GPAEA Rolls Out the Iowa Authentic Learning Network (IOWA ALN)

Laura Williams, 21st Century Learning Specialist

Something new is on the horizon for Great Prairie AEA and the State – the Iowa Authentic Learning Network or IOWA ALN. In response to #futureready Iowa, Great Prairie AEA and Green Hills AEA partnered together to create a support network for educators interested in bringing more authentic and application-based learning experiences to their classrooms. The result… an exciting, eye-opening, and real-world experience for high school students.

Since the beginning of the school year, Iowa ALN has been developing local project pools with area partnerships in a few pilot districts. By creating these school to community connections, students apply current knowledge and skills to a local business’ challenge. Students experience how to communicate and brainstorm in a professional setting, meet deadlines, and learn from business leaders. Eventually, the hope is that all schools in Iowa will have access to partnerships in their community through this work.

Iowa ALN invites students and educators to experience 21st Century learning through the development of authentic learning experiences with area businesses, industry, and other organizations. The vision is to provide students the opportunity to explore their passions and engage with experts while learning and applying 21st-century skills that prepare them for their future within the K-12 setting.

What can Iowa ALN do for GPAEA schools?

  1. Assist in the planning, development, and implementation of ALN program;
  2. Provide consultative services for the successful implementation of ALN program and achievement of ALN goals;
  3. Provide professional development services or broker such services for the district, for the successful implementation.
  4. Develop and provide access to a project database for partner schools.

What does this look like?

IOWA ALN Spotlight: Mt. Pleasant Middle School

Amanda Sanders of Bridges of Henry County pitches a project to engage local Mt. Pleasant Middle School students in a community project as part of their social studies class.

Mr. Williams, a middle school teacher for Mount Pleasant CSD piloted one of the projects housed within GPAEA ’s developing regional project pool and was able to see the connection to this real project and how it linked up to the new Social Studies standards Iowa recently adopted on March 11, 2017.  When asked how this project fit with the new standards, Williams replied “the new standards really puts an emphasis on learning locally and engaging students in compelling questions. These questions lead them into a process of inquiry at which we have information at our fingertips. It’s what they do with that information, the application, that can start to make a difference- and in this case, a difference for our community.”

So just how can authentic project-based learning link to Iowa standards? The following project summary will give some insight into just how this looks in the classroom:

Summary of Project

Class- Mr. Williams 7th Grade Social Studies Class (for information contact )

Partner – Bridges out of Poverty Henry County

Project- Marketing/Communications regarding resources to support the community in order to end the cycles of poverty and homelessness locally.

Description- Students were empowered to come up with ideas of how they could promote this and engaged in research to better understand poverty at a local level. Students created fliers and shared with the partner for feedback.

Duration– 1 Week

7th Grade Social Studies Connecting Standards:

  • SS.7.13. Identify social, political and economic factors that can influence our thoughts and behavior.
  • SS.7.14. Examine what causes inequalities and how they exist within a society.
  • SS.7.17. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives. (21st century skills)
  • SS.7.18. Explain and evaluate how economic decisions affect the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and society.

For more information on Iowa ALN, please visit or contact GPAEA’s 21st Century Learning Specialist:

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