Social Studies Activities & Support

Evan McCormick, School Improvement Consultant

teenage pupils in class

Building Literacy in Social Studies Year Two Training
Last year the Iowa Department of Education rolled out state-wide professional development for social studies that was provided to teachers within each AEA. The 2014-2015 professional development modules focused on 1) Introduction to Iowa Core Literacy Standards for History/Social Studies, 2) Overview of Instructional Shifts, 3) Disciplinary Literacy, and 4) Use of Informational Text.

Past attendance in Year One training is NOT required as Year Two professional development is being provided within each AEA. The 2015-2016 modules focus on 5) Academic Vocabulary, 6) Text Complexity, 7) Text Based Evidence and Argument, and 8) Writing From Sources.

Great Prairie AEA will offer this Building Literacy in Social Studies: Year Two professional development in its Ottumwa office March 10-11, 2016. The target audience is 6-12th grade social studies teachers. One license renewal credit will be offered for those participants meeting all attendance and participation requirements. Registration information is available in the GPAEA professional development catalog.

Caucus 101
In the midst of an election cycle with the Iowa Caucus quickly approaching, the Iowa Secretary of State wanted to give teachers an opportunity to engage their students through meaningful discussion and active participation. Developed by Iowa teachers for Iowa teachers, Caucus 101 is a curriculum designed for flexibility with an emphasis on social media enhancements to appeal to how students learn today. Continue reading

What’s That One Thing We Can Do? (Continued)

Annette Clarahan, Parent Educator Coordinator

MR / College Park, Maryland Center for Young Children, laboratory school within the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Full day developmental program of early childhood education for children of faculty, staff, and students at the university. Parent  who also volunteers at the school, has meeting with her child's teacher. They are reviewing some of his class work. MR: Cas8 Wri4 © Ellen B. Senisi

Imagine being in a meeting with two people who were discussing a topic you knew nothing about. Do you think sometimes we have parents who feel like this at school meetings when we talk about test scores or use acronyms?

Think about successful school meetings with a parent, such as a conference or an IEP meeting. What happens in those meetings? Are parents asking questions? Is there a relationship between home and school? Are school and AEA staff doing That One Thing?  Was there a personal attempt to get mom or dad there?

Now think about those difficult meetings that were successful. What happened in those meetings that attributed to a positive outcome? What’s That One Thing? Did it feel more like a conversation than a routine meeting? Were parents engaged or were they spectators? Were test scores explained to the parents at a level they could understand? Were acronyms used? Did the pace of the meeting slow down?

We’ve all heard the saying “Kids do well when they can!” I believe this applies to parents as well. What’s That One Thing We Can Do?

HEART Online Assessment System to Discontinue

Evan McCormick, School Improvement Consultant

In June 2016, Great Prairie AEA will discontinue support of the HEART Online Assessment System. GPAEA technical support will make every effort to continue to make HEART available throughout the 2015-2016 school year, but an increase in issues affecting its functionality make a terminal shut-down imminent. Continue to contact Evan McCormick until then if you have technical concerns;, 319-753-6561 X1298.

The HEART program is housed on an aging server that frequently needs to be restarted. It’s programmed in 4D, an older and unsupported software. Further development by its originators is not planned. There has been declining use of the system since the advent of other assessment programs at both the state and local levels. Continue reading

Wrapping Up w/ GPAEA Media!

Kristin Steingreaber, GPAEA Media Specialist

Here are a few Media year-end reminders and an invitation to stay connected with GPAEA Media!

  • May 11-14 is the last week of Media van delivery to schools
  • May 18-21 – last week for van pickup
  • Calendars will open by June 1st for using the Reorder Past Order feature
  • Media Clerks last day – June 2
  • Media Specialist last day – June 18

Summer access to the library is online only!
Over the past 15 years, it’s been great to work together with schools to transform classrooms and libraries with Media Resources. There is a terrific Media staff that will be back in August to assist you.  As I am retiring this year, I encourage you to stay connected and watch for news about Media in the future! If you have questions about the library, please contact us at  or contact me directly at Thank you!

Check out the newest resources: Continue reading

Graduate Credit Changes for July 1, 2015

GPAEA has been a proud, longstanding partner with Drake University, Morningside College, and Viterbo University to offer graduate credit so that educators in our area can advance their careers, increase pay levels, and offer deeper learning and support!

Effective July 1, 2015, the Professional Development office will implement the full definition of college/university accreditation standards by requiring all graduate level work through the course catalog to have a minimum of 2 hours of homework for every hour spent in class. Classes that are offered for two consecutive days will not be available for graduate credit; renewal credit will still be an option to meet your relicensure needs.

Implications for those who are taking classes are deeper connection to the learning, implementation opportunities over time, and increased feedback from instructors. Implications for instructors will be to offer varied learning opportunities outside of class. Thank you for your continued support and we appreciate partnering with you to meet your professional development needs.

Please contact me with any questions at or visit our website at

The 8th grade AWIM STEM Scale-Up program at Seymour Community School District

 Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Do we need to change the angle of the wing?”  “It nose‐dived…there is too much weight on the nose.” “ That’s it‐it worked perfectly!”  Conversations in Mrs.Lukavsky’s 8th grade science class, Seymour Community School District, revolve around asking questions, planning and testing designs, analyzing data to look for patterns and brainstorming solutions. The students are building and testing gliders with specific constraints and group goals, as part of the A World In Motion (AWIM) STEM Scale‐Up program, Mrs. Lukavsky received for the 2014‐15 school year.

To launch the unit, each group built and tested a standard glider to test variables and further their understandings of the science concepts involved. Students explored the relationship between force and motion and the effects of weight and lift on a glider. In the next phase of the unit, students learned the relationships between data analysis and variable manipulations, and the importance of understanding consumer demands. The class was presented with survey results concerning what criteria would be most desirable in marketing the gliders. Based on the data in the survey, each group chose a goal and had certain constraints and criteria for their new glider design. That’s when the real challenges began. Continue reading

GPAEA History Day Contest Results – April 14, 2015


Congratulations to Mt. Pleasant Middle School National Qualifying Team!
Shaleen Thiengmany, Erin Zihlman, and Abby Ryon

Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Leadership and Legacy:
Changing the World’s View on the Mentally Disabled

Teacher: Jennifer Stater

Great Prairie AEA hosted a district History Day on April 14, 2015 in Fairfield. Congratulations to the following Junior & Senior division winners who will advance to State on Monday, May 4th at the Iowa Events Center. Learn more at

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Junior Paper

  • Katherine McLaughlin, The Grimm Legacy: Lessons, Adventures, and Magic,
    Sigourney Elementary School
  • Maddie Bemis, The Legacy of FDR, Pekin Community Schools

Junior Individual Exhibit

  • Jaden Davis, Dan Gable, Mt. Pleasant Middle School
  • Subrahmanyam Mullangi, Steve Jobs’ Vision and Passion, Aldo Leopold Middle School
  • Kjierstin Ridgway, The Greensboro Sit-in, Evans Middle School
  • Faith Roberts, The Mother of the Holocaust Children, Eddyville Elementary
  • Wyatt Brinegar, The Man Who Opened the Prairie, Eddyville Elementary

Junior Group Exhibit Continue reading

FTC Robotics, with the help of 3D printing, at Cardinal High School

Danae Moses, Student, FTC Robotics Team

This is the first year Cardinal High School has been a part of the First Tech Challenge (FTC) program. It has been a great learning experience for all the students who have been a part of it. Our team first had to come up with a design, build the robot, program the robot, and make sure it met all of the parameters. We did this over a period of months. To help build and design our robot, we used our own 3D printer to build pieces for it! Our teacher, Mr. Olson, received a grant that allowed our school to get the 3D printer. This printer really helped our team as we changed our design to improve our robot.

Our team was comprised of nine seniors, two juniors, and one sophomore. At the beginning of the year when we decided to enter into FTC, we split into groups to specifically focus on certain areas of the competition. We had certain people designing the robot, building it, programming it, looking over the rules of FTC, and three girls on our team were focused on marketing. We met once a week during our calculus class. We went to three competitions. This being our first year as a group, we were focused on learning about the program to succeed even more next year. Overall, our group was fairly successful. At the regional tournament, our team went 3-3. We all greatly enjoyed being able to work with each other and brainstorm ideas of how to make the best robot we possibly could. Our group looks forward to improving and winning even more next year!

Young Writers Conference 2015

Carol Ryon, Young Writers Conference Coordinator


The 2015 Young Writers Conference is now over for another year.  It was held at William Penn University on March 12th and 13th.  Approximately 700 student writers invaded the campus to share their writing with their peers, listen to interesting keynote speakers, and attend interesting workshops.  Sixteen districts were represented on the elementary day with 380 students and 50 teachers, associates and parent volunteers. On the secondary day, seventeen districts and 35 teachers, associates and parent volunteers participated. Continue reading

Professional Development Opportunities – April 2015

Business teamworkAs educators, we are constantly striving to learn new skills and strategies that will improve student learning. Great Prairie AEA programs are coordinated to enhance the professional, personal, and organizational staff development needs of LEA and AEA staff. These include credit courses, leadership development programs, support staff workshops, school improvement institutes, paraeducator certification and internal staff development.

Click here to register via MyLearningPlan and search for the courses listed below.

  • April 7 – Para Educator Course I – BURLINGTON
  • April 7 – Vocabulary: Making It Meaningful – BURLINGTON
  • April 8 – Secondary Transition Planning for Educators and Families – BURLINGTON
  • April 9 – Poverty and Learning: Breaking Through the Achievement Gap – BURLINGTON
  • April 9 – Nine Essential Skills for the Love & Logic Classroom BASIC – MT. PLEASANT
  • April 9 – Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Initial Training Workshop – BURLINGTON
  • April 16 – Substitute Authorization (Grades K-12) – BURLINGTON
  • April 18 – Social Media and You – BURLINGTON
  • April 18 – Para Educator Course II – BURLINGTON
  • April 21 – Positive Intervention and Effective Strategies for Classroom Management Challenging Behaviors Workshop (The Behavior Doctor) – FAIRFIELD
  • April 22 – Teacher Librarian Spring Workshop – OTTUMWA
  • April 23 – Building Literacy in Social Studies (Year 1) – OTTUMWA

Science Clubhouse Workshops for K-2 (Integrating Science with Reading and Writing)

Shared Gail Wortmann and Lindsey Wortmann

sciclubThe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a game-changer for science at the elementary level.  They are performance standards – the students must “do science” in order to show attainment.  Because the science standards need to be worked into the very busy day in an elementary classroom, it is imperative they be integrated with reading and writing workshops and not treated as a separate subject.  The Science Clubhouse Workshop lessons include all NGSS performance standards for each grade level (K-2).  Participants will work through all lessons, practicing the hands on science investigations and tying them to related books and writing assignments aligned with the Common Core.

On March 24th, the Iowa Department of Education announced the members of the state team charged with reviewing Iowa’s science standards agreed the Next Generation Science Standards will be the basis for their work on a final recommendation to the State Board of Education.  The details have not been decided, but the direction is clear.

The Science Clubhouse Workshop courses will help teachers prepare for student attainment of the Next Generation Science Standards as a part of an integrated reading/writing workshop.  Teachers will experience science and engineering practices, learn about cross-cutting concepts, review big ideas in science, and identify where the standards fit into a K-12 science scope and sequence.  The target audience for this course includes kindergarten, first and second grade teachers, science consultants/specialists, instructional coaches, technology coaches, STEM coaches, and pilot teachers.

All courses will be held at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa) in Auditorium A/B from 8:00-4:00.  Each participant will need to bring a laptop or tablet to access course materials.

The Science Clubhouse Workshop integrated science, reading, and writing workshops are now open for registration.

All courses will be held at Great Prairie AEA (Ottumwa) in Auditorium A/B from 8:00-4:00. Each participant will need to bring a laptop or tablet to access course materials.

Iowa Teacher of the Year nominations due April 25

TOYLogoBlueGray250x190Thousands of talented Iowa educators lead and inspire their students, but only one is chosen annually as the state’s top teacher. The deadline to nominate the 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year is April 25.

The award is an opportunity to recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Nominations will be accepted from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations.

Nomination forms can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year webpage.

The Iowa Teacher of the Year award was established in 1958. The annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.

The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Clemencia Spizzirri, a middle-school Spanish teacher from the Des Moines Public Schools, was named the 2015 Teacher of the Year.

The 2016 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.

Originally shared on

Para Educator courses in Burlington to start soon!

Schoolchildren and their teacher reading in primary classEarn your Para Educator Certificate (Click on course to register):

Individuals seeking Para Educator Certification (Para I, II, III are required for certification plus Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and a Federal Bureau of Investigation background check for a fee of ($65, and $40 license fee) due upon completion of all three courses. Approved for Renewal credits for Sub-Authorization but not for Para-certified with a Sub-Authorization. 2 Southeastern Community College credits are optional for an additional fee of $20.00 which has been add to the Para-Educator plus SCC credit option that you must choose when you register.