Iowa teachers lead development of Next Generation Science curriculum


Teachers work in small groups to develop curriculum plans that align with Iowa’s new science standards. (Left to right: Taylor Schlicher, Southeast Junior High; Zach Miller, University of Iowa MAT Science Education; Susanna Ziemer, University of Iowa MAT Science Education; Ted Neal, Clinical Instructor, University of Iowa; Courtney Van Wyk, Pella Christian Grade School; Stacey DeCoster; Grinnell Middle School)

Jenna Ladd| June 22, 2017

Science teachers gathered at the University of Iowa’s Lindquist Center on Tuesday to develop new curriculum for eighth grade students.

The working group was hosted by the UI College of Education and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) as a part of the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative. The joint initiative seeks to make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were approved by the Iowa Board of Education in 2015, easier for Iowa teachers. Clinical instructor Ted Neal along with education graduate students Susanna Herder, Andrea Malek and Zachary Miller have begun developing curriculum bundles for 8th grade science classes that meet the NGSS standards.

Many of the NGSS standards require students to explore how the Earth’s climate system works. For its part, CGRER plans to make some of its members’ climate science data available to Iowa educators. Using an open inquiry approach, students can answer their own questions about topics such as land use or weather patterns in their local environment.

During the day’s opening remarks Ted Neal said, “The research is very clear that if we do open inquiry with kids, the learning is off the charts.”

Neal and his team of graduate students presented an eighth grade science course plan that included six curriculum bundles, with each bundle meeting certain NGSS benchmarks. Bundles five and six have already been developed by the College of Education team and CGRER member Dr. Scott Spak. Tuesday’s goal, Neal explained, was for the seven teachers in attendance to take the lead on the development of the four additional curriculum bundles.

Bundle five provides students access to aerial maps of their communities from throughout history. Students are free to observe how land use in Iowa has changed over time and what effects that may have on natural systems. Chelsie Slaba teaches science at Dike-New Hartford High School and tried the map lesson with her students last year. Slaba said, “I was surprised. I heard it here and thought, ‘I don’t know if that will really work.’ I tried and who knew maps could be so interesting to them?” She continued, “They looked at their own family farms, because a lot of my kids live on farms or their grandparents’ [farms] or a special place to them to hone in on.”

Slaba used only NGSS with her ninth grade students last year and plans to implement the standards with her physics students next year. She added, “It was really empowering as a teacher.”

The Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative plans to begin developing curriculum bundles for grades five and six in the fall. Ultimately, Neal explained, the group aims to host a free online database where all curriculum and related scientific data are available free of charge to Iowa educators.

The morning session concluded with teachers broken up into smaller groups brainstorming ideas for bundles one through four. The educators rattled off phenomena related to the standards that still resonate with eighth-graders: cell phones to explore energy use, tennis shoes to explain resource extraction, driving cars to investigate physics.

Slaba said that some teachers are afraid to allow for more student-led lessons due to the pressure they feel for their students to perform well on standardized tests. However, her experience thus far may assuage their worries. She said, “Over the three years, my Iowa assessment scores have just gone up by a few percent each time.”

On The Radio – Huge crowds attend March for Science rallies in Iowa and worldwide


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Hundreds of scientists and supporters gathered at the Pentacrest for the March for Science in Iowa City on Saturday. The march was one of more than 500 others in communities around the nation.
Jake Slobe | April 24, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the March for Science rallies that took place worldwide on Saturday, April 22.

Transcript: On April 22, scientists and science advocates flooded the streets of over 500 cities around the globe to show their support for scientific research and evidence-based policy.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington, the March for Science was the biggest public demonstration against the Trump administration’s budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more.

Since February, the momentum behind the March for Science grew quickly, with many organizations offering support. Over 100 science organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science supported the March for Science.

The initiative started as a scientists’ march on Washington, D.C., but has since spread to cities across the U.S. and the world.

Organizers of the march have recently announced they plan to transition from organizing marches to creating a global organization focused on science education, outreach, and advocacy.

To learn more about the march, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

2017 Provost’s Global Forum: Women’s Health & Environment


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Jake Slobe | April 11, 2017

The University of Iowa will host scholars, experts, and researchers from around the world  this week as part of the 2017 Provost’s Global Forum, “Women’s Health & Environment: Going Up in Smoke” The goal of the Provost’s Global Forum is to inspire discussions of global affairs and build relationships between the university and the state of Iowa.

Wednesday, April 12
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture
Presentation by Gautam Yadama
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
2:30 – 4:30 p.m. – Display and demonstrations of cookstoves
Anne Cleary Walkway
7:30 – 9:00 p.m. – WorldCanvass: Women’s Health and the Environment: Going Up in Smoke

Thursday, April 13
8:30 – 9:45 a.m. – Keynote Presentation
Kirk Smith, Professor of global & environmental health, University of California,
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
10:00 – 12:45 p.m. – Panel I: Carbon, Climate Change, and Biomass Use
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
2:15 – 5:00 p.m. –  Panel II: Global Health Effects of Emissions from Biofuels
Pappajohn Business Building, Room W151
7:30 p.m. Screening of film: “What the Health”
Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa Theater

Friday, April 14
8:15 – 9:00 a.m. – Keynote Presentation
Atul Jain, professor, department of atmospheric sciences, University of Illinois
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
9:00 – 12:30 p.m. – Panel III: Policy and Fuel Use in Developing Countries
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
12:30 – 12:45 p.m. – Concluding Comments
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion: “Writing About Climate Change”
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101

Starting the conference will be Gautam Yadama, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs and dean of Boston College School of Social Work will deliver the Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, April 12, at 11:00 a.m., in the Senate Chamber in the UI Old Capitol Museum. Forum organizers will host a display and demonstration of cookstoves on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., followed in the evening by a live production of WorldCanvass from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Voxman Music Building. This televised discussion is hosted by Joan Kjaer and will feature many of the forum’s keynote speakers and scholars.

On Thursday, April 13, Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at University of California, Berkeley, will provide a second keynote presentation at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate Chamber, followed by expert-led panel discussions from 10:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Afternoon panel discussions will take place from 2:15 to 5:00 p.m. in the Pappajohn Business Building, room W151. Topics will range from discussions concerning climate change, global health impacts, and technology alternatives to wood-burning cookstoves. The day will conclude with a special film screening of the documentary What the Health at 7:30 p.m. at the Iowa Theater in the Iowa Memorial Union.

The final day of the forum, Friday, April 14, will take place at the Becker Communication Studies Building from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with panel discussions focused on clean cookstove programs, prospects for the future, as well as a special panel on the topic of writing about climate change.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information about events and to learn more about those involved in the forum, visit international.uiowa.edu/up-in-smoke.

 

Science Not Silence: March for Science set to take place in Des Moines on April 22


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Jake Slobe | April 5, 2017

Des Moines’ March for Science is set to take place Earth Day, April 22, and will kick off at 12 a.m. at the Iowa State Capitol.

Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington, the March for Science promises to be the biggest public demonstration against the Trump administration’s assault on evidence-based scientific research.

Since February, the momentum behind the March for Science has been growing quickly, with many organizations offering support. Some 100 science organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science support the March for Science.

Des Moines’ march is part of a “global call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” as the March for Science champions publicly funded and communicated science as an integral part of everyday life.

The initiative started as a scientists’ march on Washington, D.C., but has since spread to cities across the U.S. and the world. Organizers periodically update an interactive map that shows the locations for all planned marches.

Iowa City will also be hosting a March for Science on the 22nd from 12-4. You can follow efforts for each location’s march via their individual Facebook groups.

The March for Science website includes a call to action to support scientific research: “The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.”

Those interested in participating in  one the March for Science demonstrations in Iowa or learning more about the march can do so at marchforscienceiowa.org

Dr. Steve Hendrix speaks up for the wild bee


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Dr. Steve Hendrix was the keynote speaker at this week’s 34th Bur Oak Land Trust Prairie Preview. (Jenna Ladd/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | March 10, 2017

When the general public thinks about bees, one image comes to mind: the honeybee.

If UI Professor Emeritus Steve Hendrix’s presentation, titled “Wild Bees of Iowa: Hidden Diversity in the Service of Conservation” had a central message, it was that nearly 20,000 other bee species exist and provide often under-recognized ecosystem services.

Hendrix gave the presentation at 34th Bur Oak Land Trust Prairie Preview on Thursday night to a crowd of nearly 300. He said, “All plants need pollinators some of the time, and at least some plants need pollinators all of the time.” Indeed, pollinators provide 225 billion dollars in pollination services. While honeybees receive the majority of public praise, wild bees, which are often small, solitary creatures with short life spans, do 90 percent of the pollinating on U.S. farms. Additionally, according to Hendrix’s research findings, honeybees are less effective pollinators than wild bees.

While the number of bees in the U.S. is declining, one of Hendrix’s studies provided a glimmer of hope for bees in North America. Hendrix and his colleagues compared populations of bees on large prairies with those in smaller, urban gardens and parks. Surprisingly, regardless of the area of land the bees had to roam, there was no difference in bee diversity, species richness, or abundance. The main predictor for healthy bee populations was the presence of a extremely diverse plant life.

Hendrix rounded out his presentation with a look to the future for wild bees. He emphasized once more the importance of the insects, which are largely credited with providing food security for humans. He said, “There’s going to be changes in the distribution of bees.” Due to global warming, many bee species that were previously found in southern states are making their way to Iowa. Hendrix added, “The big bees are going to be the losers in this climate change world we’re living in…it’s going to be the rare bees that are affected most.” Hendrix said that there has been limited research about what this will mean for ecosystems and human health, but encouraged all those in the audience to continue fighting to conserve habitat for bees in Iowa.

 

34th Prairie Preview takes place this Thursday


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Dr. Steve Hendrix, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Iowa, will be the featured speaker at this year’s Prairie Preview. His lecture is titled “Wild Bees of Iowa: Hidden Diversity in the Service of Conservation.” (John Flannery/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 7, 2017

The 34th Prairie Preview will take place this Thursday evening in Iowa City.

The event is hosted by the Bur Oak Land Trust, an Iowa City organization that accepts land donations from residents seeking to place natural areas into public conservation trusts. The Prairie Preview XXXIV will feature a presentation from University of Iowa professor emeritus Dr. Steve Hendrix. Hendrix’s presentation, titled “Wild Bees of Iowa: Hidden Diversity in the Service of Conservation” will discuss the economics and biology of pollinators, declines in honey bees and wild bee populations, the value of restoration for wild bees and the future of wild bees, among other topics. Hendrix will also provide basic information about wild bees that live in Iowa. His presentation will be based on his original research along with the work of others in the field.

Hendrix said his presentation “is important from the perspective of ecological services that wild bees provide. They are responsible for the successful reproduction of prairies and they provide the pollination needed for fruits and vegetables that keep us healthy.”

More than 40 environmental organizations and agencies will also be present at the Prairie Preview XXXIV sharing information and providing resources to attendees. The event is free, open to the public and will take place at the Clarion Highlander Hotel and Conference Center at 2525 N Dodge St, Iowa City, Iowa 52245 on March 9th, 2017. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event begins at 7:30 p.m. 

This Prairie Preview, which usually attracts crowds of over 200 people, is sponsored by the Iowa Living Roadway Trust, Iowa Native Plant Society, City of Coralville, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Fiddlehead Gardens LLC, Forever Green, Friends of Hickory Hill Park, HBK Engineering, Legacy GreenBuilders, Project GREEN, Veenstra & Kimm, Inc., and Lon and Barbara Drake.

More information can be found here.

Nearly 50,000 gallons of oil spill from Iowa pipeline


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Heavy snowfall in northern Iowa early this week complicated diesel oil clean-up efforts in Worth County, Iowa. (echoroo/flickr)
Jake Slobe | Febraury 13, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a  oil spill onto a Worth County farm that took place last month.

Transcript: An underground pipeline recently leaked 47,000 gallons of diesel fuel onto a Worth County, Iowa farm.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The pipeline, which is owned by Magellan Midstream Partners, was first discovered to have ruptured last month. Situated twelve inches underground, the pipeline stretches across Iowa, Illionois Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Clean-up crews worked to vacuum the diesel fuel from the soil despite high winds and heavy snow. The spilled diesel fuel was transported to a facility in Minnesota while the remaining contaminated soil went to a landfill near Clear Lake. The spill did not reach the nearby Willow Creek and wildlife reserve.

Transnational oil pipelines remain a controversial issue in the United States. Following President Trump’s executive orders reviving the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, opponents expressed concerns about the environmental and human health impacts associated with refined oil pipelines. Since 2010, 807 spills have been reported, causing an estimated $342 million in property damages.

The spill in Worth County is the largest diesel oil spill since 2010, its cause is still under investigation.

For more information about the oil spill in Worth county, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.