Monday, October 20, 2014

Signs of Fall

Lead students on a walk through a wooded area, schoolyard, local park, or neighborhood sidewalk to look for signs of fall and investigate why leaves of deciduous trees change color.
  • Point out the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees.
  • Ask students to look for signs that indicate winter is approaching and record their observations – encourage students to look for animal signs as well (e.g., birds migrating, squirrels storing nuts).

Encourage critical thinking by asking:
What signs of fall can you see in the trees and on the ground?
How many different leaf colors can you find?
How do leaves change after they fall?
What will happen to the leaves?

Why Do Leaves Change Color?
With fall’s colder temperatures and shorter days, the cells of deciduous tree leaves begin to die. The dead cells block water and nutrients from the leaf. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves, breaks down and the yellow and red pigments begin to show through.

Native Americans had legends to explain the fall colors. Invite students to create their own imaginative stories.

For more information about Iowa Fall Colors, visit the Iowa DNR website.

Monday, October 13, 2014

STEM-based Natural Resources Professional Development

Exploring Iowa’s Natural Resources On-line Course (K-12 Educators)

January 19 – May 3, 2015

“This course has provided me with information and resources to make lessons more relevant and engaging. The focus on inquiry, sense of place, and many other important aspects of teaching have been beneficial in terms of planning lessons and remembering to keep students and student activities at the core of what I do. It’s not just about the content and this course helped rejuvenate my interest in making lessons more student centered.”
Learn how to utilize local natural resources as unifying themes to implement a STEM-based approach in your curriculum. You will work in small groups and individually to create a network of contacts and resources to teach natural resource concepts. Group and individual assignments will build on each other throughout the course.

Each week a new course module focusing on a specific environmental education topic, strategy or skill will be available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week). You should be comfortable navigating web pages, have access to internet and a computer on a daily basis, and possess basic computer skills.

Registration deadline is January 12, 2014 - you must register electronically. Registration fee: $225 (includes course materials and 3 license renewal credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies. This course therefore uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal credit. Transcripts and credit will be issued by AEA PD Online instead of Heartland AEA.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

New Iowa Core Website, a new website created to increase public understanding of the Iowa Core standards and to help educators put the standards into practice in schools statewide, is now live.

The Iowa Core standards set consistent expectations for learning in schools across the state. The standards are a set of academic goals, not a curriculum, so decisions about how to help students reach the standards remain in the hands of local schools and teachers.

“Our statewide standards are at the heart of work in schools to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce, and we must do more to help educators, parents and other Iowans navigate them,” Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said. “ will help bring the standards into focus for all Iowans and will put much-needed resources into the hands of educators who are working to put the standards into practice successfully in schools.” has three components:
·        Explore the Iowa Core enables users to search the Iowa Core standards by grade level (K-12) and subject (math, science, social studies, English language arts and 21st century skills, such as financial and technology literacy) to understand the knowledge and skills that children are expected to master.
·        Parents and Community includes materials that parents and other Iowans can use to understand what the Iowa Core is, what students are expected to know and be able to do, and how parents can help at home.
·        Educator Resources includes a collection of optional classroom resources and materials that educators may use to implement the Iowa Core. More than 8,000 resources are available at no charge in a central, searchable online location called, which is accessible through The materials are adaptable to fit the individual needs of local classrooms.

Iowa lawmakers passed the Iowa Core into law in 2008, with the expectation that schools would fully implement the standards by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

“Having clear statewide standards for what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade is critical not only to their success, but also to our state’s effort to prepare tomorrow’s workforce in a fast-changing economy,” Buck said. “We still have work to do to clarify what the Iowa Core looks like in schools. This new website is a big step in the right direction.” was developed with state funding from the 2013 legislative session. The website is managed by the Iowa Department of Education.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ask an Expert: Stay 'Up All Night' to Watch the Oct. 8 Lunar Eclipse!

Join NASA experts on Oct. 8 to observe 2014's second total lunar eclipse. A live Ustream feed of the eclipse will be offered.

Mainly clear skies should make for very good viewing of the total lunar eclipse early Wednesday morning. It will be a bit chilly with temperatures generally ranging from the upper 30s to middle 40s. The total eclipse phase is expected to begin around 525 am CDT, and end around 625 am CDT, viewable low in the western sky.

The moon will appear a coppery red, so it's been called a "blood" moon. It'll look red because of all the sunsets and sunrises from the Earth that will reflect onto the lunar surface. (During the eclipse, although it's completely in the shadow of Earth, a bit of reddish sunlight still reaches the moon.)

You don't need special glasses or gizmos to view it, unlike a solar eclipse, so feel free to stare directly at the moon. Binoculars or a telescope would improve the view.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and the full moon form a nearly straight line so that the full moon passes through the Earth's shadow, called the umbra.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Upcoming Classic and Digital STARLAB Trainings

A Classic STARLAB training is scheduled October 8 from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m at Norwalk (Lakewood Elementary gym) . For more information, visit the Heartland AEA website.  This is not only open to Norwalk teachers, but any of you who may be interested in taking this training or feel you need a refresher course.Please register if you plan on attending.  
A Digital STARLAB Training is scheduled at Des Moines Lincoln H.S. small gym, October 27 from 3:30 PM-6:30 p.m.  Fore more information, visit the Heartland AEA website.  This is not only open to Des Moines teachers, but any of you who may be interested in taking this training or feel you need a refresher course. Please register for this if you plan on attending.  

This workshop addresses the care and use of the Digital STARLAB portable planetarium. Participants will learn how to setup and take down the STARLAB, as well as learn the basic functions of the software (Starry Night Small Dome) that powers the Digital STARLAB

A MacBook Pro computer that comes with the kit operates the planetarium software. If you have an laptop (preferably an Apple, but PC will work), please bring that with you so the Starry Night Small Dome software can be installed on your computer. (Check with your district to make sure it is OK to install this software onto your laptop and obtain any passwords that you might need in order to do this.) Once installed on your computer, you can explore the various functions of the software on your own, prior to receiving the Digital STARLAB at your school. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Manufacture Your Future Virtual Field Trip and STEM Career Overview

October 3, 1:00-2:00 PM EST
Live from Davenport, IA


In celebration of National Manufacturing Day, Discovery Education and Alcoa invite you to a LIVE Virtual Field Trip on October 3rd from Alcoa Davenport, a high-tech aluminum manufacturing plant on the banks of the Mississippi River. Students will be given an exclusive tour of the plant, where Alcoa employees will share a unique perspective on the new face of manufacturing and showcase the cutting-edge technology in the industry today.

Join us as we tour the aerospace mill to see where products are manufactured for major aircrafts, including the wings for Air Force One. Students will also tour the Auto Treatment Line that showcases state-of-the-art technology and innovation at work.
Along the way, students will be introduced to members of the Alcoa Davenport team, such as a Metallurgical Engineer, an Electrical Engineer and Process Specialists who will share the STEM-related passions that led to pursuing advanced manufacturing careers. Through the Manufacture Your Future LIVE Virtual Field Trip students will be connected with STEM principles and advanced manufacturing skills development in this exciting and interactive format. Alcoa Davenport Works Director of Manufacturing, Rob Woodall, will answer students questions live.

  • Alcoa Davenport has produced metal for every space vehicle in America’s program, contributing to the moon landing and the U.S. victory in the Space Race.
  • Aluminum never wears out; it is infinitely recyclable.
  • 75 percent of all the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in use today.
  • An aluminum can will be recycled and back on the shelf as a new beverage can in less than 60 days

Submit your questions here to be answered during the LIVE event!

No special equipment is needed to view this event online. All you need is an internet connected computer (and a way to share with students - projector and speakers). Students will have the chance to submit questions to ask live.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Green Ribbon School Applications Available

The aim of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is to inspire schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to strive for 21st century excellence, by highlighting exemplary practices and resources that all can employ. The ED-GRS award recognizes schools, districts, and IHEs that:
  1. Reduce environmental impact and costs;
  2. Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
  3. Provide environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.

The award is a tool to encourage state education agencies, stakeholders and higher education officials to consider matters of facilities, health and environment comprehensively and in coordination with state health, environment and energy agency counterparts. Unique about the award is that, in order to be selected for federal recognition, schools, districts and postsecondary institutions must be high achieving in all three of the above Pillars, not just one area.

Combined achievement in ALL three of these areas, collectively known as Pillars, serves as the basis for recognition. Each Pillar is divided into Elements, which provide further guidance on each of the three main areas. ED-GRS aligns with the Department’s cross-cutting goals for education, including improving student, staff, and facility performance and increasing efficiency at the federal, state, and local levels. At the postsecondary level, these Pillars help to support the goals of reduced college costs, increased completion rates, higher rates of employment, and robust civic skills among graduates. The recognition award is part of a U.S. Department of Education (USED) effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, and reinforce federal efforts to increase energy independence and economic security.

Green schools are critical to schools’ fiscal health and our nation's economy. Much needed improvements to school facilities create new jobs and save schools money. They prepare students to participate in the green economy, strengthen the nation's energy security and conserve precious natural resources. Healthy behaviors, environmental education and green facilities are as vital to individual students as they are to the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness and facility conditions improve student and staff health, attendance and productivity, and enhance achievement and engagement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Each year, all winning schools are invited to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to celebrate their success, share information and receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.
Three applications for the Green Ribbon Schools program are available through the website:
  • Individual School: FY15 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – School Application
  • District: FY15 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – District Sustainability Award Application
  • College/University: FY15 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – College Application

Applications must be submitted through to the Iowa Department of Education (IDE) by January 7, 2015. IDE will review applications based on the applicant’s demonstrated progress towards the goals of each of the three pillars. Nominees demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three pillars and every element will be ranked highest.

Instructions for applying are located on the DE website: Green Ribbon Schools. Visit the ED-GRS website to learn about the GRS program. For assistance, contact Gary Schwartz, Facilities Consultant, or 515.281.4743.