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).
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
With the year 2020 staring us in the face and ushering in a new decade, it’s hard to resist “vision” metaphors. I’ve always appreciated this quote by Jonathan Swift; in fact, we featured it during the January 2004 opening of the Blank Honors Center, where the Belin-Blank Center is housed. In retrospect, this quote was a great choice for the occasion, because it characterizes the optimism and collective energy that the Belin-Blank Center’s staff pour into our work for bright students and their teachers. Over the past 16 years, we have enjoyed this wonderful space and created many engaging opportunities, always looking toward the goal of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence.
Looking forward, opportunities in 2020 abound! Indeed, there is no better time than the shortest days of winter to envision the long, warm days of summer 2020 and the classes being planned for students and teachers. We are pleased to let you know that applications for our student summer programs are now open!
In our planning, we aspire to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our program participants. For example, for several years, we’ve offered University of Iowa credit to high school students enrolled in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Residencies. New in 2020, we will offer 1 semester hour of University of Iowa undergraduate credit to students attending the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI).
2020 brings additional changes to our elementary and middle school student programming. Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create a new commuter program for 2nd – 8th graders, called the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Through JSA, the full complement of coursework offered in the two former programs will be available to students who live within commuting distance to the Blank Honors Center (on the University of Iowa campus).
Our high school programs have always been residential because that aspect is a very important component of the whole-student experience. We will maintain a residential component for 7th and 8th graders through the Blank Summer Institute (BSI). BSI, a signature program for junior high school students, was the original Belin-Blank Center student program. Co-founders Myron and Jacqueline Blank had phenomenal vision; they saw what was invisible to others, which is that junior high is a critical time for students to have enriching and engaging learning experiences in order to be successful in school.
A proper December message requires mention of New Year’s resolutions, which are usually intended to help us improve in some way. Making a resolution requires vision. Take a peek at our many opportunities available for students and educators seeking improvement through engagement and challenge, especially during the long days of summer when school is not in session. Such experiences are life-changing and profound in ways often invisible to others. We hope to see you next summer!
May this season of gratitude and giving usher in a bright new year and a decade of promise and inspiration.
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!
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.
Once you’ve started your application, write down your username and password! The $75 application fee applies for each application account you start on the portal, so be sure you can log back in when it’s time to finish your application later.
Contact your references now! The application requires two references from you: First, the academic reference, which should come from a teacher who can speak to your abilities in your desired research fields; Second, the character reference, which should come from a mentor who can speak to your character and maturity as a person. We define mentor broadly. Past applicants have chosen teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, rabbis, etc. Just make sure that your mentor is not a friend or family member. Once your teacher and mentor have agree to provide references on your behalf, enter their email addresses into the appropriate field in your application. We will then email them a few short questions. They have until February 1st to send us their responses. Late references cannot be accepted, and it’s your responsibility to follow up and ensure that your references respond on time.
Start your essays now! We ask for two separate pieces of writing from you: First, a 750-word essay describing your research interests and background; And second, a 750-word essay explaining why SSTP is a good fit for you. We recommend writing and editing your essays in a separate document and pasting them into the application platform once you’re satisfied with your work. Please bear in mind that the essay fields in the online platform will save your essays as plain text, meaning that your formatting will not be kept.
Carefully consider your desired research areas. In the application, we will ask you for top three research areas, and we include a list of research areas that other SSTP students have used in the past. If you do not see your desired field, that’s fine! You may write in research areas that we have not listed. If you’re not sure what’s available, be sure to check out our virtual poster session on the SSTP website, where you can view past students’ work. Although not every research area you see there will necessarily be available in 2019, what you see can give you a good idea of the kind of research that students have been able to do in the past.
You may only submit one set of test scores. We recommend the SAT, ACT, PSAT, or PLAN, but if you have not taken one of those four tests, you may also submit state-administered standardized test scores. Since you may only submit one set of scores, we strongly advise against submitting SATII subject test scores. If you are a non-native speaker of English, no problem! You do not have to submit TOEFLs scores or any other proof of English ability. Your English results from the SAT, ACT, etc., will suffice.
Review the costs of the program. For students applying from within the US, the total costs will add up to $6,270. US students may also apply for financial aid within the online application platform. For students applying from outside the US, however, no financial aid may be awarded. Additionally, students applying from outside the US must pay an additional $550 fee to cover the costs of insurance and two additional nights of room and board, bringing the total costs of the program for international students to $6820.
When you’re done, save your application and leave it is as! There’s no “submit button.” Whatever you have on your application as of February 1st will be what we use to make admission decisions. Until February 1st, you may return to your application and make edits as often as you like. Applications are considered on a non-rolling basis, so there are no advantages to finishing early other than peace of mind and the assurance that your application is complete. You will be able to see at-a-glance what sections still need your attention using the little red lights. Once they all have turned green, you’re all set.
If you have any questions, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. During times of high inquiry volume, it may take us up to two business days to respond to your email, so please contact us sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive your response in a timely manner.
Looking for ways to support your high-achieving students in math and the sciences? The Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a prestigious national science competition, offers substantial opportunities for scholarships. At the regional competition here in Iowa City, students can win up to $2,750, and finalists can go on to win an additional $12,000 at the National JSHS in April. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at Nationals and more than $20,000 in scholarships!
2018 Iowa JSHS winners at the National JSHS competition
Iowa student Cheryl Blackmer won 1st place at Nationals in 2018!
To compete, Iowa high school students must submit papers describing original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by January 14th, 2019, so there’s still time to get projects started. The Iowa Regional JSHS competition will be hosted by the Belin-Blank Center on March 4th and 5th, and top presenters will earn scholarships go on to compete at the National JSHS competition!
Regardless of whether submissions are selected for competition, we inviteall interested students and teachers to attend the regional event. Those who attend can participate in laboratory tours, informational sessions for students and teachers, and learn about Iowa students’ research. This is a great way to introduce students to the idea of doing their own original research and prepare them for future projects. It also gives them an opportunity to see the kinds of world-class resources and ideas that are available to students on a university campus. Students and teachers alike leave feeling inspired every year!
The first five students in attendance from each district attend free of charge, including overnight lodging and some meals, while the fee for each student beyond the first five comes to just $25.
A special congratulations goes out to this year’s valedictory class speaker, Iowa’s own Riley Dejohn, who spent his summer researching physical chemistry in Dr. Alexei Tivanski’s group at the University. Also featured was special guest speaker Dr. Hanna Stevens, professor of psychology and veteran SSTP mentor, who shared her insights gleaned over years of pedagogy during the final banquet dinner.
Thank you to our guest judges from Integrated DNA Technologies, without whom the final poster competition would not have been possible, and to the 2018 SSTP mentors at the University, for all of the guidance and leadership they gave to each student. We know that you have made a huge difference in the lives and careers of these future researchers!
Last month, students from across the state of Iowa attended the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville, Iowa.
JSHS is a collaborative effort with the research arm of the Department of Defense and is designed to challenge, engage, and publically recognize high school students conducting scientific research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). JSHS aims to prepare and support students to contribute as future scientists and engineers – conducting STEM research on behalf of, or directly for, the Department of Defense, the Federal research laboratories, or for the greater good in advancing the nation’s scientific and technological progress.
Students completed an original research project and submitted a research paper to the regional competition. The authors of the top 18 papers were invited to compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting their results before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Students also toured various labs and facilities at the University of Iowa to hear about cutting edge research, potential career paths, and student opportunities.
After an intensive day of presentations, the judges had the difficult task of selecting five finalists based on their research papers and presentations:
1st place: Megan Ertl (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Quantification of Muscle Accelerations to Interpret Individual Fatigue as an Industrial Application
2nd place: Cheryl Blackmer (Ballard High School) – “Development of a LAMP Assay for the Detection of Powassan Virus”
3rd place: Pranav Chhaliyil (Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment) – “Metagenomics Analysis of Bedtime Oral Cleaning by the Novel GIFT Method, Shows a Reduction in Dental-Damaging Bacteria”
4th place: Aaron Wills (Central Lee High School) – “Engineered Environmental Containment: “Using Lemna minor L. to Reduce Nitrate Levels in Aquatic Environments”
5th place: Brianna Cole (Valley High School) – “Cumulative Effects of Recurrent Amygdala Kindled Seizures on Respiratory Function”
Additional presenters, who were winners by virtue of having their papers accepted, included Allison Brasch (Waterloo West High School), Mason Burlage (Beckman Catholic High School), Ava Depping (Madrid High School), Serenity Haynes (Central Lee High School), Sean Kluesner (Beckman Catholic High School), Pearl Krieger Coble (Winfield-Mt. Union High School), Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School), Kathryn McCarthy (Sioux City East High School), Evylin Merydith (Keokuk High School), Tyler Montgomery (Kennedy High School), Elizabeth Smith (Waterloo West High School), Laura Stowater (Algona High School), Shelby Westhoff (Beckman Catholic High School).
The top five finalists will attend an expense-paid trip to the JSHS National Symposium next month in Hunt Valley, MD to present their research and compete for additional prizes.
Do you know academically talented teenagers who show curiosity or promise in doing research, or are you one yourself? Then you need to know about the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), where students can experience lots of different types of research happening at a top public research university!
Students in grades 8–10 (academic year 2017–2018) may apply for the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), a two-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center.
At PRSI, students will participate in seminars with university faculty, tour their research facilities, and study their publications. While students will spend some of their time learning advanced lab techniques, they will not be conducting original research in this program. Rather, they will be granted an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at research while it’s happening, in fields such as anthropology, business, education, engineering, medicine, psychology, sustainability, and more. This “backstage pass” approach will help students develop an understanding of research that extends well beyond bench science.
During off-hours, students can expect plenty of fun getting to know other bright teenagers who are also interested in research! They will even experience an authentic taste of life on a university campus, complete with two weeks of living with a roommate in the residence halls. Evening activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. Social events are scheduled, and students will be granted access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities and study areas.
Don’t miss this unique chance to see how research works, up close and personal; experience college life for two weeks; and meet new friends with similar abilities and interests! Applications are open through March 16 at www.belinblank.org/students. The program will run from July 8–July 20, 2018.
This program was designed to engage high school students in science, math, engineering and technology through presenting their original research efforts, visiting research labs, and networking with peers to enrich their understanding of STEM opportunities beyond high school.
Five finalists from the Iowa region were selected to join 240 students from around the country in participating in the national symposium this weekend in San Diego. Finalists from the national symposium will receive military-sponsored undergraduate scholarships and participate in the London International Youth Science Forum this summer at London University.
Nearly 100 adult leaders, high school teachers, university faculty, ranking military officers and other guests will join in encouraging the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrating their achievement in the sciences.