Growing strong STEM students
University of Iowa College of Education Assistant Professor Cory Forbes is helping teachers use existing curricular materials to promote inquiry-based science education. His research will help teachers improve their students’ learning in the critical fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Forbes is working with elementary teachers in Davenport, one of Iowa’s largest high-needs districts. The project, “Promoting Inquiry-Based Elementary Science through Collaborative Curriculum Co-construction,” or PIESC3, helps educators adapt their current curricular resources to meet National Science Education Standards and the Iowa Core Curriculum.
Forbes works with teachers to evaluate videos of their own teaching to identify examples of inquiry-based instruction, that is, teaching structured around questions concerning scientific concepts and processes. Teachers involved in the project also participate in professional development courses to improve their science teaching.
Lori Bates-Heithoff, a first grade teacher at McKinley Elementary, said the process has made her a better teacher and made her students better scientists. “They are much more enthusiastic about science when their curiosity drives the lesson,” she said.
DID YOU KNOW?
UI College of Education faculty members are involved in STEM-related research and projects statewide. For example, Brian Hand and Bill Therrien are helping 7,000 Iowa students in grades 4-6 in 48 elementary schools located in Loess Hills (southwest Iowa) and Keystone (northeast Iowa) AEAs to improve their science literacy.
Reese Saunders, a fourth grade teacher at Wilson Elementary School in Davenport and PIESC3 participant: “One of the big things we’re focusing on is 21st century skills. Students need to be able to adapt, to problem solve, and to have critical-thinking skills. I think that comes from inquiry-based learning.”
Education Grads Inspire Iowans, Improve Iowa Communities
When Alison Provin (BA ’84, MA’92) saw her community struggling and students labeled as “troubled,” she created an opportunity for both to shine and grow through service.
Provin, chair of the foreign language department at Newton High School, created an annual Community Service Day, when students and community volunteers work together to improve their town.
“Newton has gone through tough times,” she said, noting that when Maytag, the town’s largest employer left, many of the students’ parents lost their jobs. “Not only does Community Service Day benefit the community in the obvious ways, but it also gives a visual boost of morale to the citizens of Newton.”
“It is an excellent model for students in terms of cooperation, involvement, and practical application of skills,” said Chris Noel (MA ’74), Newton High visual arts teacher. “I’m always glad to be a part of the day.”
Provin said that each year the project grows and the sense of pride and service builds at her school. “There is no greater gift to give than to inspire and create something that outlives you,” she said. “I hope that is what we are doing.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Almost 400 UI students annually complete the required course work for certification and teacher licensure with almost 4,500 teachers graduating from the UI in the past 10 years.
Susan Lagos Lavenz, associate dean for Teacher Education, said there’s no doubt College of Education students serve as area role models and provide leadership. “By providing our students with a cutting-edge preparation program with certification in the core competencies of assessment, technology, and school community, our graduates generate new ideas and create opportunities that bring communities together.”