The Cornerstone – May 2019


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New! Professional Learning Opportunity – Authentic Learning & Clearinghouse Training

#180116 GP - Authentic Learning & Future Ready WBL Immersion

Calling all #changeagents! Recert/Grad credit available for this 2-day training on June 19/20 in Burlington. This 2-day experience will have K-12 educators walking away saying so glad I chose that one! Participants will leave with ready to implement project management strategies, authentic project ideas (that align to standards), and hands-on training with the new Future Ready Iowa Clearinghouse (Iowa’s first-ever statewide digital project board!) Space is limited to 30 participants so register today to reserve your spot!

Register here!

Questions? Contact Laura Williams at, 319-219-2222 Ext.3050

GPAEA Middle School Science Teachers Participate in Statewide Curriculum Field Tests


How do eggs become chickens and other living things?  Where does food come from and where does it go next? Why do clouds form at some times but not others?

These are some of the questions middle school students from five GPAEA districts are trying to “figure out” as part of Iowa’s OpenSciEd project.  An Iowa REAP CEP Education grant-funded equipment, materials, and supported the professional development associated with the field-test units. Burlington, Centerville, Davis County, Sigourney, and Ottumwa are currently involved along with 10 other districts statewide. Video of Chelsea Thordarson’s 6th-grade class in Davis County was featured in OpenSciEd’s presentation at NSTA’s National Convention this spring!

Iowa adopted a specific sequence of middle school standards that is unique and appropriate for our state. There are currently no Iowa-aligned, NGSS-designed, full-year middle school science curricula that have been identified in the marketplace.  Iowa students and teachers need high-quality, standards-aligned instructional materials and associated professional development experiences.  

Feedback from Iowa teachers and students is being used to revise the materials. This field testing will help create a base for an Iowa-adaptable curriculum that will never be available through current vendors. OpenSciEd is designed to be a locally driven initiative. Upon completion, the materials will be freely and equitably available to anyone and can be customized to suit the needs of each district.

Preliminary data from Iowa classrooms is showing significant, positive, classroom shifts towards a more student-centered classroom such as:

  • Students conducting investigations, solving problems, and engaging in discussions with teachers’ guidance.
  • Students discussing open-ended questions that focus on the strength of the evidence used to generate claims.
  • Facts and terminology learned as needed while developing explanations and designing solutions supported by evidence-based arguments and reasoning.

Public release of the first units will begin August 15, 2019.  Two units per grade will be released each year for a total of 6 units per grade.   Iowa’s AEA consultants will release their recommended Scope and Sequence of the units in August and are planning professional development support for districts interested in adopting this OER resource beginning in October 2019.

For more information, contact your GPAEA Science Consultants Tracy Jarrett or Tami Plein

Davis County featured at OpenSciEd’s presentation at NSTA’s National Convention:

NEW Courses Added to PD Catalog – Sub Authorization, Art, Technology & Mental Health

h o t - a i r
NEW renewal course for Substitutes and paraeducators certified in Substitute Authorization
NEW Technology Courses
NEW Mental Health

Courses are added and updated daily at

Area Students Qualify for National History Day in Iowa

On April 5, 2019, 231 students from 15 districts participated in Great Prairie AEA’s History Day contest held at Indian Hill Community College with 132 category entries. Students researched history topics of their choice related to the theme, “Triumph & Tragedy in History.” Students worked as individuals and in groups to create exhibits, documentaries, performances, historical papers and websites. Area individuals volunteered their time to evaluate student entries. Winners advance to the state contest.

Congratulations to the following state qualifiers for their hard work as these students represented GPAEA at the “National History Day in Iowa” contest on April 29, 2019, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

A special “thank you” goes out to our judges, teachers and parent supporters that volunteered their time to make this event an educational and memorable experience for students.


Junior Individual Documentary

Title: Child Labor during the Industrial Revolution in Britain
Student: Devyn Davis
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones

Title: The Inspiring Story of Desmond Doss
Student: Daniele Ebert
School: Edward Stone Middle School
Teacher: Craig Fleece

Junior Group Documentary

Title: Maximilien Robespierre and the French Revolution
Student: Samuel Morehead, Claire King
School: Edward Stone Middle School
Teacher: Craig Fleece

Title: Ted Bundy: An American Serial Killer
Student: Libby Brock, Paige Lisk
School: Pekin Community Schools
Teacher: Brent Blakely

Senior Individual Documentary

Title: From Writing to the River- The Life and Death of Virginia Woolf
Student: Natalie Neal
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones

Senior Group Documentary

Title: The Challenger: Triumph Turned to Tragedy in 73 seconds
Student: Casey Abfalter-Dial, Emily Buckner
School: Keokuk High School
Teacher: Barbara Elder


Junior Group Exhibit

Title: Audie Murphy and the Fight Against PTSD
Student: Liz Lane, Zoe Moehle
School: Mediapolis Middle School
Teacher: Danielle Peterson

Title: Inventions of World War I
Student: Aidan Sage, Mason Barclay
School: Edward Stone Middle School
Teacher: Craig Fleece

Title: The Apollo Missions
Student: Brenna Remele, Gracie Walsh
School: Edward Stone Middle School
Teacher: Craig Fleece

Junior Individual Exhibit

Title: Amelia Earhart: Flying in the Face of Adversity
Student: Leah Mulder
School: Oskaloosa Christian School
Teacher: Renee Van Kooten

Title: Priceless Hidden Gems Recovered by Unknown Heroes
Student: Anna DeBoef
School: Oskaloosa Christian School
Teacher: Renee Van Kooten

Title: RMS Titanic: A Triumphant Ship With a Tragic Voyage
Student: Lillian Titus
School: Mt Pleasant Middle School
Teacher: Jennifer Stater

Senior Individual Exhibit

Title: Mayo Clinic From Destruction Arose Greatness
Student: Maddy Wood
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones

Title: The Vietnam War My Family Experiences
Student: Ty Earls
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones


Junior Paper

Title: A Momentous Life of a WWII Spy
Student: Cera Hahn
School: Sigourney CSD
Teacher: Amy Jones

Title: Treaty of Versailles: Setting the State for Tragedy in Post World War Europe
Student: Cade Bemis
School: Pekin CSD
Teacher: Brent Blakely

Senior Paper

Title: Ghosts in the Darkness
Student: Eric Marshall
School: Mediapolis High School
Teacher: Danielle Peterson


Junior Individual Performance

Title: A War for Freedom and Wealth
Student: Laurey Johnson
School: Oskaloosa Christian School
Teacher: Renee Van Kooten

Junior Group Performance

Title: Dadaism: Art Born from Tragedy
Student: Evie Messer, Sara Poletti
School: Fairfield Middle School
Teacher: Tena Edlin

Title: Jonas Salk and the Fight Against Polio
Student: Reagan Clarahan, Hannah Hanselman
School: Sigourney CSD
Teacher: Amy Jones

Senior Individual Performance

Title: Newsboys Strike of 1899
Student: Skye Mitteness
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones

Title: Roberto Canessa: Conquering the Mountains, and Defying the Odds
Student: Konnor Nickell
School: Wayne Jr Sr High
Teacher: Mike Jones


Junior Individual Website

Title: The Atomic Bomb: Scientific Triumph vs. Human Tragedy
Student: Eli Hoksbergen
School: Oskaloosa Christian School
Teacher: Renee Van Kooten

Title: The Siege of Yorktown: A Major Turning Point in American History
Student: Elliot Nelson
School: Oskaloosa Middle School
Teacher: Dawn Deffenbaugh

Junior Group Website

Title: The Little Rock Nine: The Nine That Thought They Couldn’t, But Did
Student: Marcus Trent, Ravi Bedi
School: Fairfield Middle School
Teacher: Tena Edlin

Title: The March on Washington: A Turning Point in African American Rights
Student: Maya Lane, Delmira Jara, Alma White
School: Fairfield Middle School
Teacher: Tena Edlin

Senior Group Website

Title: The Oregon Trail
Student: MacKenzie Northup, Phillip Dunlap, Alex Wolter, Shelby Haage
School: Keokuk High School
Teacher: Barbara Edler

AEAs Provide Programs Free Access to myIGDIs for 2019-20 Literacy Screening


Iowa’s AEA system is pleased to continue providing consistency with their preschool programs for the 2019-20 school year for districts and community partners in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) for four-year-old children.

The AEA system will continue to cover the full cost ($3 per child) to access to the online data system and iPAD app for preschool programs that are currently using or are interested in starting to use the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (myIGDIs) for literacy screening for preschool learners during the 2019-20 school year.

Click here to learn more.

The Center Summer Convening – July 29

Save the Date Covening

The Center is holding a Summer Convening on July 29, 2019, that will host student and educator presentations in an exploration of how we might re-imagine education. The Center is a coalition from across Iowa that facilitates networks of educators and community-based stakeholders who have a passion for meeting students where they are to co-create rigorous, authentic learning experiences.

Participants are also welcome to join the Pre-convening on July 28, 2019, 3:00-6:00 PM, for a deep dive into the Iowa College and Career Ready Outcome Categories.

The Center Summer Convening is comprised of up to 60 breakout sessions that will allow us to learn from each other, including hands-on workshops to begin to implement some of the ideas sparked during the Convening.

Call for Proposals – Deadline May 17


May is School Board Recognition Month

Our Agency Board of Directors and the Board members of the local school districts in our Area volunteer countless hours of their time each year to serve their communities and schools. Please consider thanking the school and AEA Board members that you know throughout our Area. Click here to learn more about the Great Prairie AEA Board.

A special THANK YOU to our Great Prairie AEA Board of Directors:

GPAEA Board Flyer - Untitled Page


May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month” and we invite you to learn more about services and supports available from Great Prairie AEA.

Hearing services at Great Prairie AEA include screenings for young children and direct services for students who have been identified as deaf or hard of hearing. Learn more at

Shoutout to GPAEA’s Hearing/Audiology Team! Thank you for all that you do for the children and families of southeast Iowa.

GPAEA Audiologists

GPAEA Audiometrists

GPAEA Teachers of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

Great Prairie AEA Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) work with children, birth to 21, who have a variety of communication needs. Most of these needs fall into the areas of articulation, language, voice, fluency, and early literacy. Learn more at

Shoutout to GPAEA’s Speech-Language Team! Thank you for all that you do for the children and families of southeast Iowa.

GPAEA Speech-Language Pathologists

GPAEA Speech-Language Assistants

The Cornerstone – April 2019


IowaALN & GPAEA hosts Professional Learning & Student Expo

Area students and business partners gathered together at the Professional Learning & Student Expo on April 10th at the Great Prairie AEA Ottumwa Office to showcase projects and share experiences. For the past school year, students have worked with area organizations and businesses to tackle and problem-solve real-world problems. Students have built everything from apps and websites to recording and producing videos and podcasts.

The program is housed under the Iowa Authentic Learning Network (IowaALN). ​In response to #futureready Iowa, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA partnered together to create IowaALN, a program for students to experience 21st Century learning through the development of authentic learning experiences with area businesses, industry, and other organizations.

IowaALN and GPAEA would like to thank the following Districts for participating in the Professional Learning & Student Expo:

  • Albia (Albia Aspire)
  • Danville (5th Grade)
  • Mount Pleasant (Middle & High School)
  • Oskaloosa (High School)
  • Ottumwa (SparkTank)

A special thank you to GPAEA’s 21st Century Learning Specialist Laura Williams on creating and leading a successful network!

Learn more at IowaALN and the student’s projects at


GPAEA’s Battle of the Books a Success!


On April 8 & 9 avid readers from southeast Iowa competed in the Great Prairie Area Education Agency Battle of the Books competition by reading and studying 30 select books from varied authors, genres, time periods, and cultures. It was a big task, but the students worked together to collectively read the titles–meaning each student read a portion of the list. However, some students undertook the daunting task of reading all 30 books prior to the regional competition.

Teams were allowed one hour to complete a 60-question, short answer test. While the tests were being scored, students enjoyed a presentation by Iowa author, Sarah Prineas. Students were able to purchase books by the author and have them autographed. Five teams qualified to advance to the oral round, where teams were challenged with additional questions. Medals are awarded for first, second, and third places.

Thank you to the following Districts (teams) that participated:

Elementary: Albia, Burlington Notre Dame, Davis County, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity, Keokuk, Lynnville-Sully, Mediapolis, Melcher-Dallas, Moravia, Morning Sun, Oskaloosa, Sigourney, Southeast Warren, WACO, Wapello, Wayne, and Winfield-Mt. Union

Middle School: Burlington Notre Dame, Central Lee, Clear Creek Amana, College Community, Davis County, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity, Indianola, Keokuk, Lynnville-Sully, Mediapolis, Melcher-Dallas, Mount Pleasant, Newton, North Mahaska, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, WACO, Southeast Warren

Congratulations to the top five finishing teams:


  • 1st – Fort Madison
  • 2nd – Oskaloosa
  • 3rd – Albia
  • 4th – Lynnville-Sully
  • 5th – Morning Sun
Fort Madison

1st Place Elementary – Fort Madison

Middle School

  • 1st – Indianola
  • 2nd – Ottumwa
  • 3rd – Mediapolis
  • 4th – WACO
  • 5th – Fort Madison


Congratulations to all students and teams for a job well done! A special thank you to GPAEA Media Specialist Jane Frizzell (and her team) for organizing a fun and successful event!

The GPAEA Battle of the Books is open to students in grades 3 through middle school, with separate competitions for elementary and middle school students.

Other Features in Area News:

Diane John receives 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s AEAs

At the March 28th, Iowa’s Area Education Agencies Boards Conference Great Prairie AEA’s Diane John (SLP) received the Innovative Creator Award. This award celebrates amazingly innovative, creative thinking and actions. She received over 12 nominations from co-workers, colleagues, and friends.

Congratulations Diane!

View other award recipients at

See original release at Diane John selected to receive 2019 Innovative Creator Award from Iowa’s AEAs

GPAEA Supports WMU’s “Out of This World” Family Night

Submitted by Lynn Selking, GPAEA Math Specialist, & Patricia Jones, WMU Instructional Coach

The Winfield-Mt. Union Elementary (preschool-5th grade) held an “Out of This World” Family Night on March 18. Ms. Patricia Jones, Instructional Coach for the district, held monthly meetings to plan and prepare with the help of the elementary principal, the Great Prairie AEA staff, and elementary teachers.  The Winfield-Mt. Union teachers and administration all volunteered to help in certain areas throughout the evening.

Elementary principal, Gabe Wylder, served the meal and experienced the activities with students and their families.  Superintendent, Jeff Maeder, also helped serve the meal and experienced some activities. Middle School/ High School teachers Kathy Mullin, Jill Blake, Lindsey Pogmore, and Kathy Holtkamp provided the night with student volunteers, food, child care serves, and technical abilities for our W-MU Trivia Kahoot competition.  The Elementary teachers helped the GPAEA specialists with their area of expertise: Amy Krieger, Angie Jandrey, Darby Harris, Sara Frahs, Lynn Riley, Emilie Olveda, Ronda Schinstock, Mary Miller, Tabitha Unternahrer and Melissa Selzer, along with paraeducators, Tracy Stucker, Jill Townsley, and Melissa Ball.

Preschool-5th-grade students accompanied adult family members and older siblings to classrooms for specific activities.  The doors opened at 5:00 with a meal and 5:30 for activities.

Miss Selzer, the WMU Title 1 teacher, shared her program and activities with any families that wanted to learn more about the program.

Shelli Blazic, Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems trainer for Great Prairie AEA, shared positive ways to express feelings with families through activities.  Emotional regulation and awareness was the center of the activities shared. Ms. Katelyn McKim, the WMU guidance counselor, and Mrs. Lynn Riley assisted families as well. 


Miss Sara Frahs enjoyed helping families log onto a Kahoot competition game of WMU staff, school, and community Trivia.  She had some awesome HS helpers as well.

Many families enjoyed the new Digital Planetarium.  Tracy Jarrett, Science Consultant for Great Prairie, along with Mrs. Mary Miller and Mrs. Rhonda Schinstock provided expert “tours” of the Cosmos! There was only enough time for four rounds of 20-minute tours, but the planetarium was full each time.  Mary and Rhonda attended the certification workshop in Burlington on March 8th. This training allows teachers access to check out the Digital Planetarium during the school year. The Digital planetarium provides students a model of space. This technology was brand new to Great Prairie AEA at the end of last school year.  Incorporating the planetarium into their curriculum supports several of the new Iowa Science Standards in first, fifth, seventh, and high school.


Ms. Emily Olveda hosted the Math room where families played games and worked puzzles.  The hanging balance game (Suspend) with the wire pieces was wildly popular. A whole bunch of youngsters learned (or remembered) how to play the card game Garbage, suggested by Great Prairie Math Consultant, Lynn Selking, who assisted Ms. Olveda. 


Mrs. Tabitha Unternahrer and Mrs. Jill Townsley worked with their paraprofessionals to create a fun and active night for the 3-4-year-old preschool students and their families.  A photo booth was available for pictures and all the students had the opportunity to make play dough.

Ms. Harris, Mrs. Jandrey, and Kara Veach, Great Prairie Literacy Consultant, assisted families with the making of “constellations.”  The Big Dipper and Leo the Lion were overwhelmingly the favorites. After the students made their constellation cup, they were invited to the cozy Reading Nook to curl up with a large selection of books about stars and constellations.


Winfield-Mt Union CSD families really came together as a community supporting the positive engagement and school success of their students at Family Night.  This is so important for our young students.