Category Archives: STEM

Computer Science Education in Iowa

At the end of April, then-Governor Branstad signed Senate File 274 into law, establishing goals for expanding computer science education opportunities for Iowa students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Read more about the bill here. These goals include: offering at least one CS course in each high school and offering basic and exploratory computer science instruction in each elementary and middle school.

The bill also created a work group to make recommendations for meeting these goals by July 1, 2019. The Computer Science Education Work Group released their final report last week. The report includes detailed recommendations for using CS courses to satisfy graduation requirements, integrating CS courses into a career and technical education (CTE) pathway, ensuring equitable access by offering courses in a number of settings, developing a scope and sequence for CS education, and using the CS professional development fund to meet goals. It will be exciting to see these recommendations turn into actions to expand CS education access to all students in Iowa.

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Through the Iowa Online AP Academy, high-ability Iowa students in 6th through 12th grades can access above-level CS coursework, and teachers can take advantage of professional development opportunities. Registration for our spring-semester Introduction to Computer Science course for students in 6th-9th grades is available now; visit our website for more on courses and registration.

We Love a Good Field Trip

We were lucky enough to tag along when sixth graders from the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont STEM Excellence and Leadership program visited the University of Iowa State Hygienic Lab (SHL) with their teacher, Maura Young. Their journey started with students investigating a hypothetical zombie outbreak at Iowa county fairs across the state. Through this simulation, students learned about the role of the SHL in disease detection across the state.

Sifting through stream and river samples in search of insects.

Students also had the opportunity to visit the SHL’s limnology lab to learn how Iowa’s waterways are monitored and see some intriguing aquatic invertebrates.

They toured the serology and microbiology labs to learn about how the SHL lab runs the state’s newborn screening and infectious disease testing programs, which featured a memorable peek at a tapeworm.

Specimens that limnologists have taken from streams and rivers in Iowa to study water quality and species trends.

Students learned about new STEM careers they had not considered before and saw some of the many different science disciplines conducted at the State Hygienic Lab that improve Iowans’ quality of life.

It was a great day full of discovery!  We would like to thank our hosts at the SHL for creating such an interesting and informative afternoon.  We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National Science Foundation for the STEM Excellence and Leadership program.

Scholarships for Young Researchers

Looking for ways to provide high achieving students with additional opportunity? The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) offers substantial scholarships to Iowa students for original high school research.

The University of Iowa invites all students grades 9-12 in the state to present their original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers at the regional symposium in Iowa City this March. Five finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS will be awarded academic scholarships ranging from $750 to $2,750 and will be invited to compete at the 55th National JSHS for scholarships up to an additional $12,000. To apply, students need to submit their papers by January 12, 2018, so it’s not too late to start research projects! On January 24, we will notify candidates if their work has been selected for presentation.

Timeline at-a-glance:

Fall Semester Students conduct original research
January 12 Research paper and application deadline
January 24 Iowa Regional Symposium selection notification
Feb 2 Registration deadline for student delegates, teachers, and chaperones
March 5 & 6 Iowa Regional JSHS in Iowa City
Late April National JSHS

Regardless of whether or not their paper is selected, we encourage all interested students to attend the Iowa Regional Symposium as delegates from their home schools, and we further welcome all STEM teachers in Iowa to attend and bring your students. For more information, please visit the Iowa JSHS website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS. Don’t hesitate to contact JSHS@belinblank.org if the Symposium is of interest to you or your students.

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.

Scholarship Program for Young Iowa Researchers

Do you have young researchers in your classroom whose work begs to be recognized? Are you looking for ways to provide your high achieving students with additional opportunities? The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) offers substantial scholarships to Iowa students for original high school research.

The University of Iowa invites all students grades 9-12 in the state to present their original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers at the Regional Symposium in Iowa City this March. Five finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS will be awarded academic scholarships ranging from $750 to $2,750 and will be invited to compete at the 55th National JSHS for scholarships up to an additional $12,000. To apply, students need to submit their papers by January 12, 2018, so it’s not too late to start research projects! On January 24, we will notify candidates if their work has been selected for presentation.

Regardless of whether or not their paper is selected, we encourage all interested students to attend the Regional Symposium as delegates from their home schools, and we further welcome you and all other STEM teachers in Iowa to attend and bring your students. Student delegates pay just $25 for lodging and the Awards Banquet, and the $50 fee for teachers and chaperones is waived for every five students in attendance from your school (i.e. 10 student delegates = 2 teachers/chaperones).

Timeline at-a-glance

Fall Semester Students conduct original research
January 12 Research paper and application deadline
January 24 Regional Symposium selection notification
Feb 2 Registration deadline for student delegates, teachers, and chaperones
March 5 & 6 Iowa Regional JSHS in Iowa City
Late April National JSHS

For more information, please visit our website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS. Don’t hesitate to contact us at JSHS@belinblank.org if the Symposium is of interest to you or your students. We look forward to reading all the brilliant papers from Iowa’s next generation of researchers!

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.

Message from the Director: Summertime is Talent Development Time

Welcome to the Belin-Blank Center’s 29th summer of programs for teachers and students!  While in the midst of serving hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students, we will deliver TAG courses and workshops to teachers, evaluate clients in the Assessment and Counseling Clinic, and prepare for 2017-2018 fall and spring opportunities.  Dozens of short-term faculty and staff, including program coordinators, teaching assistants, instructors, and residential advisors, assist our permanent staff members in accomplishing our goals for Summer on the Brain.  While many students come from Iowa, we will also welcome students from 28 other states, plus Canada, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Turkey!

Saying good-bye at the end of each program is always difficult.  However, everyone can stay connected to the Belin-Blank Center through our newsletter and The Window, a new podcast hosted by Director Emeritus, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo.  As described in the article published in The Gazette, The Window aims to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the listeners and break new ground in our thinking about talent development and our educational systems vis-à-vis the talent development process.

Speaking of talent development, we are thrilled to share that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has introduced a new grant program, the Rural Talent Initiative, and the Belin-Blank Center is one of the six grantees.  In 2014, the Center received a $500,000 Talent Development Award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for its STEM Excellence and Literacy (SEAL) program for students in grades 5 to 7.  It will use its new grant to expand the program to students in grades 8 and 9 in the 10 rural Iowa school districts currently implementing SEAL. More than 1,000 students and their teachers in these districts will receive direct benefits over a two-year period due to this grant.

One thing we’ve found in nearly thirty years of summer programs is that there is always more to learn.  Even on the sleepiest summer days, students of all ages are at the Center learning exciting new things!