The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium.
The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community.
Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website.
You can create engaging learning experiences for teens by making it possible for them to conduct original research and connect with a larger scholarly community through citizen science. While collecting original data has tremendous merit, sometimes barriers to the necessary equipment or resources for effective data collection are challenging to navigate. Publicly available real-world data sets are one way to circumvent these obstacles and get teens researching—for real.
Did you know that there are more than 244,000 data sets publicly available to anyone on data.gov? This website has data from a wide variety of sources from agriculture, climate, and ecosystems, to manufacturing, energy, and finance. Looking at the available data, you and your teen might wonder how public parks might affect a neighborhood’s resilience to natural disasters. With a research question in mind, teens are ready to learn how to design their investigation and then dig into those data!
Student research doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense or fancy equipment. With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, students can produce high-quality original research from their bedrooms or the classroom. Publicly available data sets abound and they can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of STEM curiosity.
For more information on student research, be sure to check out our other posts on this topic!
As a teacher, we know you have many goals for your students.
First and foremost, you are helping your students develop an understanding of
your discipline’s fundamentals. But we know that you do so much more than that!
You work to create opportunities for students to be creative and curious,
effectively identify and solve problems, think critically, set goals, make
decisions, communicate well, express confidence, and actively participate in
The goals you have for your students are abstract, so you
create actual experiences in your classroom to help students develop and
demonstrate these behaviors. But you’re busier than ever, and resources are
scarce. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to promote the many goals you
hold for them through a single project?
When you support students in conducting original research
projects, you are creating an environment for them to be curious and identify
problems that spark their interest. You are requiring that they think
critically about what questions are fruitful to ask and evaluate what can be
investigated given their constraints. You are expecting them to solve problems
that arise while designing and implementing their methods, determine how they
will collect and analyze data, generate conclusions that make sense and determine
the extent to which those conclusions are trustworthy.
When students participate in Iowa JSHS, they write scientific
papers detailing their investigations. Any high school student in the state of
Iowa can submit a research paper to Iowa JSHS at no cost. Each one is evaluated
by a panel of judges at the University of Iowa, creating an authentic audience
for whom students must develop a written product. The paper submission deadline
also creates authentic space that imposes the need for students to set
continual goals throughout their research project.
All students who submit papers are invited to attend the spring Iowa JSHS competition. The top 15 finalists are invited to deliver oral presentations to a panel of judges and a ballroom full of their teachers and peers. This differs from all other regional- or state-level science competitions, where students typically present a poster to individuals or small groups. Teachers tell us that the oral presentation component of Iowa JSHS deepens their students’ understanding of their project and helps them develop strong communication skills and confidence in their own abilities.
It’s not all business at Iowa JSHS, though. Research is a
collaborative experience, so we work to foster a sense of community. Students
in attendance have the opportunity to meet trained researchers, from
undergraduates to professors, during presentations and University lab tours.
They also have a chance to get to know other high school student researchers
through meals together, swimming in the hotel pool, and even a trivia night!
Students tell us that they value developing friendships with peers from other
districts who are also interested in STEM and research. In these ways, Iowa
JSHS invites students to actively participate in their newfound community.
of the common
characteristics of gifted students is a deep curiosity about the topics
they are interested in. They may spend hours scouring Google for more
information, ask complex questions in class, or observe how the topic relates
to one they learned about in another class.
As a classroom teacher, this level of interest can be exciting to witness. However, it may also present logistical challenges when trying to simultaneously maintain curriculum standards and balance the various learning needs of a classroom full of students.
school student STEM research can help solve both of these challenges. These
projects offer a way to implement the Science and Engineering Practices of the
new Next Generation Science Standards
(NGSS) and help students develop 21st-century
skills, while also naturally differentiating instruction through inquiry
and student choice.
The performance standards of the NGSS emphasize the role of students actively generating conceptual understanding while engaging in the practices of science. In this way, the NGSS reflect the idea that understanding the practices of science is just as important as the content knowledge itself. Research projects also help students develop important skills necessary for success in the 21st century. According to P21, essential life and career skills needed today include flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership and responsibility. Student research projects offer a chance to practice each of these skills.
research also helps the classroom teacher engage students in science content by
allowing them to pursue an individual inquiry into a problem or generate new knowledge
about a topic of their choice. Having the opportunity to choose an individual
project exposes students to design and problem solving skills, as well as
hands-on, minds-on, and collaborative learning.
can differentiate instruction for students who are enthusiastic about diving
even deeper into their topic by encouraging them to submit their projects to
various high school student research competitions. These offer students an authentic audience to
which to present their work and a chance to win accolades, prizes, and even
college scholarships for their work. Competing for a prize adds a level of student
engagement by having a real, tangible benefit to completing their projects and
putting together a well-written research paper and presentation.
Research competitions, such as Iowa’s regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), provide students an opportunity to engage with experts who will critique their work, and valuable experience presenting and communicating science to a broad audience. These events often offer students a chance to interact with STEM professionals, listen to presentations on other students’ research, or go on tours that expose them to real-world research environments and various STEM careers. This connects students to the STEM community and exposes them to the culture of science.
Iowa’s regional JSHS allows teachers to bring non-competing students as delegate attendees. Students who attend as delegates have the opportunity to see the top projects presented, attend lab tours, and interact with research professionals and other student-scientists from around the state. The top presenters advance to the national competition, where they join student researchers from around the nation to compete for substantial scholarships. There are also opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits, and student networking events. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at the national competition and more than $20,000 in scholarships! Next year, it could be your student.