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Welcome to the Science Teacher Update! Here, you will find ideas to inspire your Next Generation Science Standards implementation for the classroom. We will also showcase student events happening in the Keystone area and, of course, professional development opportunities!


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Science Update - September 2023


Reforming Science Practices - Helping Students Make Their Questions Public

One of the eight Science and Engineering Practices that we want students to engage with over the course of their K-12 science learning experience is Asking Questions and Defining Problems.  While the expectations for students within this practice vary by grade level  (check out the progression with descriptors here), one of the challenges remains the same - how do we help students make their questions public and gather those questions in a way that can help drive future investigations and inquiry?  If you’re looking for ideas on how to make that happen in your classroom, check out the two strategies below and follow the links to learn more about each one:

  • Question Formulation Technique: The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) is a structured method for generating and improving questions developed by the Right Question Institute. It helps students to develop and modify both closed and open questions and provides a routine that can help questions that are most important to drive learning forward rise to the top.  You can see it in action in the following example videos:  Elementary and Secondary 

  • Driving Question Boards: A Driving Question Board (DQB) is a tool used in some curricula (OpenSciEd is a freely available one) as a way to generate, keep track of, and revisit student questions.  If used correctly, those questions can then drive the investigation of phenomena within the unit. It can also be a visual representation of the class’s shared mission of learning and is a nice way to not only group related questions together, but can provide a space that can be revisited as old questions are answered and new questions are introduced.  Here is a brief video overview of how these are used in classrooms.

If you would like to try either of these strategies and are looking for a thought partner for brainstorming how to implement either in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know how I can support that work! (


Media Connections - Microscopes For All Grade Levels (Including Digital Options)

Many science classrooms have their own microscopes, but did you know that Keystone AEA also has a variety of scopes for checkout?  These cover a wide range of options, from your traditional microscopes to digital ones that can connect via USB to student devices.  Here are just a few example pictures that were captured of the digital microscopes in action, along with some screenshots:

We even have digital microscopes appropriate for our youngest students to interact with - take a look at this video using Zoomy and how “Zooming In” helped to see features of a fabric that our eyes didn’t initally see. 

Navigate to the Keystone Media Catalog Search Page for all the options available and reserve one to try out today (PRO TIP:  In the search, type “Microscope.” If you unclick the “All Options” checkbox and click the “Kits” checkbox before searching, you’ll just see the order numbers for actual microscopes and not all media resources related to microscopes) 


Science Safety - Room and Facility Assessments

Looking over your room and checking to make sure all the proper safety equipment is in place and operational is an ongoing best practice, but it is especially important at the start of the year, when things may have been moved, removed, or replaced over the summer.  

Here are a few checklists that can help with your own room or facility assessments to help make sure the learning environment is as safe as possible for student science investigations.  

If you’d like to watch a webinar about doing a room safety assessment, you can find that here.

Taking the time to inspect your room is best practice and sets both you and your students up for a safe and successful year of learning science together.

Upcoming Opportunities (Professional and Student Events)

Upcoming AEA Professional Development offerings

Blank Park Zoo Professional Development

Blank Park Zoo LogoThe Blank Park Zoo would once again like to invite educators to professional development opportunities that will be held at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines on the dates listed below.  The workshops are good for one hour of license renewal credit.

  • October 6/7, 2023 – Conservation: People and Animals
  • November 17/18, 2023 – Lamarck, and Wallace, and Darwin – Oh, My!
  • January 19/20, 2024 – Biomimicry and Inspiration
  • February 16/17, 2024 – Nature-centered Science for PreK-2
  • March 22/23, 2024 – Art and Science

More information

 Nominations are now being accepted for the 2024 Iowa STEM Teacher Award 

The Governor’s STEM Advisory Council at the Iowa Department of Education is partnering with Kemin Industries for the 10th year of the Iowa STEM Teacher Award. Nominations opened Aug. 20 and will be accepted through Oct. 10.

The Iowa STEM Teacher Award recognizes one full-time, licensed PreK-12 teacher from each of the state’s six STEM regions whose passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) motivates their students to develop a lifelong interest in STEM fields—both in and out of the classroom. The six selected recipients will each receive an award of $1,500 for their classrooms and $1,500 for personal use. 

For more information, go to:

Iowa Space Grant Consortium

Iowa Space Grant Consortium LogoPromoting opportunities aligned with NASA’s mission by stimulating research, education, and outreach programs for all Iowans.

More information

Noyce Grant at Upper Iowa University
Upper Iowa University Logo

Upper Iowa University was recently awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The “Mentoring Awesome Science Teacher Education Recruits” (MASTER) project will prepare 15 Upper Iowa University All Science majors to teach science in high-poverty, high-need, and rural schools in Iowa. Upper Iowa University juniors and seniors, majoring in All Science with Teacher Certification are eligible for scholarships from $10,000- $22,000 per year.

More information


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Jason Martin-Hiner

School Improvement Facilitator