On The Radio – Workshop brings together scientists and educators


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Teachers participating in a curriculum development workshop at the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science workshop last month. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | August 1, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science educator workshop that took place last month.

Transcript: Workshop brings together scientists and educators

Two University of Iowa professors from different disciplines came together last month to host an event aimed at helping teachers better connect with their students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Nearly two dozen Eastern Iowa teachers got together last month for a workshop that taught them about hands-on activities and lesson plans to better engage their students and potentially attract them to STEM careers. The event was organized by UI earth and environmental sciences professor Art Bettis along with College of Education clinical assistant professor Leslie Flynn. The event was also sponsored by the UI State Hygienic Laboratory and the Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory, a National Science Foundation-supported research collaborative that studies the impact agriculture has on land, air, and water in the Midwest.

The workshop consisted of two parts: a morning session that had the teachers at a research site in eastern Iowa County learning about hand-on activities and potential field trip opportunities for their students. The teachers took water samples and tested them for various metrics such as nitrate levels. In the afternoon, the teachers took part in a curriculum development exercise at the State Hygienic Lab.

Dr. Bettis – who is also a member of the UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research – said he was happy the event was able to bring together scientific researchers and public educators.

Art Bettis: “With the CZO, we want to, just like all scientists we want to be able to get our science out to the public and there’s multiple ways of doing that but I’m a pretty firm believer that one of the really, really critical and best ways to do it is through education.”

For more information about the Critical Zone Observatory Environmental Science Workshop, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

New science standards approved for Iowa K-12 schools


(Danny Nicholson/Flickr)
(Danny Nicholson/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | August 7, 2015

The Iowa Education Board voted unanimously Thursday to implement new science standards for K-12 public schools in the state.

Iowa is the 15th state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which “spell out science-based knowledge and skills that students should possess at each grade level.” The new standards focus less on memorization and more on other skills such as “analyzing data, developing a model and constructing a logical argument.” Students will also now be required to take an engineering course, previously offered only as an elective.

The adoption the new standards met some resistance by an Iowa House bill which aimed to block the new standards for “miss[ing] some key math and science concepts, present[ing] evolution as scientific fact and shine[ing] a negative light on human impacts on climate change.” The bill was defeated earlier this year.

A study by the American Society of Human Genetics found that the NGSS were effective at covering 10 out of 19 core genetics concepts compared to previous state standards that only covered about five core concepts.

Last year Wyoming became the first state to block the NGSS. The Wyoming state legislature has since lifted the block though the state’s Board of Education has yet to implement the standards.

Iowa along with 26 other states and the National Academy of Sciences teamed up in 2013 to develop the NGSS.

Other states that have adopted NGSS: Arkansas (for middle school), California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

Report: STEM scores lower for minority, low-income students in Iowa


Students get hands on experience learning about science at Chicago's Argonne National Laboratory. (Argonne National Laboratory)
Students get hands-on experience learning about science at Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory. (Argonne National Laboratory)

Nick Fetty | August 5, 2015

A report released Monday finds that math and science proficiency rates for Iowa students from low-income and minority families lags below their peers.

The third annual report – which was compiled by researchers from Iowa’s three public universities – points out that while overall student achievement in math and science has improved since Governor Terry Branstad launched his Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council in 2011, there is still room for improvement.

“Amidst plenty of good news, there’s also reminders that our work is not done and there’s more to do,” Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “So while we have made progress, and that’s something that we can celebrate, we know that we still have work to do.”

The report also found that interest in STEM careers was higher for elementary-school students compared to those in middle and high school, that 90 percent of students who participated in a STEM “Scale-Up” program in 2014-2015 had a greater interest in at least one STEM subject or career, and that more than 60 percent of Iowans surveyed said they were familiar with efforts to improve STEM education in the Hawkeye State. Earlier this summer, Iowa State University hosted a workshop for grade school teachers to better implement STEM programs into their classrooms.

Despite the lower rates for minority students at the K-12 level, the report also concluded that completion of community college STEM-related degrees for minorities has improved 69 percent since 2010. Overall, STEM degrees at Iowa’s public universities have increased 12 percent and  11 percent at private colleges since 2010.