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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Travel with the Monarchs This Fall

Find out what's known about these migration mysteries, and how much more you can discover. As you embark on your journey with the monarchs, inspire students to think and act like scientists as they follow fall migration.
  • What is in our school yard?
  • What creatures visit our schoolyard?
  • How many butterflies visit it?
  • What types of butterflies are in the schoolyard?
  • How many monarch butterflies are found in the schoolyard?
  • How might we know if a butterfly habitat is of high quality?
  • What influences and impacts our schoolyard habitat? 

Discuss what a monarch needs to survive and list these on a board. Using books and other resources (see below for suggestions), have students look for plants that are good nectar sources. Make a list of those they find, or write the words on word cards and put in a pocket chart.

Have each student make a drawing of a plant that is a good nectar source for butterflies. Be
sure to have them draw the whole plant, not just the flower. Use field guides, seed catalogues, books on butterfly gardening or actual plants as guides. Encourage students to draw more than one individual of the plant they choose. Make the drawings large enough to be cut out. Have students label them by copying names from the class list.

Have each student make a drawing of milkweed. Use field guides or the actual plant as a guide for student drawings. These drawings should also be cut out and labeled.

To create the monarch habitat, attach student drawings to the bulletin board or on a large piece of
paper for a wall mural.

Students may add drawings of caterpillars and butterflies to their habitat mural, as well as other plants
and animals.

Helpful Resources
University of Minnesota Monarch Lab -
September Monarchs Embark on Nature’s Most Incredible Migration -
Flight of the Butterflies Educator Guide -

Create a School Butterfly Garden
Butterfly gardens can increase student engagement and curiosity in the classroom while serving as an interactive classroom. Check out these great resources to help get you started:

Fun Monarch Facts
  • Monarchs can soar up to a mile high, and they weigh as little as a paper clip.
  • Monarchs sense and avoid topographical features such as large bodies of water and high mountains, and funnel through small valley passes.
  • To conserve energy, they try to catch free rides on prevailing winds or thermal airwaves, and females and males are not reproductive; the females do not lay eggs until overwintering in Mexico ends.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Learning Tree GreenWorks! Grant - Application Deadline September 30

Do you have an idea for a school/community native plant garden, a forest improvement project, a streamside restoration plan, a recycling program, or energy conservation project for your students? Need funds to implement it? Apply for a Project Learning Tree GreenWorks! grant!

More information and an application for grants amounting to $1,000 is available at deadline is September 30, 2014

  • Grants must be completed in one year
  • Applicants must have attended a PLT workshop 
  • The proposed project must involve service-learning.
  • The proposed project must demonstrate student voice.
  • The proposed project must involve at least one community partner.
  • The proposed project must secure at least 50% matched funds (in-kind acceptable).

For a detailed guidebook on GreenWorks! Grants, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Southwest Iowa Educator Tests the Waters with DNR through Real World Externships

Mary Carlson is a science teacher at Red Oak Schools in Red Oak, Iowa. Mary completed her Real World Externship with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) team in Lewis, Iowa.

Mary was immediately accepted as a full member of the team. They included her in every project they undertook this summer. Carlson said her experience was amazing and varied. As a member of the team she helped improve the water quality of our lakes and rivers by working with vegetation, which included starting a lily bed.
She helped determine the existing water quality by testing fish. Mary could be found netting fish one day or shocking them with electricity the next. After catching the fish the mercury levels are tested to ensure the quality of the water meets the DNR’s standards. Data collection is a large part of the DNR’s job and Mary helped not only with the collection but also with data organization.
As a teacher, Mary plans to use her new knowledge to engage her students in more outdoor activities. Her classes will be engaged in a water quality day with her local DNR representative. She also plans on having her students prepare a presentation for the DNR based on the question, “would you eat that?” when presented with a fish dinner. This will allow the students to get an expert’s feedback on their research. The students will also get to ask questions, find out what the DNR employees do and the schooling that is needed to get a job with the DNR. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fall Fitness Day

Help your students stay active this school year participating in the annual Live Healthy Iowa Kids Fall Fitness Day – register today. Live Healthy Iowa Kids will award 25 - $100 mini-grants to support Fall Fitness Day activities at Iowa schools. Applications due September 12!

The activity options are endless for this fun day - check out these fun nature games that will get your students up and moving while learning about nature and wildlife.

Deer Tag
Select 2-4 students to be hunters. The remaining students are deer in a forest. Hunters are positioned across the play area. Deer start at one end of the “forest” and try to get to the other side without being tagged by a hunter. As deer are tagged, they become hunters. As an extra challenge, include restrictions on how the hunters can tag the deer (e.g. right hand only, one hand behind their back, hopping on one foot). 

For older students, partition the play area in fourths or halves. Limit the number of hunters allowed in each area.

Migration Maze
Students are migratory birds traveling between nesting habitats and wintering grounds. Divide the playing area into three areas: one end - nesting habitat; middle - Iowa stopover (safe zone); other end - wintering grounds.

Place 1 carpet square per 2 students throughout the Iowa stopover (middle area). Students start in the nesting habitat and “fly” (flap their arms) like birds as they race to the Iowa stopover. In the stopover area, they must have at least one foot on the carpet square; only 2 students can be on each carpet square. Students who are left without a carpet square are out and must wait on the sidelines. Students then “fly” to the wintering grounds.

Remove a carpet space from the Iowa stopover. Students fly back through the Iowa stopover on their way to the nesting habitat. Repeat rounds (flying from nesting habitat to Iowa stopover to wintering grounds and back). Remove a carpet square every time the students leave the Iowa stopover.

Leap Frog
Mark off two parallel lines (using chalk, masking tape, or rope) two to three feet apart to create a stream.  For large groups, create several streams to keep all students active.

Students line up on both sides of the stream, facing each other (towards the middle). Outside of the lines are the “banks of the stream” and the middle is “in the stream.” The leader will call out one of two commands: “in the stream” or “on the bank.”

Students must leap like frogs according to the command. If a player follows the wrong command, they must sit out. The leader can repeat the command “in the stream” while players are in the stream and if any student moves, they are out of the game. To add further challenge, the leader can give false commands like the “in the lake” or “in the ocean.” Students should only move to the commands “in the stream” or “on the bank.”

Pheasant Hunt
Students form a line alternately facing in opposite directions in a squatting position. The first student in line is the "pheasant" and may run around the line in either direction. The last student is the "fox." The fox must run around the line in the same direction he/she starts, trying to catch the “pheasant.” The "fox" can step into line behind a player, tap his/her shoulder, and change places with him/her. When the "pheasant" is caught, the "fox" becomes the "pheasant" and the tagged "pheasant" gets in line opposite from the "fox" starting end. A new "fox" starts the chase anew.

Metamorphosis Relay
Students are butterflies racing through their various life stages. Divide students into two teams. Students begin the race in a curled up position to represent an egg. 

Station 1 – the caterpillar: students wiggle through a maze, searching for food
Station 2 – the chrysalis: students climb into a burlap sack and race to the next station
Station 3 – the adult caterpillar: students grab a colorful scarf and “flies” to the finish line

How Many Coyotes Can Live in this Forest?
Students are coyotes collecting food to survive. For a group of 25 – 30 coyotes, spread 25 each of 4 colors (green, blue, yellow, red) of rubber bands throughout the playing area. Each color of rubber band represents a different food in the coyote’s diet (green – plants; blue – cottontail rabbits; yellow – mice; red – deer).

Place a plastic bag at the start line for each student. Students must gallop through the play area, pick up one colored rubber band, gallop back to the start line, put the rubber band in their plastic bag, and gallop back to collect more food. Students can pick up only one rubber band at a time.

Continue until all the rubber bands have been collected. Have each student count how many of each color rubber band they collected in their bags. In order to survive, each coyote needs to have 7 green rubber bands, 7 blue rubber bands, 6 yellow rubber bands, and 2 red rubber bands.

Plant a Tree Relay
Students race to complete the task of planting a tree.

Station 1 – dig the hole: students put on a straw hat and perform 5 squats
Station 2 – plant the tree: students put on a pair of work gloves and perform 5 jumping jacks
Station 3 – move mulch: students put a small trash can on a scooter and push it to the next station; if the trash can falls off, they must go back and try again

Station 4 – water the tree: students pick up a jumping rope (represents water hose) and must jump rope to the finish line

Friday, September 05, 2014

Fungus Among Us

All the wet weather this August is making conditions perfect for fungus! These pictures feature Xylaria polymorpha which is commonly known as Dead Man's Fingers. What a fun name and perfect if anyone is starting to get into the Halloween spirit a little bit early! 

The scientific name helps us understand a little more about the fungus. "Xylaria" means "to grow on wood" and "polymorpha" means "many shapes". Dead Man's Fingers is often found growing at the base of dead or dying trees in deciduous forests. It comes in many shapes and sizes but always bears a little bit of a resemblance to fingers or hands. 

Fungus is an important part of the life cycle of a tree. When a tree is at the end of its life, fungus begins to grow as it digests parts of the wood and aids in decomposition.

For more information about researching and collecting fungi common in Iowa, check out the Is There A Fungus Among Us? activity from the Springbrook Education Center.