Looking for a creative and fun way to kick off the year? If so, consider adding the National Invention Convention curriculum to your lesson plans. This is free, open-access curriculum that supports the type of critical thinking necessary to participate in programs like Invent Iowa. The framework of the curriculum is developed around the 7 steps of the Invention Process: Identifying, Understanding, Ideating, Designing, Building, Testing, and Communicating.
The curriculum was designed by the STEMIE Coalition. STEMIE is an education framework that elevates youth invention and entrepreneurship education to a core part of K-12 education. It contains lesson plans, rubrics, assessments, and other resources. Students have the opportunity to think creatively while using the invention process to design and test their work. It is a great way to help students better understand ways of solving real-world problems that they encounter on a daily basis.
Find the National Invention Convention curriculum here.
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 the school year has come to a close, excitement and planning for summer fun is in the air! What are you imagining for these sun-drenched days—beaches, camping, novels, hiking, blockbuster movies? If you are a teacher, which of your students might be dreaming about digging into a science or engineering challenge this summer and how can you encourage them? Perhaps you have a child whose curiosity needs an outlet and encouraging nudge. Summer science to the rescue!
With the increase in the number of researchers looking for
everyday citizens to aid them in research projects, opportunities to contribute
to actual research projects right from home or the classroom are more abundant
than ever! In today’s information-rich world these opportunities are available
We have collected a few projects that span a variety of interest areas to nurture the curious indoor and outdoor kids in your life:
Join the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) and get
connected to projects ranging from analyzing images identifying wildlife,
analyzing images and data identifying celestial bodies, to transcribing
historical documents. These projects seek out ordinary individuals to
contribute to research, making an impact in the world. One example project is
Bash the Bug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug),
a project in which an individual analyzes the antibiotic resistance of M.
tuberculosis, helping hospitals around the world accurately predict which
antibiotics are effective at treating this disease.
National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/)
lists several projects on their website such as bird counting projects,
monitoring light pollution with the night sky, or participating in water
quality monitoring with people from around the globe. Some of the projects such
as the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (https://garlicmustard.wordpress.com/)
even give teachers tips on how they can use the project in their classroom: “Educators
can offer their students an invaluable opportunity for hands-on participation
in peer-reviewed scientific research, and compare class results to the larger
dataset involving hundreds of populations.”
is a website in which students can help track seasonal changes and seasonal
migrations of different species right where they live. This site also offers
teacher resources (https://journeynorth.org/tm/educators_index.html)
to help a teacher drive discussion using data that was input by citizen
scientists just like your students.
If you want to search for projects by location,
then check out Scistarter.org. This
website connects citizen scientists to local projects. Projects range from
migration tracking to water and air quality. One project, School of Ants USA, (https://www.scistarter.org/school-of-ants-usa)
asks citizen scientists to help track ant diversity by collecting and sending
in a sample of ants.
What if you have a high school student on your hands who wants to take summer science to the next level? No problem! Citizen science projects and the associated publicly available data sets can be used by students to ask their own questions and conduct their own research. Then, they can submit their work to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!
Iowa JSHS showcases research conducted by high school
students each year to provide students with an outlet to share their work and
be recognized for their efforts. Attending the symposium provides youth with
exposure to Iowa high school research, and they also benefit from networking
opportunities with other student researchers and research professionals.
Want more information on student-led research? Be sure to
check out our previous posts on this topic!
Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) won 1st place at the Kindergarten grade level for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.
Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) won a Patent Application Award for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.
Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), won an Inventor Communication Award for “Best Pitch” while presenting their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.
A full list of national winners is available here. Congratulations to all who competed, and especially to our Iowa representatives. We are proud of your hard work and inspiring ideas!
1st place: Pooja Kasiviswanathan (Ames High School) — “Farming on Mars: potential strategies for sustainable agriculture in Martian conditions”
2nd place: Isabella Hoeger-Pinto (Iowa City West High School) — “Examination of plasma etch rate on silicon substrate with photoresist mask”
3rd place: Radha Velamuri (Valley High School) — “Involvement of the AhR in reproductive function with exposure to PCB 126”
4th place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) — “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III”
5th place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) — “What is honey? A comparison of honey from Iowa beekeepers versus national store brand honey using pH, pollen, and chemical composition analysis”
In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 57th Annual National JSHS in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.
Approximately 230 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences.
Like the Iowa finalists, these impressive students qualified for the symposium by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. Approximately 130 high school teachers, mentors, university faculty, ranking military guests and others also attended to encourage the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrate student achievement in the sciences.
For the second consecutive year, an Iowa regional finalist placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) won second place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” Congratulations to Kayla, as well as her teacher, Amanda Schiller (a former JSHS competitor herself)!
Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit:
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!