STEM Leadership in Iowa

Ted Neil with young students

Ted Neil leads a school science night with his science education students.

Hawkeyes Take the Lead with Iowa’s Next Generation Science Standards 

College of Education faculty and alumni envision science standards for future global citizens.

Last year, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad appointed a committee that included several College of Education alumni to develop the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). 

Ted Neal (certification ’00), a clinical instructor in science education at the University of Iowa; Rob Kleinow (BA ’87), a science consultant with the Heartland Area Education Agency; and Lyn Countryman (MA ‘97/PhD ’92), science education professor at the University of Northern Iowa, collaborated with state education and business leaders to refocus the way science education is taught. 

Now that the Iowa legislature has approved the NGSS, the college continues to lead the way by educating future and practicing teachers about these new standards. In October, the college partnered with Grand View University and the Iowa Department of Education to host the New Iowa Science Standards Kick Off, bringing together NGSS leaders from across the country and state, to educate Iowa’s administrators, curriculum directors, and teachers. This followed the college’s STEM Equity in Rural Areas conference. Later, in November, the college hosted a STEM teacher conference for pre-service teachers from across the state, introducing the standards all Iowa schoolchildren will be required to learn. 


Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa

New Partnership Advances STEM Education, Careers

Kirkwood’s name may get top billing on the community college’s fourth regional center, but the lower level of the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa is 5,000 square feet dedicated to interactive learning that began thrumming with activity this fall. 

“The partnerships are paying off in terms of learning opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students, as well as through opportunities to help shape STEM teaching throughout our state.”
— MARK MCDERMOTT

The center is located in a research park at the nexus of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) efforts by local schools, Kirkwood Community College, the University of Iowa, the College of Education, and the Governor’s Office. Mark McDermott, UI clinical associate professor in science education and STEM coordinator, says this center is unique among Kirkwood’s other regional centers — it bristles with high-tech features, from solar panels that help power the building, to equipment simulators, health care labs, and robotic workshops. It’s also home to the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) and the Governor’s Southeast Regional STEM Hub. 

At the center, the College of Education is collaborating with UI engineering and business faculty, Kirkwood faculty in the lab sciences and pre-education academies, teachers-in-training, high school STEM students, UI research assets, and area businesses and industries to help prepare Iowa high school students for high-demand, high-tech, 21st-century careers. 

“College of Education students are completing field experiences and professional development activities,” says McDermott, who teaches a methods class to aspiring teachers at the center. “The partnerships are paying off in terms of learning opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students, as well as through opportunities to help shape STEM teaching throughout our state.” 


This year, 158 students participated in the STEM Excellence and Leadership (SEAL) program led by the Belin-Blank Center.  Made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the statewide initiative offers challenging STEM education opportunities to high-ability, middle-school students living in these rural school districts:

green map of Iowa
  1. Adel Desoto Minburn
  2. Atlantic
  3. Cardinal
  4. Chariton
  5. Davis County
  6. Eddyille-Blakesburg-Fremont
  7. FortDodge
  8. Graettinger-Terril
  9. Mount Pleasant
  10. Spencer
  11. Starmont