KCSD STEM grants Spring 2017

STEM opportunities are growing in the Keokuk Community School District from preschool to the high school thanks to the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and the grant-writing efforts of Betty Ralph, Diane Berner, and Barb Edler, despite stiff competition from over 100 applicants.


Through legislative appropriation, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is able to offer exemplary STEM programs throughout the state. The STEM Scale-Up Program has demonstrated success in increasing student interest and achievement in STEM across all demographics. Through a rigorous review process, the STEM Council selected nine programs to be offered on the 2017-18 STEM Scale-Up Program menu to provide high-quality STEM education offerings to schools, afterschool programs and other settings for grades pre-K through 12.

All went through a rigorous review process at both the national and state level, demonstrating an appeal to diverse youth, success in improving academic performance, evidence of integrating STEM concepts, development of school-business-community partnerships and sustainability beyond STEM Council financial support.

Betty Ralph will implement Ramps & Pathways with her preschool students. This program is a developmentally-appropriate and classroom-tested approach to integrative STEM that engages young children. Ramps & Pathways is designed to nurture engineering habits of mind as children build their own technology of marble runs; a type of Rube Goldberg machine. In the process, children grapple with the laws of physics, properties of objects, how those properties affect motion and engage in spatial thinking. “Two years ago I applied for and received the Scale up STEM grant for Preschool. Last year for some reason they did not offer a grant for preschool, which was disappointing. When I received notice that there was Ramps and Pathways available for this year, I jumped on the opportunity to apply for this.” Ralph will train fellow preschool teachers so all students will participate.

Diane Berner has completed three years of Engineering is Elementary with fourth and fifth grade TAG students supported by Scale-Up grants and community partners, Siemens and the Keokuk Municipal Water Plant. The 2017-2018 grant will expand access to every George Washington student. Engineering is Elementary (EiE) is a rigorously-researched, classroom-tested curriculum that increases students’ interest in and confidence about engineering. EiE is designed to encourage all children—including those from underrepresented groups—to envision themselves as potential engineers. The EiE Curriculum is the nation’s leading engineering curriculum for grades 1-6.

The Next Generation Science Standards include engineering standards at every grade level. “As an elementary science strategist, I didn’t want to just say to teachers, you need to do this. I wanted to be able to provide the curriculum, materials, and training for high quality instruction and hands-on engineering experiences. I am thrilled that the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council made that possible,” said Berner.

Barb Edler’s proposal to implement Engineering the Future at Keokuk High School and Keokuk Middle School was also approved. This award will provide an eight week module called “Project 1.0: Design the Best Organizer in the World”. Matt May and Courtney Giesel will be offering this module at KHS during the second semester next year. Giesel said, “I am very excited for the opportunity to start implementing what I have been learning in the STEM Innovator class I have been taking through the University of Iowa. Keokuk students are ready for this engineering course, and I am sure they will reap twice the benefits from having two teachers, science and industrial tech, co-teaching and collaborating on the instruction. This is what STEM is all about!”

Barb Edler will implement this module in her 8th grade elective class. Students will have the opportunity to design, build and test prototypes while empowering them to apply math, science and engineering practices, work creatively and collaboratively, communicate and experience the engineering design cycle in real-world design and physics applications. “I am very excited to continue the engineering work Diane Berner has started at the elementary school. Guiding students through their own projects and applications of the engineering design process is truly rewarding, and I am looking forward to seeing what my students will produce next year,” said Edler.

In addition to curriculum and materials, Scale-Up awards include training for teachers prior to implementation. For more information or to get involved, visit iowastem.gov.