Fairfield Middle School: How Much Will We Read, How Far Will We Go?

Dee Ann Lantz, FMS Teacher Librarian

pict 1During the month of March, students and staff at the Fairfield Middle School set a goal to read around the school in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Beginning March 1, every time someone completed a book, a book slip was filled out and hung along the hallway. The goal was to read enough books to reach the end of the hallway. When we accomplished that goal in only one week, we realized that we could set a much higher goal – to read completely around our building. Students and staff took this goal to heart. By the end of the month, we had collectively read 1,696 books!! The best part was that we exactly made it around the school and ended right where we began. We DID read around FMS!

pic 2How much did we read, how far did we go?

The students and staff of FMS read 1,696 books that reached all the way around the school during the month of March, 2016!

May is School Board Recognition Month


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.

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

Download: GPAEA Board Recognition 2016

Learn more: http://www.gpaea.org/en/about_us/board_of_directors/

Science/STEM is Alive and Well in GPAEA

Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist

stem fesitval 9The 3rd annual STEM Festival at IHCC in Ottumwa was an evening of hands-on experiences with the highest number of area students and parents in attendance to date. If you have not attended a STEM festival there are two upcoming opportunities: the SE Iowa STEM Festival, April 23 at SCC in Burlington and the Drake/Metro STEM Festival, April 14 at Drake University. An added bonus to the Drake Festival is the opportunity to hear Bill Nye, the Science Guy, speak immediately after the Festival. The Festivals are free and family friendly. So, come join in on the interactive excitement of the STEM Festivals!

For more information on the April 23 Southeast Iowa STEM Festival: http://se.iowastem.org/southeast-ia-stem-festival

For more information on the DRAKE STEM Festival and Bill Nye appearance: https://scstemhub.drake.edu/

Challenge problem at Physics CompetitionAnother not-to-be-missed science event just took place in GPAEA. The annual GPAEA Physics Competition took place March 22 at the E3 Center in Mt Pleasant. Several GPAEA high schools competed in a variety of events for a chance to compete at State. Events included: the soda straw arm, catapult, mousetrap car, bridge building and the challenge problem. Three GPAEA schools qualified to compete at the State Physics Competition: Moravia, Ottumwa and Harmony! It was an amazing day of great designs and solving challenging problems, congratulations to all that competed!

Celebrate NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child, April 10–16!


The Week of the Young Child™ is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families. More info can be found at iowaaeyc.org.

Shoutout to our Early Childhood and Early ACCESS staff for all their work with young children and families!

Continue reading

Supporting Preschool Children with Disabilities – May 10 & 11

Supporting Children with DisabilitiesMay 10 & May 11, 2016
9 AM – 3 PM
Fairfield Arts & Convention Center


Join International Consultant Kate Werling as she helps Early Childhood Teachers and other educational professionals learn how to use The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool to provide a high-quality program that is inclusive of all children.

Teachers will learn how to incorporate the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to offer children multiple ways of acquiring knowledge and skills and to provide a variety of formats for instruction, learning,and assessment in ways that will help all children communicate what they know and can do.

Register at http://bit.ly/1R1UHYf

April is Occupational Therapy Month

OT webApril has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month nationally and is celebrated throughout the country.  Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants are part of an important profession that helps people across their lifespan to participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.  Their customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our own Great Prairie AEA Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants for the services they provide throughout our service area.

Occupational Therapists

  • Carrie Carlson
  • Lynn, Coppage
  • Carol Havelka
  • Marty Hudson
  • Kathy Jaske-Gardner
  • Shanah Sullivan

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • Vonn Gould
  • Ashley Hobbs
  • Joe Hudson
  • Michelle Mihalovich
  • Deb Mueller
  • Chris Williams

Learn more about OT services from Great Prairie AEA at http://www.gpaea.org/en/services/occupational_therapy/.

Visual Arts & Iowa Core Workshop in Cedar Rapids – June 20 & 21

Visual Arts PD flyer copy

Download Form: http://www.aea10.k12.ia.us/profdev/pdf/registform.pdf

Register Online: https://www.gwaea.org/apps/ProfDev/user/signon.cfm

The dissemination of information from external organizations by Great Prairie AEA does not infer sponsorship or endorsement of the information. It is being passed on to our stakeholders for its educational value.

April is Autism Awareness Month

Today, one in 68 American children is diagnosed with autism (CDC). Great Prairie AEA provides consultative support for children birth through 21 years of age who are identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or who demonstrate autism-like characteristics. Learn more about our services at http://www.gpaea.org/en/services/autism/.

GPAEA Success Stories

Shout out to our GPAEA Challenging Behavior & Autism Staff: Teran Buettell, Crystal Hornback, Sarah McCollum & Julie Thomas. Thank you for all that you do for area students and families!

GPAEA’s 21st Century Classroom in Ottumwa

Lisa Jacobs, Instructional Technology Specialist

The 21st Century Classroom in the Ottumwa Office is HERE! The primary use of the 21st Century Classroom will be for teacher professional development, student learning opportunities, and educational meetings that will benefit from using technology and collaborative spaces. You may notice the color scheme and furniture is similar to the Room21C in Burlington with the same collaboration tables and chairs, wireless connectivity to large video monitors for each group, and writable walls. There are also some unique features in Ottumwa’s Room21C. The construction began by removing the wall that was previously between the old computer lab and the ICN room. The larger room (61 ft X 31 ft) allows for additional spaces including a circular conversation “campfire”; a larger lounge area that seats fourteen adults with wheelchair access; tall café tables; casual benches and cube ottomans. The three basic design tenets for both the Ottumwa and Burlington 21c classrooms are that they be #1 moveable & flexible; #2 have video displays for each work group; #3 have writable surfaces for each work group. This link will provide more information about the 21st Century classroom design:  http://classroom21c.weebly.com Continue reading

Making Collaborative Teams Meaningful and Effective

Cory Johnson, School Improvement Consultant

Business teamwork

Throughout Great Prairie, schools have built structures and implemented processes to promote collaboration amongst the teaching staff. The models vary (Data Teams, Professional Learning Communities (PLC), etc.) but the purpose is the same: create a collaborative culture that ensures what Austin Buffum and Mike Mattos describe as the 4Cs: Collective Responsibility, Concentrated Instruction, Convergent Assessment, and Certain Access. The Great Prairie School Improvement Team has developed a new tool that schools and teams can use to monitor and improve collaborative structures and processes. Continue reading

Makerspace Movement in Ottumwa

Joni Nicholson, Elementary Teacher-Librarian for Ottumwa Community School District

maker magnetThe Makerspace movement has created a buzz in the library-media community.  Many public libraries have embraced this opportunity to add more hands-on activities to appeal to their patrons.  But in the school setting, teacher-librarians often express many concerns about how to incorporate a Makerspace into their program with so many obstacles.  These obstacles—time, space, and budget—are not new to any of us in school libraries, but they don’t have to be roadblocks that keep you from creating a great “Makerspace” of your own.

Stacy Moran and I, both elementary librarians for the Ottumwa Community School District, teamed together to do  just that.  We were both wanting to implement some form of Makerspace in our libraries, but we were both faced with those same pesky obstacles.  With classroom teachers’ schedules already being very tight, we knew it would be a challenge to find time to add another event into the school day.  In some of the older school buildings where libraries are often confined to a classroom or a converted auditorium stage, space was another issue.  And of course, adding another item to an already meager budget seemed impossible too.  These are not concerns unique to the Ottumwa Community School District.  Most other schools face these same constraints. Continue reading

March PEC Workshop on Guardianship & Conservatorship

Who Needs a Guardian or Conservator?

GUARDIAN WORKSHOP March 2016-2Families are often challenged with how much support their child may need after becoming an adult. It will depend on the person’s ability to make reasonable decisions about health, safety, and personal needs.

Those who may need a guardian or conservator include many different types of people such as:

  • a person with a developmental disability
  • a person who is mentally ill
  • a person who has experienced a stroke or a head injury which may have resulted in a mental disability
  • a person who has a disease such as Alzheimer’s which affects decision making ability

Want to learn more?   Please see the GUARDIAN WORKSHOP March 2016 for more information.

Communicating and Collaborating With Feedback

Sue Kientz, GPAEA Instructional Technology Coach

I recently saw a summary of results from a survey McGraw-Hill Education conducted with college students. The report highlight:

The survey of more than 2,600 U.S. college students shows that students are embracing technology for its ability to help them learn more effectively through continual feedback”

digital-study-trends_infographic-fall-2015-final See full size image

This shouldn’t really be a surprise to educators.  We know students learn more when they are given feedback.  Within this article Peter Cohen, McGraw-Hill Education’s group president of U.S. Education, commented:

  • “Students today have an almost insatiable hunger for instant and continual feedback. By using technology to deliver learning experiences that leverage those motivations, we can capitalize on an enormous opportunity to improve learning outcomes.”
  • “Adaptive learning technology provides just that kind of actionable, real-time feedback, and does so in a way that’s incredibly personalized. It’s gratifying to see these technologies align so perfectly with college students’ own motivations.”

Continue reading

Scale-Up with Spatial-Temporal Math

Lynn Selking, GPAEA Math Specialist

According to the STEM Scale-Up Program Menu for 2016-2017, “ST Math is game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning. Integrating with classroom instruction, ST Math incorporates the latest research in learning and the brain and promotes mastery-based learning and mathematical understanding. The ST Math software games use interactive, graphically-rich animations that visually represent mathematical concepts to improve conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills.”

What does it look like to do math through “visual learning?”  What does “graphically-rich” mean?  Does this mean a video game format with a lot colors and shapes moving about on the screen?  No.  In ST Math, there is a quite engaging penguin fellow named Ji Ji who is always trying to get somewhere.  The task of the student is to help JiJi get to where he needs to go.  The software uses no language to introduce or teach concepts. Instead, the game responds to user actions with instant feedback that is linked to both the mathematical concepts in mind and the mathematical implications  of the choice of the student.  Connected mathematical representations are what make learning visual and the graphics rich.


The image shows JiJi moving to where the student placed the balloon gondola.  If the gondola is placed correctly, JiJi will climb on board and sail up with the balloons.  If the gondola is not placed correctly, JiJi returns to zero and waits for the next attempt.

ST Math has been used in the Danville Community School District in Great Prairie AEA during the 2015-2016 school year. The students are enjoying the program.

2016-17 STEM Scale-Up Program Application Due March 1

Tami Plein and Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialists

Iowa STEM logoThe 2016-17 STEM Scale-Up Program Application is now open – deadline is March 1 at 5 PM.

As you consider applying for a Scale-Up program, remember Iowa has adopted NGSS Performance Expectations as grade specific K-8 and grade banded High School standards. While there are alignment documents that each program has submitted, you need to always be a critical consumer of all curricular materials. Our new Iowa Science Standards (NGSS) as still very new. Achieve and NSTA have said that nothing is 100% aligned with NGSS at this point in time.

Please spend some time familiarizing yourself with the conceptual and instructional shifts of the NGSS standards. Utilize the teachers/coaches in your district that have completed the State Science Standards Overview module and leverage their learning to help you determine the Scale-Up program’s alignment to our new state standards. Each program’s alignment document can be accessed by clicking on the Scale-Up program’s title from the Scale-Up Program Menu A one-page summary will open for that program and on that page will be a link to their alignment document.

A focus of state professional development next year will be the Science EQuIP rubric. This is a tool that will help educators evaluate lesson and unit alignment to our new standards. GPAEA Science Network 3 teachers have had some experience using the Science EQuIP rubric and can help guide alignment decisions. Curriculum work is always a work in progress and continued learning is needed for us to be able to implement these new standards.

’16-’17 Scale-Up Flyer