AEA PD Online & AEA K-12 Online Update – May 2014

The May blog updates for AEA PD Online and AEA K-12 Online are now available. Go to or for updates or click on the direct article links below. For real time updates, follow AEA PD Online on Twitter @aeapdonline or on your mobile device by accessing our app at




STEM Scale-up in Stefany Well’s 2nd grade class at Van Buren

by Stefany Wells, Teacher, Van Buren & Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist

Children are born engineers! From sandcastles and Legos to designing a more complex structure in science class, kids love to build, take apart, build and take apart again. The students in Mrs. Wells’ science class, Van Buren Community School District, are doing just that this year with the help from an Engineering in the Elementary grant through the Governor’s Scale Up program. Engineering in the elementary is a research-based, standards-driven, and classroom-tested curriculum that integrates engineering and technology concepts and skills with elementary science topics.

Air and Weather is currently a unit covered in second grade. The use of the engineering materials has taken the unit to a whole new level. The students used the engineering design process of ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve to design a sail for a boat and then later, a windmill. Some of the students soon found out there was much more to what an effective sail and blade design should consist of!Doc1

The students experimented with different materials such as wax paper, note cards, tissue paper and felt to determine which material had the best properties when effectively tested. They then had to think about the size and stability of their structures too. During the culminating activity of building the windmill, the students had to combine their knowledge and experiences in a team setting to create the most effective windmill. Working in a group can be very challenging for 7 and 8 year olds, but the ongoing engineering process teaches them collaborative skills and how to solve problems when dealing with real-world experiences.

Children pictured: Korbin Camp, Susanella Daugherty, Landon Harward, Bree Kirkhart, Jakob Mott, Emma Price-Burton, Kasey Stocker-Houston

AEA PD Online & AEA K-12 Online – April 2014

The April blog updates for AEA PD Online and AEA K-12 Online are now available. Go to or for updates or click on the direct article links below. For real time updates, follow AEA PD Online on Twitter @aeapdonline or on your mobile device by accessing our app at




History Day 2014: “Rights and Responsibilities in History”

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by Shannon Johnson, GPAEA Instructional Secretary

On March 14, 2014, 240 students, grades 6-8 (Junior Division) and grades 9-12 (Senior Division) from 13 districts and 1 non-public participated in Great Prairie AEA’s National History Day contest held at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Fairfield, IA.

These students shared their research regarding this year’s theme, “Rights and Responsibilities in History.” We have talented and gifted and social studies teachers in our local schools who believe their students strongly benefit from participating in National History Day. With a new theme each year, students research history and learn about a person, place, or event. Rules and guidelines are set for consistency for student entries. Selecting a topic is usually the hardest part. Understanding the theme is important and National History Day has a structured curriculum for teachers to assist students to learn about history, while collecting research, sharing their views, learning to write a bibliography and a process paper. This curriculum guides students to share and illustrate their thoughts as an individual or in a group. Once students find their topic to support the theme, they decide how they will best share their research, either in a exhibit, documentary, performance, historical paper or a website. Many different skills are expressed and learned to illustrate the person, place or event in history based on the category students chose to enter.

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Young Writers’ Conference 2014 a success!

Shannon Johnson, Great Prairie AEA Instructional Secretary


Jude Mandell and student, Paige Munson

The 2014 Young Writers’ Conference was held March 4th (for Secondary day grades 6-12) and March 5th (for Elementary day grades 3-6) on the William Penn Campus in Oskaloosa to honor student writers. With the cold and snowy days leading up to the event, even the snow on Elementary day could not keep the teachers and students away. There were 252 secondary students and 27 teachers from 14 districts in attendance, as well as 510 elementary students with 79 teachers and parent volunteers from 24 districts and 2 non-public schools. It provided an opportunity for young authors to share their writing with peers, and introduced them to professional authors, teachers, storytellers, and other communicators. Students also attended workshops and writing activities.

Jude Mandell, educator, TV-performer, improv-actor/singer from Chicago, presented on Secondary day. Jude read sections from her books and shared her writing experiences as a teacher and as an author. She shared her journey of writing her biography of “Super Sport Star Gary Payton,” and Princess Dragonblood in “Half-Human,” as well as her book of plays “A Thoroughly Modern Rapunzel.” Then she worked with the students on building characters. Jude spent the last part of her session going through an exercise building from pictures she shared with the students while asking them questions. Students worked in teams to sort their ideas. She shared that building a character is based on motivation, point of view and personal environment, and that a character needs a full name and items in their possession to tell a story. What secret is the character hiding? What scares them the most? What do they desperately want? All these things drive their experiences. Their choices, obstacles and struggles are what build the character. The character gets smarter and grows emotionally to attract the readers to find out more about them. At the end of the exercise, a few students shared their new character with the group. The day was a success. One student, Paige Munson, Ft. Madison Middle School (pictured above with Jude) was inspired and anxious to share her experiences.

Dori Hillistead Butler, an author from Coralville, Iowa presented on Elementary day. Dori is known for her books, “The Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy” and “Trading Places with Tank Talbott.” She has a new series coming this summer, “The Haunted Library.” She shared how she wrote some of her books using her dog Mouse and her two sons’ experiences as inspiration. Dori shared with the students how long it took her to get books published, how many rejections she received and where she writes. She also shared her “Top 10 List” or the top 10 things she is asked most often. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity for Dori to come present since living in Coralville before her family relocates to Seattle, Washington. Students enjoyed visiting with her and having her sign their purchased copies at the event.

There were breakout sessions on calligraphy, performance, poetry, puppetry, telling pet stories, on-line self-publishing, getting published, writing workshops, and many others.
A special “thank you” goes out to our presenters who helped make this conference a memorable experience for all participants, our teacher and parent volunteers, William Penn University and staff, and Jane Broeg of Great Prairie AEA for making 2014 a success!
It was an exciting day full of rich experiences, helping students to discover new ideas that will spark their writing!

GPAEA Professional Development Opportunities – April & May

GPAEA has professional development opportunities scheduled for April and May. Some deadlines for minimum enrollment are this week, so register soon!


  • Social Media and You (evening class)
  • Para Educator Certification Level II Generalist with Area of Concentration: Library, Media & Technology (Saturday and evening classes)
  • Wheel Thrown Pottery II (weekend and evening classes)
  • Painting Layering Up (Saturday classes)
  • ABA Strategies and Curriculum: Using STAR Program to Support Students with Autism
  • Substitute Authorization (evening class)

Workshops and Other Trainings:

  • EduVision: The Force Behind The Flipped Classroom Workshop
  • Instructional Shifts and your Social Studies Curriculum – Getting started!

Please visit our online course catalog to register.