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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 for February 2024


Reforming Science Practices - Engaging in Argument from Evidence

The word “argument” is such a highly-charged word in our current lexicon that this can seem like a strange thing to include in our science standards.  This wording implies a “winner” and a “loser”, where in science we’re really just going through the process to decide which claim is best supported by our evidence.  If we can do this then we can all move our understanding about the world forward together…nobody loses there!  This video from Paul Anderson (10 min) does a great job of summarizing what we mean by “Engaging in Argument from Evidence” in science and engineering and has some great real life examples.

CER (Claim-Evidence-Reasoning) is a natural entry point into this practice and these writing prompts are common in many classrooms.  While CER is a great way to organize your argument, this approach may give rise to the idea that we make a claim first, then go find the evidence, when in reality we gather the evidence to answer a question, then develop our claim based on that evidence - more on that below.

Here are some additional resources for you to explore this practice and how to have students use it in the classroom:

  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence graphic organizer - I really like this organizer because it highlights that we need to gather the evidence first and make the claim after we have evaluated the evidence, not the other way around, as is often presented in a traditional C-E-R.  You can find an editable version here (just click the “Use Template” button in the upper right).

  • Read more about this practice - The book “Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices” has briefs on all the SEPs.  You can check out the book from our Media Library and read more about all the practices and get ideas on how to integrate them into your classroom.  There is also an entire series of books about Argument Driven Inquiry and you can read about that series in the “Media Connections” section below.

  • Take a look at these planning cards and additional resources by grade level to pick up some ideas for classroom implementation: 

If you’d like to learn more about Engaging in Argument from Evidence (or other science related topics), check out the Keystone micro-credentials around science on our website:  Keystone Science Micro-credentials.  If you’d like a thought partner to brainstorm ways to get students more engaged in using this practice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at and plan a way in which we can collaborate!


Media Connections - Professional Materials for Science Teachers

Did you know that Keystone AEA media  has over 600 items related to science for teachers specifically?  By searching for the keyword “science” and selecting the resources tagged for teachers, you can see some of the many items, from physical books, digital books on MackinVIA, videos and more.

Here are just a few that might be of immediate interest, but do some of your own searching on our site to see if you can find a resource that suits you.  Both the “Uncovering Student Ideas” and “Argument Driven Inquiry” books are part of a series spanning a broad range of topics and grade levels.

  • B 97242  Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science, Volume 3:  Presents engaging questions, also known as formative assessment probes (offered in English and Spanish).  You can find the rest of the series on wide variety of science concepts by searching for “keeley formative assessment”

  • B  96948 Argument Driven Inquiry For Chemistry:  This is just one example from the Argument Driven Inquiry series (we have books for 3rd grade through HS topics) which provides students with the opportunity to work the way scientists do.  They learn to identify questions, develop models, collect and analyze data, generate arguments, and critique and revise their reports. Just search for “argument driven inquiry” to find all the books in the series.

  • B 97490 Ambitious Science Teaching:  Text outlines a powerful framework for science teaching to ensure that instruction is rigorous and equitable for students from all backgrounds. The practices presented in the book are being used in schools and districts that seek to improve science teaching at scale, and a wide range of science subjects and grade levels are represented.

Navigate to the Keystone Media Catalog Search Page to find more media resources and reserve some today!


Science Safety - Heat Sources

Heat sources play an important role in science investigations from, from kindergarten classrooms all the way to high school.  While many investigations will require heat as part of the experimental process, the type of heat source and independence of use by students will vary significantly.   In many situations in the elementary classroom, heating of materials should be done by the teacher, while in middle school and beyond a hot plate will likely be a good choice for most experiments that don’t require a flame.  

For those investigations that do require a flame (mainly chemistry labs), extra precautions should be taken to make sure students are aware of how to properly operate the device and all necessary safety precautions are in place, like tying back long hair, wearing short sleeves or tight-fitting clothing, and using safety goggles.

While there is likely a place for most heat sources in lab settings, the one source that is not recommended is the alcohol burner…the kind that has a metal cap and wick.  These burners have the potential to explode and are not recommended for K-12 classrooms.  There is typically a safer alternative for nearly every lab that uses heat.

Additional Resources and Readings:


Upcoming Opportunities (Professional Learning, Grants, and Student Events)

Professional Learning - Helping Students Critique and Communicate in Science - Registration Deadline Extended (with a change of dates)

In this online course, participants will gain a deeper understanding of the Science and Engineering Practices: engaging in argument from evidence and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. In order to connect to instructional strategies, participants will practice implementing them through a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle.


Iowa STEM Teacher Externship Application Now Open!

The STEM Teacher Externship program is an opportunity for current teachers in STEM areas to spend 6 weeks working with a local business host and fostering a relationship that can greatly impact student learning and the future workforce. Teachers can earn up to $5000 and 3 graduate credits for participating. 

Interested? Visit for more information and to start the application process.


STEM Scale-Up Program Application is now open!

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is accepting applications for the fourteen programs on the 2024-25 STEM Scale-Up Program Menu  Applications are due February 28 at 4:59 PM. 

2024-2025 STEM Scale-Up Program menu 

If you have questions, you may also email at Northeast Iowa STEM Hub manager (


 Iowa Space Grant Consortium Opportunity

The Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) will sponsor selected Iowa educators to attend the Space Port Conference for Educators at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ISGC will provide funding to four Iowa educators for conference registration, airfare, lodging, transportation to and from the hotel and conference center, and select meals from June 25th to 29th, 2024. Applications are now being accepted!

 Apply Here

Learn more about the SPACE Conference here.

Questions can be directed to Iowa Space Grant Consortium Program Specialist Hailey Waller at

Applications close February 14th, 2024


ISU Summer Research Experience

Attention K-12 STEM Teachers! It is time to apply for the ISU Summer Research Experience! Program dates are June 19-31, 2024 at Iowa State University. This is a PAID summer opportunity for current and pre-service teachers in the STEM fields. We have approximately 22 teacher opportunities to fill this summer.

Click here for program specifics 


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Jason Martin-Hiner

School Improvement Facilitator