Science Update Newsletter

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December 2019

Science Update

In this issue...

News & Updates

The #PAEMST 2019-2020 Cycle is Now Open


Do you know a K–6th grade STEM teacher who should be recognized for their impact in the classroom? Nominate them for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (#PAEMST) today! Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to honor our nation’s greatest educators!


EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Calls for Nominations for the 2020 Presidential Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) and Presidential Innovation Awards for Environmental Educators (PIAEE)

Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act (NEEA), PEYA recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects from Kindergarten to 12th grade, by promoting environmental awareness and encouraging community involvement. Also established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, PIAEE recognizes outstanding K-12 grade educators who integrate environmental and place-based, experiential learning into school curricula and school facility management across the country. Under NEAA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality assists EPA in administering the PIAEE awards program.

EPA is seeking 2020 PEYA and PIAEE award applications for projects on a variety of environmental topics, including (but not limited to), projects on:

  • reducing food waste and loss and excess food recovery efforts;
  • reducing contributions to ocean and marine litter;
  • solutions in recycling;
  • using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to teach environmental education;
  • environmental sustainability;
  • sustainable agricultural practices; and
  • healthy school environments

For additional information, visit:


Looking for more ways to stay current on national science education trends and research?

Next Gen Navigator is a monthly e-newsletter delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction.

The November 2019 issue provides a discussion around accessing science in elementary grades, identification of high quality instructional materials for middle school, and the current trends and practices in STEM education in secondary classrooms.

Visit to sign up and access archived past issues.


Iowa Academy of Science - Excellence in Science Teacher Award Nominations

The Iowa Academy of Science awarded the first Excellence in Science Teaching Awards in 1969. Outstanding teachers of all grade levels and areas of science have been recognized for their work and innovations in science education. Nominations are encouraged from administrators, colleagues, or a teacher may self-nominate. Selections are made by the Awards and Recognition Committee. Winners are honored at the President's Banquet during the Iowa Academy of Science Annual Meeting. Awardees receive a plaque and a $100 award.

To download ESTA information click the following link:

To nominate or self-nominate click below:

For the ESTA information web page:


Professional Learning Opportunities

5th Annual Emerging Educators Academy


The Outstanding Educators’ Academy of the Iowa Department of Education in partnership with the Iowa State Education Association, Simpson College and its Department of Education is hosting the 5th Annual Emerging Educators Academy on January 30, 2020.

The conference is for all Pre-Service and 1st through 3rd year Teachers as well as their mentors.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with outstanding Iowa educators, professional leaders, and Department of Education consultants to focus on recruiting and retaining effective educators.

This year educators will explore "Perspectives in our Practice" and breakout sessions will focus on building classroom community, mental health and loving teaching.

Visit the link below for additional information and registration.


Online learning to deepen understanding of our science standards

These online modules have been designed to help with the learning targets for years one and two of the Iowa Science Standards implementation (2015-16 and 2016-17). These modules can be used as stand-alone pieces for learning about a specific topic, or you can follow the suggested pathway to engage with all of the learning goals established for the  implementation of our new science standards.

Visit the link below for additional information.  You'll need to log into your AEALearningOnline account to view the opportunities. 

Price: available at no cost to Iowa district and AEA employees

Intended student(s): Teachers, Instructional Coaches


Are your classroom assessments multi-dimensional?


During the 2019-2020 school year Iowa will continue collaborating with Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado (MINK & CO) to provide professional learning and networking opportunities for science educators.

The focus of this year's online meetings will be "Eliciting Student Evidence to Improve Science Learning". Each session will be facilitated by science educators from one of the sponsoring states, and concentrate on one particular aspect of assessing in an NGSS-aligned classroom.

Session 2: Jan. 16 and 30, Feb. 13
Session 3: April 16 and 30, May 14
All webinars are scheduled from 4-5pm on the days listed above

Access via Zoom link at:


Are you looking to improve your instructional coaching practice?


The Iowa Science Coaching Network is an hour-long webinar led by instructional coaches from Southeast Polk CSD. The webinar serves as a platform for coaches and other instructional leaders to learn about the science standards and best practices, share resources used to coach teachers and provide PD to teachers, and reflect on coaching strategies through coaching conversations and by posing questions to other coaches. All webinars are recorded and can be found with resources on the ISCN website.

Webinars begin at 9:00am on Dec. 17, Feb. 25, April 21, May 12

Access via Zoom link at:


What makes a healthy school-community partnership?


Join us on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30pm for focused, online professional learning and networking.  Twitter chats will last 30-45 minutes and allow Iowa science teachers to connect with colleagues both in-state and nationally. 

December's guest Tweeter will be Maureen Griffin who will discuss Community & Place-based Learning Partnerships.

Participants will network with professionals in science education from across the nation as part of this fast-paced format. Science teachers can stay informed about the science education landscape in Iowa and nationally while participating in discussions to gain and deepen knowledge around best practices in science education and the Iowa Core science standards. 

For additional information, log on to Twitter and search for #iasciencechat.


Elevate your teaching!

A new pathway for existing science and math teachers to become endorsed to teach physics has been created. This endorsement pathway will help improve teachers’ physics content knowledge and better prepare Iowa students for a future in STEM. The coursework is designed for teachers who are licensed by the state of Iowa to teach 5-12 math or science and are interested in the Iowa 5-12 Physics Endorsement or the physics component of the Iowa 5-12 All Science Endorsement.

Please see the ‘Program Schedule’ tab at for course details and enrollment information.

Resources for Teaching & Learning

It's always a good time to review science classroom and lab safety!

Has it been a while since you've brushed up on classroom/lab safety best practices?  Are you a teacher who's new to the science classroom?  It's important that all science teachers are aware of the responsibilities and best practices that support safe learning environments. 

With the adoption of the Iowa Science Standards in 2015, activities including hands-on investigations, explorations, and demonstrations are essential for high-quality K–12 science instruction. These activities support the development of content knowledge, laboratory and critical thinking skills, and a deep, conceptual understanding of the world around us. Inherent in these kinds of activities, however, is the potential for injury.

Please take a few moments to review the materials on the NSTA safety web pages, linked below, as well as any local resources and guidance available to you.  Resources on the NSTA safety page include position papers, videos, student-facing handouts, issue papers, professional learning materials and links to  NSTA's "Lab out loud" podcasts.

Visit for more information.


Making lesson plans for next semester? Take note!


As one semester starts winding down, we turn our attention to the next. As you start drafting your lesson plans, try something different: Bring a hands-on, real-world project into your classroom.

Educators who are doing this will tell you this much: It brings a deeper level of understanding to your students of your subject matter. Subjects that may seem remote or irrelevant suddenly become real. Real-world projects engage students like never before.

Check out the projects on the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning. There are well over 100 projects there; the businesses are eager to work with you and your students.

Want to get started but need a bit of guidance? Call your AEA representative. Other questions? Contact the Iowa Department of Education’s Jake Welchans at


Need a quick and easy way to access the Next Generation Science Standards?

The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) has helped to develop a free app for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), in partnership with Mastery Connect.

You can download the Next Generation Science Standards app by searching "MasteryConnect" or "Next Generation Science Standards" in your app store or by visiting the iOS Store, Android Marketplace, or Windows Store.

The Next Generation Science Standards app gives you multiple ways to view the standards, including DCI and Topic arrangements, and also includes convenient search functionality.

Visit the NSTA website to learn more:


Smithsonian Science Education Center - new FREE instructional resources for developing students’ sustainability mindsets

Pick Your Plate! A Global Guide to Nutrition – a simulation demonstrating differences in cultural foods, currency, and nutritional standards across the globe:

Aquation: The Freshwater Access Game – simulation where students manage wealth and water distribution to solve the world’s water crisis:

Mosquito: How Can We Ensure Health for All from Mosquito-borne Diseases? and “Food! How do we ensure good nutrition for all?” – Place-based Community Research Guides aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and designed to help youth ages 8-17 use their STEM knowledge to do social good in their region:

You may also be interested in the following free STEM resource designed for preschoolers through 2nd grade: Tami’s Tower: Let’s Think About Engineering - an educational engineering design game with built in metacognitve prompts to help young students design a solution to a problem using basic engineering design principles - Available in English and Spanish.


Elementary science resources from Iowa Ag Literacy



The Iowa Ag Today is a student reader written at a 4th grade reading level, and is aligned to science and social studies standards. There are six issues available, each with slightly different topics, ranging from agriculture and the environment to science, technology, engineering, and math. These magazines are available upon request in classroom sets of 25. Each classroom set comes with a teacher guide and student activity sheet. One set of magazines can be ordered for only a processing fee of $0.50. A classroom set of all six issues can be ordered for a total of $3.00. Review the publications and order your copies today at

Iowa Ag Today Student Magazine
Iowa Ag Today is now available to order online! The student magazine is designed to enhance science, social studies, and language arts lessons and encourage students to explore the connections between agriculture and their everyday lives. It is produced by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and aligned to 4th grade Iowa Core standards.  Iowa Ag Today is available in English and Spanish versions. There are six issues available, each with different themes, ranging from Culture, Society, Economy & Geography to STEM

Printed copies of Iowa Ag Today are available to Iowa educators while supplies last. A minimal shipping and handling fee of $0.50 per classroom pack of 25 copies is charged. Review the publications and order your copies today at


Eric Hall
Science Consultant
Bureau of Leading, Teaching, Learning Services
Iowa Department of Education
Grimes State Office Building
400 E 14th St
Des Moines, IA 50319