Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Iowa Review Team Recommends New Science Standards

Members recommend Next Generation Science Standards; report to be issued to the State Board of Education

DES MOINES – Members of Iowa’s Science Standards Review Team today recommended adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards with modifications as Iowa’s new science standards.

The recommendation will be formalized in a report next month and will be sent to the State Board of Education for consideration.

The Next Generation Science Standards is the name of science standards developed by 26 states, including Iowa, that all states can consider adopting and adapting to meet their needs. Academic standards represent consistent expectations for what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade. Iowa’s academic standards are being reviewed, starting with science, as part of Gov. Branstad’s Executive Order 83.

The review team’s recommendation proposes modifying the Next Generation Science Standards for Iowa so that only the performance expectations section is used, rather than the entire standards document. Members said the performance expectations are easier to understand, especially for teachers in subject areas other than science, and allow for more local control because they are broader than other parts of the standards document.

The team’s recommendation also proposes modifying the Next Generation Science Standards for Iowa by separating them by grade level for kindergarten through 8th grade and organizing the high school standards into a span of grades.

The Science Standards Review Team’s recommendation was based on the expertise of members and feedback from Iowans gathered through public forums and a statewide survey.

Team members said the Next Generation Science Standards represent an improvement from Iowa’s current science standards for a number of reasons. They reflect more modern practices in science, were developed by experts in a process led by states including Iowa, and include engineering practices – which is important as Iowa grows its commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, said Kris Kilibarda, a review team member. 

“These standards will prepare our students to be scientifically literate citizens and will provide the base for more advanced study for Iowans who pursue careers in science and engineering,” said Kilibarda, who is director of the Jacobson Institute for Innovation in STEM Education at Grand View University.

The recommendation capped off more than five months of work by the Science Standards Review Team, which is made up of education and business leaders with expertise in physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering, technology and application. Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck convened the team last fall to review Iowa’s science standards, as well as rigorous science standards from other states and organizations, and to make a recommendation for improvement.

In December, the review team made a preliminary recommendation to take the Next Generation Science Standards to the public for feedback.

A statewide survey and four public forums throughout the state generated about 2,600 comments in February. A majority of comments were in favor of the Next Generation Science Standards. For example, the survey results showed 69 percent of survey participants agreed that the Next Generation Science Standards will prepare students to be ready for college, careers and other postsecondary options.

Review team members studied and discussed the public feedback at two meetings in March. At their March 24 meeting, team members agreed that the Next Generation Science Standards should be the basis for their work on a final recommendation.

At today’s meeting, the review team approved the following recommendation on a 9-2 vote:
  • We recommend the Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations be adopted in Iowa as grade-specific standards for grades K-8 and grade-span standards for grades 9-12.
The team will work on a final report to the State Board of Education, which has the legal authority to determine the content of Iowa’s academic standards.

To read the Next Generation Science Standards, visit

To read Iowa’s academic standards, visit

For more information about the Science Standards Review Team, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

Monday, April 13, 2015

National Environmental Education Week: April 19-25, 2015

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is the nation’s largest celebration of environmental education. With support from national sponsor, Samsung, EE Week continues its multi-year focus on connecting the environment with STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) learning. Building off the focus on Technology in 2013 and Engineering in 2014, this year’s EE Week theme is Greening STEM: Surrounded by Science.

Science provides the tools we need to better understand the environment. Through the scientific process, we observe, test, analyze and advance our knowledge of the world. With so many fields of scientific study that examine the environment, there are endless connections through Green Science education that directly relate to the forefront of real-world scientific research and discovery. This year, EE Week is excited to explore these connections to help educators find the most effective and engaging ways environmental themes can be used to enrich science education.

Student achievement in STEM is key to fostering a new wave of innovators who can creatively address complex 21st century challenges. Environmental education can provide students with opportunities to engage in meaningful and exciting scientific studies that can spark their interest in STEM and empower them to take part in solutions to local environmental challenges.

EE Week works to celebrate all of the educators who are making a difference in the world of environmental education and STEM learning and provide them with the tools and resources they need to continue inspiring the next generation of lifelong environmental learners. Whether you already have a project in mind or are looking for inspiration, EE Week registration is free and open to everyone! By registering, you’ll stay up to date with the latest news and announcements about EE Week, including professional development opportunities, educator toolkits, blog posts, related news stories, grants, contest opportunities, partner discounts and more! Visit to learn more and register online at

Monday, April 06, 2015

Baby Wildlife

It is that magical time of year again when baby wildlife are born and hatched. We often stumble upon these cute critters when we are outside enjoying nature. If you find baby wildlife, they should be observed only and not handled or “rescued.” They may appear to be alone, but you can rest assured that the mother (and in some cases the father too) are not far away waiting for you to leave so they can go back to caring for their young.

It’s often possible to reunite the young with their parents by placing the baby directly in the nest or den, or in a box close to where it was found. If a bird nest has been destroyed, an artificial nest can be created and placed near the original nest.

Young birds spend a lot of time hopping around awkwardly as they learn to fly. This behavior can make an observer think that the bird has a broken wing or has fallen out of the nest, but it is a crucial step in development. If you find a baby bird in your yard and are afraid that it will be hurt, clear the area until the parents can return to their fledgling. Contrary to a popular myth, birds will not abandon their young if they detect human scent.

Both fawns and baby cottontails are left alone for most of the day and night, and are only fed two or three times during the day. A youngster alone doesn’t always mean it is an orphan.

Occasionally, an animal may actually be sick or injured. Don’t try to rescue wildlife yourself, especially those that appear ill. If you find an animal, make sure it is actually in trouble. Looks for signs of injury or listlessness. Then contact your city or county animal control staff or local wildlife rehabilitator for advice. If you must intervene, keep the animal in a secure container lined with clothing and place it in a warm, dark, quiet place. Do not attempt to feed or water it. Injured wild animals in captivity may strike out from fear and pain. With few exceptions, all wildlife in Iowa are protected and federal and/or state permits are required to rehabilitate injured animals.

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association -

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Taking STEM Outside: WILD Project-based Learning in Your Schoolyard

June 24 & 25, 2015 (100% attendance is required for credit.)
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines)

Learn how to take STEM outdoors. Spend two days turning outdoor projects and exploration into project-based learning units specifically geared for your teaching situation. We will demonstrate how to bundle your favorite Project WILD and Aquatic WILD activities with field investigations to foster inquiry-based learning and meet local and state learning standards. Much of this “flipped” professional development will be spent creating your own path through a host of nationally developed and tested resources to engage your students in authentic inquiry through modeling, discussion, and practice using your school yard or a local natural area and your classes as the framework.

Participants are encouraged to bring information about their school site or a nearby natural area for use with workshop activities. Teaching partners/groups are encouraged to facilitate planning/implementation of projects.

Registration deadline is June 17, 2015 - you must register electronically. Registration fee:
$75 (includes lunches, materials, and 1 license renewal credit); or $150 (includes lunches, materials, and 1 EDEX graduate credit)

For more information, contact:; 515-494-3891.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Themed Nature Games

Keep your students active this spring with these fun spring themed games.

Robin’s Egg
Select 1 student to be the robin. Have the robin sit with his/her back to the other students, at least ten feet away. Place a plastic egg behind the robin. The robin needs to protect the egg. The remaining students take turns sneaking up behind the robin and try to steal the egg. If the robin hears the person sneaking up, he/she will “call” and then turn around. If the robin catches a student, that student becomes the new robin. If there is no student when the robin “calls,” the robin remains the robin and the game starts again.

Flower Power
Students pretend to be pollinators traveling from flower to flower. Scatter hula hoops across the play area (fewer hula hoops than students). Place a card with a shape inside each hula hoop (flower). Give each student a card with a shape. Students must travel around the play area, matching their card to one inside a flower. When they find a match, they stand inside the flower. Only one student can be inside each flower. If a student doesn’t “pollinate” a flower, they are out. Remove a flower (hula hoop) after each round.

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

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

Watch it Grow!
Plant flowers, a tree, or a garden. There are plenty of jobs to keep everyone active: digging holes, planting the tree/flowers, moving mulch, carrying water pails. Encourage parents and local community members to join in on the fun. Students will have fun watching their plants/trees change through the seasons.

Gardening Obstacle Course
You need a large outside play area. For older kids, have two teams race against each other.

Obstacle 1 – carry 3 (numbers can be adjusted to age of students) bags of dirt to 3 marked planting sites
Obstacle 2 – load 3 (numbers can be adjusted to age of students) bags of mulch into a wheel barrow
Obstacle 3 – push loaded wheel barrow through curvy path (for added challenge, include a hill)

Obstacle 4 – unload the bags of mulch

Obstacle 5 – load wagon with produce

Obstacle 6 – push wagon to produce stand

Obstacle 7 – unload produce

Obstacle 8 – climb the fence (stack of hay bales) – finish line

Build a Nest
Students are robins building their nests. Divide the students into two relay teams. Each team stands single file behind the starting line. Place 2 buckets of wet mud (1 for each team) and the end of the course. Place 2 small containers (1 for each team) at the starting line. Give each student a plastic spoon.

The first student “flies” to the bucket of mud, scoops up a spoonful of mud, flies back to the starting line, and empties their spoon of mud into the container (nest). Continue until all students have helped build the nest.

Dig a Hole
Divide students into teams. Place a bucket of soil and 10 plastic cups in front of each line. Place an empty bucket at the end of the line. The first student in each line fills a cup with soil and passes it to the student behind them. Students continue passing the cup until it reaches the last student. The last student empties the cup into the bucket. Continue until all the dirt has been transferred.

Classroom Phenology Notebook

“Many of the events of the annual cycle recur year after year in a regular order. A year-to-year record of this order is a record of the rates at which solar energy flows to and through living things. They are the arteries of the land. By tracing their response to the sun, phenology may eventually shed some light on that ultimate enigma, the land’s inner workings.” –Aldo Leopold, A Phenological Record for Sauk and Dane Counties, Wisconsin, 1935-1945

Phenology is the study of the timing of life cycle events and their relationship to the environment (e.g., leaves changing color in the fall, birds migrating in the spring and fall, butterflies emerging from their

Chrysalis). It tells scientists when events such as bird migration are happening on their usual schedule—and when an event might be out of time or place, especially in relation to the climate and change of seasons.

Phenologists observe and take notes on these events to try to discover nature’s patterns and rhythms. One famous phenologist, Aldo Leopold, kept records of wild animal and plant life on his Wisconsin farm from 1935-1948. His daughter, Nina Leopold Bradley, continued to carry on her father’s work, compiling a robust database spanning from 1976 until her death in 2011. She found that a substantial number of phenological events occurred much earlier in her data than they did in her father's.

Create a classroom phenology notebook to track the natural patterns of plants and animals at your school. Fill a three-ring binder with notebook paper and add dividers for each month. Record seasonal changes your students observe while outside throughout the year – sunrise/sunset times, hours of sunlight, temperature, changes in tree leaves and plants, animals you see and what they are doing.

Helpful Websites

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teaching Environmental Sustainability - Model My Watershed

The Concord Consortium, the Stroud Water Research Center, and Heartland AEA are pleased to announce the Teaching Environmental Sustainability-Model My Watershed (TES-MMW) workshop, a project funded by the National Science Foundation. Participants and their students will use free portal-based activities that employ maps and models to study their own school’s watershed; teachers will participate in two summer face-to-face workshops and two online courses. TES-MMW activities support NGSS and Math Common Core. Teachers will receive a stipend for participating. 

This program is for Iowa middle and high school science teachers whose curriculum includes watershed studies, and who are willing and available to participate in all TES-MMW workshop and online activities that include:
  • 3 day workshop in Johnston, IA, July 28-30, 2015 (travel and housing reimbursed by grant).
  •  2015-16 academic year: 2 online courses for teachers; 6 class periods of activities with your students.
  •  2 day workshop in Lawrence, KS, last week of July 2016 (dates TBD; travel and housing reimbursed).
  • Completion of all research activities required for NSF funding (see consent form, pp. 2-3)

Applications are due May 1, 2015. For more information contact Rob Kleinow at

Monday, March 16, 2015

Project WILD Field Test

The Council for Environmental Education (CEE), the national office for Project WILD, invites K-12 educators (formal and nonformal) to help field test activities being considered for publication in future editions of the Project WILD K-12 Curriculum & Activity Guide.
Please complete the application survey (by April 3) if you would like to try out one or more activities with your students and then provide CEE with feedback - $40 stipends are available for participating. CEE will notify those selected to participate on April 10, 2015.

Activities typically require two 45 minute class sessions or the equivalent instructional time, and may also involve investigating outdoor areas, such as a school yard or park. Although you are welcome and encouraged to field test more than one activity, and to conduct a single activity with more than one class, only one $40 stipend will be provided to each participating educator. Results will be due to CEE via the Field Test Results Survey no later than Friday, June 5, 2015. Stipends will be mailed beginning on Friday, June 12, 2015.