ann Shoplik at to learn how your school can be involved.

Pilot Test the New Test, I-Excel

This spring, the Belin-Blank Center will launch I-Excel, a new online, above-level assessment for high-ability 4th – 6th graders.  I-Excel will help educators identify and tailor programs for academically talented students. I-Excel tests in four areas: science, mathematics, reading, and English.

I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format.  Educators receive recommendations for their students based upon the results.  Parents and educators receive an individual student interpretation.

We are pleased to report that I-Excel pilot testing has been an excellent experience for students and educators, and we invite you to consider the opportunity to pilot test I-Excel in your school during February or March. There is no cost for participation in pilot testing. To learn more, visit or contact Ann Shoplik at For additional information about using I-Excel to identify students for programming, visit

Get the Latest News from the Belin-Blank Center

Our December newsletter is out, featuring everything from bunny slippers to webinars!

December newsletter

Message from the Director: Thanks a Million x 10!!

Question: What is the result of juxtaposing generosity and inspiration with excellence in programming and collaboration?

Answer: Educational leadership and innovation designed to create outstanding educational experiences for some of the world’s most capable high-school-aged students, all supported through an endowed program made possible with a $10 million dollar commitment to the Belin-Blank Center.


In the February newsletter, we’ll have additional details regarding the program and the people who inspired philanthropist Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan to create an endowment for this unique and highly specialized program (formal naming subject to Board of Regents, State of Iowa approval). The endowment will include merit scholarships to students admitted to this specialized program and comprehensive programming to support the scholarship recipients.  Learn more at

This exciting news is an indescribably incredible welcome to 2016.  While the calendar year is just winding down, 2016 has been a major presence at the Belin-Blank Center since August, when we commenced planning for summer. In fact, it’s not too early for professionals and students to think about this coming summer.

At the same time, it’s not too late for parents to register students for spring 2016 opportunities, including above-level testing through BESTS and enrichment experiences through the Weekend Institute for Gifted Students (WINGS). Likewise, professionals have myriad options for spring professional development, including a webinar on twice-exceptionality and several courses offering from one to three semester hours of credit.

An end-of-year edition of a newsletter would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the highlights from the past 12 months and an expression of gratitude to the people responsible for the highlights as well as the every-day activities, which form the foundation of the center’s programming. My thanks to the Belin-Blank Center’s staff of 14 administrators, 5 secretaries, 19 students (including graduate, practicum, and undergraduate students), 2 faculty partners, and 2 resource staff members. Through our collaborations, we made possible the two-volume publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students; summer programming for 743 pre-college students; the installation of the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Gallery; the launch of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program for middle-school students; professional development courses and workshops that resulted in 852 credit hours earned by 572 educators; the creation of I-Excel, an online above-level test for advanced 4th-6th grade students; specialized social-skills groups for high-ability students; and at least 15 paper, poster, round-table, special sessions at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) conference in Phoenix.

Our founders and benefactors continue to inspire our work with the students and professionals we serve. We look forward to continuing this work into the next year! Happy New Year!!

Belin-Blank Center Social Skills Research Opportunity

The Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to invite students with social skills challenges (either due to ASD or another diagnosis) to apply for participation in a social skills intervention group. Students should be in grades 9 through 12 and demonstrate high ability on an individually-administered intellectual assessment (e.g., Wechsler Scales of Intelligence). There will be 10 group sessions, each 60 minutes in length, conducted at the Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic during the Spring 2016 semester. Parents, students, and the students’ teacher will also be asked to complete rating scales regarding the student’s psychosocial functioning.

The social skills group will be part of a research study examining the effectiveness of a particular social skills training intervention with high ability students. There will be no charge for this service. Applicants will be screened for inclusion in the group, and the intervention implemented will be tailored to the specific needs of the group based on information obtained during the recruitment process. Parents will be asked to provide documentation of the adolescent’s cognitive abilities and diagnosis. Interested families are encouraged to contact Alissa Doobay, PhD, at 319-335-6148 or We look forward to hearing from you!

Celebrating 20 Years at the Belin-Blank Center

Brian Douglas (Assistant Director, Finance, Operations, & Technology) and Jan Warren (Assistant Director, Student Services) are both celebrating 20 years of service at the Belin-Blank Center!  Congratulations, Jan and Brian!


(Left to right) Jan Warren, Susan Assouline, Brian Douglas

Templeton Fellows Reunion in Lithuania!

2015-11-02 13.01.48Belin-Blank Center Associate Director for Professional Development Laurie Croft recently went to Kaunas, Lithuania for the 3rd International Conference: Gifted Children: Challenges and Possibilities 2015, and she saw some familiar faces!  Dr. Croft (far left) poses above with Templeton Fellows who attended the 2008 Wallace Symposium as representatives of their countries.

To the right of Dr. Croft is Dr. Bronė Narkevičienė, Dean, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Kaunas University of Technology, site for the conference; Dr. Narayan Desai, Principal Investigator, Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program, India; and Dr. Pedro Sanchez Escobedo, Professor of Education, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, Mexico.

What’s New at the Belin-Blank Center?

Read our latest newsletter to find out!Oct Newsletter preview

Summer is Coming!

summeronthebrain_logoSummer is coming sooner than you might think, so start making plans now! Our Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) begins accepting applications in November and all of our other programs (Blast, BSI, JSI, and NSI) will accept applications in December. Get ready for another fun-filled adventure with a summer at the Belin-Blank Center!

Coming to ITAG? Check Out Our IOAPA Presentations!

Governor Branstad has declared October 18-24 Gifted Education Week in Iowa in conjunction with the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association Annual Conference. This year’s ITAG conference will be held in Des Moines, Iowa on October 19-20, 2015 and is focused on the theme of “The Core Challenge: Building Options and Breaking Barriers”. IOAPA and the Belin-Blank Center are excited to share ways that the Belin-Blank Center rises up to the Core Challenge, and have several presentations related to this theme. Check out our presentation topics below (IOAPA presentations are marked with an *). We hope to see you there!

Monday, 10:00-10:50:

  • *Comparing Advanced Placement, Concurrent Enrollment, and PSEO for Iowa Students (Iowa C)
  • Academic Acceleration: Influencing Perceptions through Exposure (Boardroom 1 & 2)

Monday, 11:05-11:55:

  • Building Options with the Belin-Blank Center (Ballroom South)

Monday, 2:35-3:25:

  • *I Have an IOAPA Student…Now What? (Iowa C)
  • A Teacher’s Guide to Twice Exceptionality (Ballroom South)

Tuesday, 2:30-3:20:

  • Acceleration and STEM: Evidence Trumps Excuses for Holding Students Back (Iowa E)

Interested in all the options ITAG has to offer? View more information about the conference here. For more information about IOAPA, visit

Did You Miss the October WINGS? Join Us in November!

005The Weekend Institute Gifted Students (WINGS) will be back on November 7th with classes in the morning and afternoon.

Topics being offered include; Great Goo Investigations! Adventures in Animation and Comic Book Art, Logical Leaps, Robot Theater and The Neuroscience of Abnormal Psychology.

Find out more  at

Have You Heard? Invent Iowa is Back!


Head over to and check out all the information about the State Invention Convention!  As you explore the site, you will find information about the revamped Invent Iowa program, a timeline with important dates and other helpful resources.

If you have any questions regarding Invent Iowa, please email Ashlee at

Back-to-School Picture Day at the Center

Our fall semester started on a beautiful late summer day and included a staff photo by professional photographer, Mark Tade.

Belin-Blank0815Our bright and smiling faces reveal a lot about our staff — here are three observations:

  1. There are many people dedicated to our mission, which is to empower the world-wide gifted community.
  2. We work hard and work well together.
  3. We love what we do and where we work.

Please join us in our beautiful building to attend a class, workshop, webinar, to visit the library or clinic, or to see the amazing art throughout the building.

Iowa Online AP Academy Mentors: How Do You Support Your AP Students?

The beginning of the school year is a great time to help your IOAPA students implement good strategies for a successful school year! Check out the following suggestions we’ve provided for developing a support network below:

  • Check in frequently. Even if students don’t need anything immediately, knowing that the resource is there and available can be reassuring. The University of Minnesota’s mentor guidelines note that by checking in frequently, the mentor builds trust with their mentee and can identify areas of concern more quickly because the relationship is established.
  • Connect students with AP resources. As mentors, you are not expected to provide all the answers to students, but knowing where they can go for additional support or helping them communicate with their instructor can be hugely beneficial. More suggestions for how to help students when they are struggling can be found here.
  • Familiarize yourself with College Board offerings. The College Board administers the AP program and has a wealth of resources to help students succeed in classes, learn how college credit might be applied, and prepare for exams in the spring. Visit their website.
  • Check in with other mentors about their strategies for student support. The mentor support network (more information can be found in the IOAPA Mentor Handbook) is a great way for new and veteran mentors to connect and provide suggestions to each other. If you are involved, other mentors who have experienced Iowa Online AP Academy courses can be great resources for how to talk to students and provide them with support!
  • Encourage a practice of breaks and relaxation. Everyone sometimes needs a reminder to take breaks and prioritize what’s important, and students are no different. There are lots of different ways that mentors can creatively promote stress management and healthy habits. For students, this list can be a good place to start.

You can find additional resources and suggestions for mentors here.

Have You Seen Our August Newsletter?

It’s hot off the (virtual) presses and full of updates from the Belin-Blank Center:


Throwback Thursday: Summer Programs Edition

SICEI group photo

Khizer with the 1991 SICEI class (photo from the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s newsletter)

In 1991, Khizer Husain attended the Summer Institute for Creative Engineering and Inventiveness (SICEI), one of the early summer programs that the Belin-Blank Center hosted (at the time, the Center was called the Connie Belin National Center for Gifted Education).  High school students came from across Iowa to spend three weeks studying environmental science.  The program was a blend of engineering and creativity, bound together by the idea of solving a real-world problem.  Among other experiences, they heard from an environmental science expert who discussed how poplar trees can help reduce groundwater pollution by removing nitrates from the water.

Following the program, the students teamed up with mentors and began an independent project related to environmental science.  Khizer said that the program was meant to “whet your appetite [for research] over the summer, but now we want you to do whatever you want with environmental science.”  One student designed a bicycle trail.  Khizer focused on how industrial scrubbers can help reduce pollution, and he recalls another student who “built sort of a precursor to a Nest system with his home computer.  The judges were so impressed that they gave him a scholarship to the University on the spot.”

Khizer had as many stories about the other students as the projects and topics.  “I felt like the program…was the first time I had colleagues so deeply passionate about stuff – the meaning of life and philosophy.”

Husain_Khizer-5 copy cropped

Khizer Husain

Today, Khizer works for Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC. as Chief of Staff.  His job is about “the odd nooks and crannies that make an organization work.”  The school focuses on expeditionary learning and self-discovery.  In addition to his work at Two Rivers, Khizer has also written several stories for Farfaria, a story app for children in grades 2-9.


Are you a Belin-Blank Center programs alum?  Check out our alumni page!

Welcome to the Iowa Online AP Academy!

This year, we are offering 13 AP courses for high school students and eight Honors courses for middle school students through our partnership with Apex Learning.

As students get acclimated to their online classes, we wanted to provide reminders about important dates related to their IOAPA classes:

  • September 11: Last day to drop without a fee (see the IOAPA Mentor Handbook for more information)
  • November 2: Spring 2016 enrollment begins
  • December 11: Spring 2016 enrollment ends
  • December 18: Fall semester ends
  • January 4: Spring semester begins

Remember to check our website at for other updates and information related to IOAPA courses!


Join Us In Celebrating Our Director’s New Appointment!

Endowed chair event final

Have You Registered for 2015-2016 IOAPA?

We still have a month to go before IOAPA classes kick off for Fall 2015, but our registration deadline is quickly approaching! As a reminder, registration for full-year and fall semester IOAPA classes closes on August 12. You will need to re-register your school even if you have participated in IOAPA in past years. Fall semester classes begin on August 24.

Remember to keep up with our IOAPA updates through the summer by following @kflanaryIOAPA on Twitter and checking out our website: