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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 May 2024


Reforming Science Practices - Assessing Science Progress

Assessment is a challenging task, whether you’re assessing in science or any other topic area.  Standards-based assessment and reporting or project-based assessments have their own fundamental principles to consider, and, in addition, our science standards are three-dimensional.  This means that we want to assess student understanding of the big content ideas in science (DCIs), but also need to assess their ability to apply the science and engineering practices (SEPs) and crosscutting concepts (CCCs) to make sense of science phenomena.

Thankfully, many groups are working on tackling this same challenge. If you’d like to see what three-dimensional tasks can look like, check out the resources at Contextus. There are a variety of resources available to help with writing your own tasks and a library of tasks that might spark some ideas for use in your own classroom. Many of these are works in progress, so keep checking back to learn more about how these tasks are being modified and adapted.

Here are a few additional resources to consider as you reflect on assessment in your own science class:

If you’d like a thought partner to brainstorm ways to modify or revise assessments in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at to plan a way in which we can collaborate!


Media Connection - Insignia is Coming!

Keystone AEA Media and IT staff have been working diligently to transition to a new Media Reservation System for all our area Media patrons. This new reservation system is called Insignia. We are anticipating a full launch date for our Keystone AEA area schools in August 2024. The Insignia Library System offers some great features to educators so that they can search and locate the Keystone library resources they need to serve student outcomes. 


Some features of Insignia include:

  • User-Friendly Interface: The OPAC Insignia Library System provides patrons with a visual and intuitive and easy-to-navigate interface, making it simple for our patrons to search for and access our library resources.

  • Advanced Search Options: Patrons can use the embedded advanced search options to refine their searches based on various criteria such as author, title, subject, keyword, publication year, and more, ensuring educators can find exactly what they're looking for.

  • Browsable Catalog: The system offers a browsable catalog feature, allowing patrons to explore the library's collection in a visually appealing and organized manner.

  • Personalized Accounts: Patrons can create personalized accounts within the OPAC system, enabling them to view and manage their borrowing history, save searches, create reading lists, and receive notifications about due dates and holds.

  • Availability Status: Patrons can easily check the availability status of library materials, including whether items are currently on loan, on hold, or available for immediate check

Stay tuned as more communications will be forthcoming. We think our patrons are going to LOVE it! #groundedinservice


Science Safety - Closing Down Your Classroom for Summer

It’s hard to believe the May is already upon us!  As the end of the school year approaches, it's essential to properly shut down your classroom for summer break. Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your classroom to be safely inactive over the summer:

  1. Do a materials and storage check: Take inventory, verify that supplies are in labeled containers to prevent damage, and declutter by donating or disposing of unnecessary items.  Make sure any chemicals or perishable materials are properly stored for the summer by verify ventilation in and chemical storage areas.   This is also a good time to dispose of expired chemicals properly.

  2. Make sure all electronics are off: Power down and unplug all electronics and equipment to prevent hazards like electrical fires. Store devices in a cool, dry place for the summer so that they are easy to find and ready to go for fall classes.   Ensure equipment is stored safely and away from ceiling, ideally at least 18 inches away.

  3. Check Safety Equipment: Inspect and test safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, smoke detectors, eye wash stations, and chemical showers as needed.  Inspect fume hoods, chemical storage cabinets, and spill equipment and file work requests for any equipment that is not functioning properly or needs replacing.

These tips will help ensure a smooth closure of your classroom, keep you materials safe over the summer, and set the stage for a successful return in the fall.  You can find additional ideas and details from Dr. Ken Roy on his NSTA Safety Blog found here

Professional Development

Iowa STEM Teacher Externships

Secondary STEM Teacher Externs are given the opportunity to work alongside local workplace professionals for 6 weeks (240 hours) during
the summer to gain career knowledge and experience to take back to their classroom. Teachers are carefully placed with workplace partners based on interest and skills to make the experience beneficial for both host and teacher.

For more information or to apply visit:


Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI) 2024

Do you have a colleague who has already shared a professional learning resolution?

The Belin-Blank Center is the only approved AP site in the state. They aim to host the BEST APSI EVER. They are planning for two weeks on-campus and one week online this summer. For more information (including courses and registration), please visit.  There are several $500 scholarships for Iowa educators. The scholarship application is on the website. The funding is limited so acting early is suggested. 

  • On-Campus Session II: July 8 - July 11, 2024: Biology - Calculus AB – Chemistry


Science in the Park at the Lost Island Parks

Date: May 17, 2024

Science in the Park is a college/career/tech fair with science demonstrations and activities for high school students.  The event will showcase Iowa Colleges, Businesses (with job opportunities), and Technologies and the achievements of students in their schools. The Lost Island Parks will be open to students from high schools with access to some rides at no cost.

Participating high school students will have opportunities to:

  • be engaged in science activities (including collecting data from thrill rides and drones, learning from demonstrations with cryonic and pyrotechnic materials, and listening to public lectures on topics such as evidence for extraterrestrial life);  

  • talk to representatives from Iowa tech schools, colleges, and universities as well as from Iowa businesses and government personnel;  

  • view new products and innovations from Iowa businesses;  

  • be a part of celebrating some of the exceptional achievements of Iowans (students, employees, and businesses).    

Please feel free to contact Dan Kuchera via email at


Iowa State University Research Experience for Teachers (RET)

The RET provides elementary, middle, and high school teachers with research experiences and ongoing relationships with career scientists, enabling them to share the latest developments in STEM fields with students and inspire their students to learn more about science, math, and engineering and their related career paths. Application by teams of STEM teachers is also encouraged.

June 19 – July 31, 2024 Time: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Major Activities:

  • Engage in cutting-edge research under the guidance of a faculty mentor for approximately 35 hours per week for six weeks.
  • Develop strong relationships with researchers and their teams from Iowa State University
  • Attend weekly laboratory meetings with the research team.
  • Spend one day per week focusing solely on their professional learning with other RET program colleagues.
  • Produce a lesson or unit that will help translate summer learning into activities for use in the classroom.
  • Participate in 30-minute bi-weekly mentoring sessions via Zoom throughout the school year 

Workshop Format:

  • In-person credit offered: Yes
  • Stipend offered: $900 per week
  • Travel and mileage stipend available
  • On-campus housing provided, if needed
  • All necessary materials for research and professional learning
  • Cohort activities and weekly seminars

For more information and to apply, please visit:


Expanding the UNIVERSE: UNderstanding Industrial Engineering VERSatility for Educators

This course includes a kit for all participants of classroom supplies for pre-developed, standards-based lessons related to industrial engineering. It will include interacting with four ISU alumni in space-related industries: Blue Origin, Boeing, Collins Aerospace, and SpaceX.  Participants will do hands-on activities in manufacturing, data analytics, and human factors. 

  • Registration
  • Course #: 226391
  • Section #: 318658
  • Location: Hybrid with the face-to-face portion at Iowa State University
  • Dates: May 15 - June 21, 2024
  • Instructor: Leslie Potter


UNI's Master of Arts in Science Education Cohort 

Beginning Summer 2024

This program integrates theory, application, and content for K-12 teachers to update pedagogy, add endorsement areas to their teaching license or update content knowledge in specialty areas.

Apply online at

UNI's Physics Department also has some new highlights they would like to share including: 

 Their new Gayl & Kathy Hopkins Scholarship provides $8,000 for four years for incoming physics majors. The Physics Department also offers several multi-year, $4,000 Jourdan Excellence in Physics scholarships for new students. Please feel free to e-mail them if you or your students have questions. UNI Science Education faculty would also be happy to do presentations on topics of interest in person or via Zoom.


DNR Summer Offerings for Teachers

The DNR is offering an online WILD, Aquatic WILD, and Project Learning Tree course this spring.  They are also offering an in-person Outdoor Teaching, Learning, and Leading course which will encompass Hunter Education, Fish Iowa, Project Wild, and Outdoor Skills.

Click here to register 

Search for Course Numbers: #226478 CR - Outdoor Education, Learning, and Leading - Starts June 15, 2024


Blank Park Zoo Professional Development

The 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.  

Click here for more information.

Science contact: Jason Martin-Hiner

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Jason Martin-Hiner

School Improvement Facilitator