ISTS News and Opportunities

If you have news or opportunities to share please use the link near the bottom of this page.

The Blank Park Zoo would once again like to invite educators to professional development opportunities that will be held at Blank Park Zoo and other locations around Iowa on the dates listed below.  The workshops are good for one hour of license renewal credit and teachers will be eligible to schedule a free classroom animal program.  Our education department is willing and able to travel to districts across the state with our classroom programs (animals included!). 

Participants in our workshops engage in relevant inquiry investigations that are connected to the Iowa Core and Next Generation Science Standards, learn research-based instructional practices, and gain knowledge and ideas that will be useful in their classrooms. Lessons are flexible, allowing teachers to adjust for their students’ abilities; and relate to all age groups in several subject areas (science, literacy, mathematics, social studies, and the arts). 

Workshop Descriptions:  
Habitats and Adaptations - Teachers will experience a module created by the Wildlife Conservation Society (Habitat Ecology Learning Program), as well as materials from NSTA and the Council for Environmental Education. These resources utilize art, math, geography and live science to explore ecology. The lessons are designed to motivate students, encourage critical thinking, and make learning fun. This course will specifically focus on animal adaptations and different habitats, with visits from live animals from various ecosystems! Lessons are flexible, allowing teachers to adjust for their students’ abilities; and relate to all age groups in several subject areas.

Conservation: People and Animals - Participants will explore positive and negative interactions between humans and animals in ecosystems, learn about conservation efforts in which Blank Park Zoo is a partner, and how to connect with researchers and conservationists committed to wildlife conservation around the world. They will have the opportunity to work with grade level groups to find ways to implement conservation projects in their classrooms.

Wild Genes – Participants explore genetic diversity in plants and animals, learn about the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Program, and meet some families of animals here at the zoo.  While genetics content is generally presented in middle and high school, we will be showing how concepts at the elementary level articulate to upper grades. 

Climate Change - Educators will participate in learning activities designed by a collaborative of seven national organizations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the National Parks service, and U.S. Forest Service.

The activities are organized in a DVD based Toolkit that uses a case study approach to focus on climate change and its impact on wildlife and public lands. All activities have been reviewed by scientists and by educators from the 2008 Einstein Fellowship Program and are aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education. 

Wonders of Water - Participants will explore the physical properties of water, various water habitats, and water related conservation concerns.  Activities will include water testing, comparisons of various water habitats and the organisms that depend on them, examination of current water issues and concerns, and development of lessons to be utilized in the classroom.
Cost: $20.00 to help cover materials and meals, payable at workshop; credit fees if taking for credit. 

Included in workshop: Meals (dinner on Friday night and continental breakfast and lunch on Saturday), materials for teachers to utilize in their classrooms, and an opportunity to schedule a free classroom visit or program at the zoo.

Workshops will run Friday from 4-9:30 and Saturday from 8 – 5:30

Dates and Topics: 

Academic Year 2015/2016

November 7/8, 2015 - Habitats and Adaptations
November 21/22, 2015 - Conservation: People and Animals
anuary 15/16, 2016 - Wild Genes
February 19/20, 2016 - Climate Change
pril 15/16, 2016 - Wonders of Water 

Registration forms may be found on the zoo website – under Education/Just for Teachers.  They may be submitted electronically.

Participants should contact Kathy McKee at 515-974-2557; or Angela Tague, 515-974-2546;  if they have any questions. 

We look forward to working with you!
Kathy McKee and Angela Tague
K-12 Education Manager and K-12 Education Specialist
Blank Park Zoo
7401 SW 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50315





by Yvette McCulley

July 10, 2014

Check out Iowa’s Conservation Education Grant Opportunities

Got an idea to advance environmental literacy, but lack funds?  Mini-grants for up to $3,500 are available from Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP CEP). Standard grants, averaging $22,000, are also available. The CEP annually awards $350,000 for conservation education in Iowa, and grant reviewers are seeking applications for innovative projects that need start-up funds. Plan now for the November 3 grant deadline. 

For more information about the application process and the types of programs funded, go to the REAP Conservation Education website ( For a quick overview, go to

REAP CEP awards grants to further conservation education in Iowa. Here, preschool students in northwestern Iowa learn about the natural world. 

REAP CEP awards grants to further conservation education in Iowa. Here, preschool students in northwestern Iowa learn about the natural world. 

Nutrients For Life

Nutrients in the Garden Blog Series
"Through this series, I hope to "garden it forward" and share basic how-to knowledge so that you, too, can grow to enjoy gardening as much as I do."
-Dee McKenna, Master Gardener and Nutrients for Life Foundation blogger.

Owlie on Facebook and Twitter

by Jennifer Bergman, Windows to the Universe

Over the past year, National Weather Service’s Owlie Skywarn has been getting increased attention through the Young Meteorologist Program safety game at

The NWS Outreach team launched Owlie Skywarn Facebook and Twitter pages. The main purpose of these pages is weather safety messaging, but there will also be educational posts featuring weather facts and fun activities. If you have a particular safety post that you would like put forward to possibly be shared, you can contact the team at

Please consider sharing/retweeting these posts from your accounts. NWS would really appreciate your help spreading the word about Owlie’s social media presence. You can also tag Owlie in a post using @OwlieSkywarnNWS


2014 ESTA Award Winners: Chris Like, Shelly Vanyo, Brooke Maine, Patrice Teigland, Ariana Krueger, Tami Plein, Not Pictured: Mike Todd

2014 ESTA Award Winners: Chris Like, Shelly Vanyo, Brooke Maine, Patrice Teigland, Ariana Krueger, Tami Plein, Not Pictured: Mike Todd

Into the Outdoors, an Emmy winning children's television series dedicated to science education, recently debuted a new episode regarding Household Hazardous Waste in our environment. Take a moment to learn more about how taking even the smallest of actions could save our water system, our earth and the health of a generation. 

For the complete video story of household hazardous and electronic waste impacting your life, visit:

About Into the Outdoors Entertainment and Education Network Into the Outdoors currently reaches more than 12 million households on television stations throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. The program was launched in 2001 and has won 10 Emmy Awards® to date.  ITO also offers 24/7 science and environmental learning with online videos and classroom lessons for students and teachers at, . Or you can connect with Into the Outdoors on  Facebook and YouTube.   

Do You Have News?

Items for inclusion on this webpage can be emailed to Nadine Weirather, ISTS Newsletter Editor, at

Archived ISTS Newsletters

Issues of the ISTS Newsletter are archived online back to April of 2004. The newsletter is one way the Iowa Science Teaching Section of the Iowa Academy of Science promotes excellence in science and science teaching. To find current and past issues of the newsletter click here.




Teacher Opportunities

Exploring Iowa’s Natural Resources On-line Course (K-12 Educators)

September 8 - December 21, 2014

Registration Deadline August 29

Learn how to utilize local natural resources as unifying themes to implement a STEM-based approach in your curriculum. You will work in small groups and individually to create a network of contacts and resources to teach natural resource concepts.

Each week a new course module focusing on a specific environmental education topic, strategy or skill will be available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week).

You must register electronically. Registration fee: $225 (includes course materials and 3 license renewal credits). This course uses AEA PD Online's alternative fee schedule for license renewal credit.

Leading Authentic Place-based Student Investigations: Water (6-12 Educators)

September 15 - December 14, 2014

Registration Deadline is September 5, 2014

Engage your students in real scientific research of a local water issue while you improve your own content knowledge and pedagogy. With your students, you will develop and conduct a place-based water student investigation unit (or enhance a current unit).

Each week a new course module focusing on a different topic related to the 5 Essential Features of Inquiry, place-based learning and Iowa water issues will become available (time requirement 4-5 hours per week).

You must register electronically. Registration fee: $150 (includes materials and 2 license renewal credits). This course is being offered by AEA PD Online, a joint initiative by all of Iowa's Area Education Agencies.

ICEC Winter Workshop

SAVE THE DATE and plan to attend the 2015 Iowa Conservation Education Coalition's Winter Workshop, "Diving into Networking", February 6 & 7, 2015 at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Springbrook State Park.  We're gearing up for an exciting event and we hope you'll be able to join us.  For more information contact Linda at or ICEC's website

Water Rocks! Fall Visits

Get an early start on planning your classroom activities and go check out the Water Rocks! website for our wide variety of in-classroom presentations. Now is a great time to submit a request for a fall 2014 visit from Water Rocks! We provide 2-3 staff to present to your class and lead hands-on, interactive student activities. Our modules discuss a range of topics such as soil, biodiversity, watersheds, prairies, wetlands, and croplands and one of our Conservation Station trailers may be available to accompany our visit, depending on availability and weather conditions. Water Rocks! school visits are available free-of-charge, so submit your request now because the calendar fills up quickly. Requests can be submitted through the online form.

Follow Water Rocks! on Twitter! We are tweeting about where will be visiting, cool facts about water, news about new videos or geocaches and more!
Follow Water Rocks:@waterrocksISU.

Teachers Bringing Science To Life Contest

Science teachers work hard to make STEM learning exciting and appealing for students. This fall, as part of the 2014 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), an interactive learning experience that gets youth excited about STEM education, the National 4-H Council and Lockheed Martin are launching the "Teachers Bringing Science to Life—Presented by Lockheed Martin" contest to reward teachers for getting involved with NYSD.

The contest will run from August 1 until September 26, with the grand prize winner announced on October 6, and the runners-up announced on December 4. Science teachers who register for the 4-H NYSD experiment and submit three photos of their class conducting the NYSD experiment will be automatically entered into a prize drawing. Grand Prize: $1,000 cash, along with a $4,000 STEM classroom makeover. Runner-Up Prizes: Two $1,000 cash prizes and six $500 cash prizes.

Searchable, Free Teaching Resources on Climate and Energy in the CLEAN Collection

Grades K-16

Looking for well-vetted resources on climate and energy literacy for the classroom? CLEAN has just launched a brand new, searchable portal of online learning activities, videos and visualizations on climate and energy.

The Brand New CLEAN Portal offers the following resources and support: 

1. The CLEAN search engine directs you to online activities, videos, and visualizations on climate and energy that are searchable by grade level, topic, and resource type. These resources have been reviewed by scientists and educators for accuracy and classroom effectiveness and provide additional insight and guidance on using the materials.

2. Join the vibrant CLEAN Network email list for updates on educational policies and science, discussions with experts, conference & workshop announcements, and weekly telecons (Tuesdays at 1 pm ET). Join the CLEAN Network email list by contacting

3. Follow the CLEAN team on facebook or twitter to see featured resources from the CLEAN Portal as well as climate extensions to help you stay up to date on the latest climate and energy literacy news!

4. CLEAN’s guidance on teaching climate and energy science provides a set of essential principles to frame the science and inform your teaching strategies. Learn more about these scientific principles, why they are important and challenging to learn, strategies for teaching age groups, and get directed to relevant activities, videos, and visualizations for each principle.

CLEAN Principal Investigators:

Dr. Tamara S. Ledley, TERC, Cambridge, MA

Dr. Susan B. Sullivan, University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, CO

Dr. Cathy Manduca, Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, Northfield, MN

The Invisible Shield of our Sun

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

Whether you look at the planets within our solar system, the stars within our galaxy or the galaxies spread throughout the universe, it's striking how empty outer space truly is. Even though the largest concentrations of mass are separated by huge distances, interstellar space isn't empty: it's filled with dilute amounts of gas, dust, radiation and ionized plasma. Although we've long been able to detect these components remotely, it's only since 2012 that a manmade spacecraft -- Voyager 1 -- successfully entered and gave our first direct measurements of the interstellar medium (ISM).

What we found was an amazing confirmation of the idea that our Sun creates a humongous "shield" around our solar system, the heliosphere, where the outward flux of the solar wind crashes against the ISM. Over 100 AU in radius, the heliosphere prevents the ionized plasma from the ISM from nearing the planets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects contained within it. How? In addition to various wavelengths of light, the Sun is also a tremendous source of fast-moving, charged particles (mostly protons) that move between 300 and 800 km/s, or nearly 0.3% the speed of light. To achieve these speeds, these particles originate from the Sun's superheated corona, with temperatures in excess of 1,000,000 Kelvin!

When Voyager 1 finally left the heliosphere, it found a 40-fold increase in the density of ionized plasma particles. In addition, traveling beyond the heliopause showed a tremendous rise in the flux of intermediate-to-high energy cosmic ray protons, proving that our Sun shields our solar system quite effectively. Finally, it showed that the outer edges of the heliosheath consist of two zones, where the solar wind slows and then stagnates, and disappears altogether when you pass beyond the heliopause.

Unprotected passage through interstellar space would be life-threatening, as young stars, nebulae, and other intense energy sources pass perilously close to our solar system on ten-to-hundred-million-year timescales. Yet those objects pose no major danger to terrestrial life, as our Sun's invisible shield protects us from all but the rarer, highest energy cosmic particles. Even if we pass through a region like the Orion Nebula, our heliosphere keeps the vast majority of those dangerous ionized particles from impacting us, shielding even the solar system's outer worlds quite effectively. NASA spacecraft like the Voyagers, IBEX and SOHO continue to teach us more about our great cosmic shield and the ISM's irregularities. We're not helpless as we hurtle through it; the heliosphere gives us all the protection we need!

Want to learn more about Voyager 1’s trip into interstellar space? Check this out:

Kids can test their knowledge about the Sun at NASA’s Space place: