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.
Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.
JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.
Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.
Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:
Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.
On April 15, the Belin-Blank Center hosted the 2019 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention. It was a day full of energy and excitement as young inventors from schools across Iowa advanced from their local invention conventions to the state competition. We were pleased to see so many creative solutions to the everyday problems that students noticed in the world around them!
Our generous sponsors included McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. and Integrated DNA Technologies. Representatives from each – Christine Lebron-Dykeman and Mark Behlke, respectively – delivered keynote presentations to inspire Iowa’s next generation of innovators. Fourth-grader Manasvi Devi Reddy from the Linn-Mar Community School District won the McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. Agricultural Invention Award for her “Environmental Saver.” Her invention uses farming by-products to make paper, thereby reusing discarded materials and reducing the number of trees being cut down.
Inventors competed in two divisions: Kindergarten – 5th grade, and 6th – 8th grade. Winners qualified to compete next month at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The Belin-Blank Center awarded first place winners from each division an expense-paid trip to the national competition.
Quill Orth (Lewis Central Community School District), last year’s winner of the 3rd – 5th grade division, went on to compete at the National Invention Convention, where he won the 3M Innovative Materials Award for his “Hotspot Chicken Insulating Cream,” which prevents frostbite on chickens’ combs. Quill shared his story and words of congratulations and encouragement with this year’s inventors.
2019 Winners from the Kindergarten – 5th grade division:
1st place: Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), for their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.
2nd place: Luke Amaro & Lexi Geiskemper (5th grade, Alburnett Community School District), for their “Absorbo-Rocks.” These are rocks made of absorbent material that will capture excess water in fields and let it back out when the weather becomes hot and dry.
3rd place:Charles Smith (Kindergarten, Ottumwa Community School District) for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.
Winners from the 6th – 8th grade division:
1st place: Grace Brand & Sara Schutte (6th grade, Pleasant View Community School District) for “The Noise Neutralizer,” a flashing light system to alert people when the noise level is too loud
2nd place: Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.
3rd place: Chloe Goedken & Ellie Kronlage (6th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School) for “The Adjust A-Q,” a pool cue that can be adjusted in size to avoid hitting the walls around a pool table.
Congratulations to all who competed, and keep inventing, Iowa!
If you’re still looking for summer programs for curious middle school students, look no further! Our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) still has limited seats available in some amazing classes. Check them out before it’s too late!
Robot Theater: Exploring with Cozmo
The focus of this class is to learn the basics of dramatic storytelling that incorporate robot technology (Cozmo, created by Anki) as part of the story. If you have written a script, story, or poem that you have been dreaming of seeing performed on stage, then this class is for you—our Cozmos will be your actors. If you have an interest in robotics and want to work with sophisticated technology, then this class is for you—Cozmo will introduce you to the world of robotics. No previous experience with writing, puppetry, theatre, or working with robots is required.
Students will be exposed to real-world environmental challenges Iowans face with an emphasis on flooding and access to clean water. Through an interactive learning environment, students will connect with professionals from a variety of related fields to learn how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, but then also mitigate for future disasters to build community resilience. Classroom learning will be mobile and designed to engage the students in career settings providing opportunities for practicing professional development skills.
Mixed Media Workshop
Are you ready for an exciting week of action-packed art adventures? If so, this class is for you! Our week will be an exciting exploration of several different kinds of art making. You will try your hand at a variety of studio projects throughout the week. The two-dimensional art portion of the class will involve some printmaking, drawing, and painting. The stop motion animation segment will introduce you to the basics of stop-motion in the making of an awesome animation that you will shoot, edit, and create music and sound effects. You will work on individual pieces, as well as work in small groups. Exploring collaboration in small groups will allow us to put our brains together to come up with unique, creative solutions. We will go on a couple of field trips to get ideas for work and look at other artists’ work. Bring your adventurous spirit and creative brain. It’s going to be a great week of getting a little messy, learning some new techniques, getting your creative juices flowing, and challenging yourselves.
Archaeology: Discover the Past!
Ever wonder how archaeologists know where to find ancient sites? Or how rocks and bones provide them clues about how people lived? Archaeologists are scientific detectives, studying people from the past and the objects they left behind. In this course, you will learn to think like an archaeologist using scientific inquiry. We will study real artifacts in the research labs at the Office of the State Archaeologist and participate in hands-on lessons and activities to learn about Iowa’s archaeological past, from the Ice Age to the first Europeans. You will also learn how today’s Native American communities work with archaeologists to strengthen our understanding of their cultures. Part of this course will take place at an outdoor classroom at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, where we will learn archaeology field techniques to document a real archaeological site!
Other open classes include Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference,Women in Engineering, and Project Discovery: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.
Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. Payment plans and financial aid are available. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for your student, be sure to check it out at www.belinblank.org/summer or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at email@example.com!
The Belin-Blank Center specializes in academically talented kids. If you have 6th-8th grade students who show a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home in our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI)! JSI is a summer program designed specifically for bright students who want to take a deep dive into a topic – all while having fun with other middle school kids who share their level of interest and ability.
Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t regular classes! With options like Archaeology, Women in Engineering, Mixed Media Art, Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference, Robot Theater (and more!), there’s sure to be something for your inquisitive kids. Class sizes are small, and they take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level resources and experts.
JSI students also get to experience a taste of college life by staying overnight in the dorm with their peers for the week! Plus, they get to hang out with their new friends and attend plenty of fun cultural and recreational activities in the evenings.
We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our experts in twice-exceptionality offer specialized social and academic support for these students.
Payment plans and financial aid are available. Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for any of your students, be sure to recommend that they check it out at www.belinblank.org/summer or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
Are you thinking about having your high-ability student take I-Excel? The Belin-Blank Center is hosting a testing session on the University of Iowa campus on June 12th.
I-Excel is considered an above-level test. It contains 8th grade content, but it is administered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders. Students scoring at the 95th percentile or higher on any subject of the grade-level test (such as the Iowa Assessments) have reached the ceiling of that test. An above-level test raises the ceiling, measures the student’s aptitudes more accurately, and can inform parents and educators about readiness for advanced curriculum. More information and a video about above-level testing can be found at this link.
I-Excel is a test of 8th grade content, which provides a challenge for talented 4th-6th graders. This test enables students to demonstrate their academic strengths in math, science, English, and reading. The results of an above-level test tell us what students are ready to learn, which can help parents and educators make appropriate curriculum modifications and programming. Outstanding individual scorers will be recognized in a formal recognition ceremony at the University of Iowa. Families receive above-level test score reports and an extensive interpretation of results. This interpretation includes recommendations for curriculum readiness. More information about I-Excel can be found here.
The next testing session on the University of Iowa campus is June 12th, and students may register here. Check-in begins at 12:30, and testing will conclude around 3:00 p.m. The cost is $65. A few weeks before the test, we will send more details to students who have signed up.
Students unable to participate in the testing session at the University of Iowa can still take I-Excel testing this school year. See detailed information about Individual Testing, which can be arranged at a convenient location and time. The deadline for testing this is June 10th, and testing will resume again in the fall. If you have any questions, email us at email@example.com.
During the fall semester, Challenge Saturdays provides engaging weekend classes for students in Des Moines and Iowa City.
These classes are designed for high-ability elementary- and middle-school-aged students who are current members of the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS). Students who are not part of BESTS but who are of high ability are also encouraged to attend.*
In small classes, students receive direct instruction and do advanced work. Students choose one class only. The class meets five times. Financial assistance is available.
*Students who are not part of BESTS generally register for BESTS – but in the meantime, parents provide a copy of the child’s most-recent ITBS scores. If test data is not available, a teacher recommendation may be submitted. To register a non-BESTS student, first sign up for a class. Following registration, send the above information to Bridget Pauley, 600 Blank Honors Center, Iowa City, IA 52242 or fax it to her attention at 319-335-5151.