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UNI STEM Resources for Academic Success

Preservice Teachers learning how to use materials available at CEE-STEM.

Spring semester begins next week and along with getting to class in the snow, wind, and cold will come other challenges.  For some it will be an LAC math class that is a little more difficult than expected.  For others, a methods instructor will assign a field experience in an unexpected subject area or grade level.  And for a few, that senior level science course will have them questioning their major.  Whatever your academic STEM challenge is, UNI has people and resources available to help.  In this week’s UNI STEM Story we provide an overview of some of the STEM support services on campus.
For students seeking help with their own STEM coursework, the Academic Learning Center’s MASS (Math and Science Services) offers tutoring 6 days a week and by appointment.  MASS Spring and Fall semester walk-in hours are Monday-Thursday from 10:00 am—2:00 pm and Friday 10:00 am-noon in room 008 of the ITTC.   Sundays Math and Science Tutors are available from 6:00—9:00 pm in the Digital Media Hub of the Rod Library (as a part of The A-Team).  Tutoring appointments can be arranged all year by calling 319-273-2361.  The MASS staff are trained tutors who want to help you build specific math or science skills and develop learning strategies that will help you succeed.  Whether you are struggling to get through your liberal arts core requirements or you’ve discovered that one of your major classes is tougher than expected, MASS can help!
 UNI Teaching Majors may find themselves in need of a different kind of support.  All UNI Teaching majors get practice teaching during field experiences and student teaching.  Many build on their required teaching experiences by volunteering at UNI outreach events or for youth groups.  Without a classroom and budget of their own, how can these students go about getting hands-on materials to use with Pre-K-12 grade students?  Thanks to the UNI Math Education Lab, the Science Education Resource Center (SERC), and the Center for Early Education in STEM (CEESTEM) UNI students have access to a plethora of classroom materials for use in field experience, during student teaching, and as they volunteer with youth.
The UNI Math Education Lab provides access to math classroom resources for UNI students, local teachers and UNI faculty.  Available resources include manipulatives, K-12 textbooks, children’s books with math themes, software, calculators, and more.  A student assistant is usually available to find materials and help elementary majors with mathematics education coursework.  The Lab is open Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am—4:00 pm and Fridays from 9:00 am-1:00 pm in room 209 of Wright Hall. 
The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) offers loans of science and STEM activity kits from FOSS and other publishers, textbooks and curriculum supplements.  Kits cover all ages and science topics including environmental education, life sciences, chemistry, physics, earth science and more.  Staff are available to assist with material selection.  Space is available for groups to meet to evaluate or compare textbooks or work on group projects.  The SERC located in  room 160 of McCollum Science Hall and is open Monday-Friday beginning at 8:00 am with varied closing times.  See the SERC’s website for current hours and a full list of available resources.
Early childhood preservice educators can turn to the Center for Early Education in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CEESTEM) for their classroom material needs.  CEESTEM offers games, manipulatives and other resources for check out to UNI Students and local educators.  The CEESTEM website includes downloadable games and recipes to help very young children build foundational STEM skills.  CEESTEM is located in room 12 of the Schindler Education Center and is open Monday-Friday during Spring and Fall Semester.
Between the Academic Learning Center MASS, Math Education Lab, SERC and CEESTEM, UNI offers a variety of services to support all students success in STEM coursework and career preparation.  Learn more about each center by visiting their individual websites.

Marcy Seavey, UNI STEM Coordinator
Posted: 01-07-15

Travel, people, and her love for the environment all at one place, UNI!

Kara and fellow UNI students pose with the UNI Flag while on Colorado River Rafting trip.

Kara Poppe is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa, majoring in Environmental Geography. She wanted a major that combined her love for traveling, people, and the environment.
“I chose UNI because it was the right size, distance from home, and price. UNI also offered many opportunities for travel and research. “
One of Kara’s favorite memories at UNI involved travel and research.  Her Field Studies class on the American West and its disappearing waters took a  whitewater rafting trip to the Colorado River.  “It was a two week course in May through the Earth Science department.  We went whitewater rafting to have a firsthand experience with issues affecting water quality, dams, tourism, and water availability.  We also studied culture and geology in many of the national parks in the Southwest region.  Anyone can take that course, but it will be a while before they take this specific trip again.  The Earth Science department usually offers a two-week field trip to a region of the United States during [each] summer. “  Kara has enjoyed the major course about rivers, because she was able to learn about systems all around the world.  
In the future Kara hopes to work for one or two years in international development before pursuing graduate school.  “I want to work on building cross-cultural partnerships between U.S. citizens and communities in less-developed countries to allow for exchange of knowledge, ideas, and innovations.  I am considering Masters in Business Administration, Masters in Public Health, or  Masters in International Development.“
In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and friends and participating in outdoor activities, like backpacking, canoeing, and skiing.  She has been backpacking in New Mexico, Vermont, Arkansas, Michigan, Arizona, and Iowa; canoeing in Minnesota; and skiing in the Midwest.
On top of being a STEM Ambassador for UNI, Kara also likes to volunteer at  environmental events in the area such as tree plantings and water quality monitoring.
Kara’s advice to a future panther about choosing a STEM major at UNI is, “Do not be afraid to try something new! There are a wealth of opportunities out there if you are willing to take the chance. Come visit and see if UNI is the right fit for you!” 

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 12-30-14

UNI STEM Student Organizations

SNS Booth at the Fall Club Fair

Its that time of year again. Once students arrive back from winter break, student organizations all over campus are going to be interested in gaining new members. Or as a student, you may be looking for something new to ring in the new year and I have some organizations that may be interesting to you. STEM is starting to pop up more directly and indirectly throughout the university.  It got me thinking about how I could find organizations that are related to STEM. I found three organizations that were STEM related in some way: an organization that focused primarily on STEM, I found another organization that is indirectly related to STEM, and the last organization provides the opportunity for STEM majors to work on and polish their production skills, which can make members more marketable in the job world.
The first student organization is SNS, which stands for Student Nature Society. This group raises awareness for cleaning up pollution and helps spread awareness about our environment. This group sounds fun and if you love the outdoors SNS is right up your alley! They take camping and canoe trips. Just this year they are planning several zoo trips. They hope to get a special chimpanzee visit where you would be able to interact with the chimps. SNS meets at the Greenhouse on campus and is open to everyone. If you are interested in joining, email Kate Madsen who is a sophomore biology major.
The second organization is Multicultural Teaching Alliance. One of our past STEM Ambassadors is a part of the club. Julia North is a senior math education and business teaching major. The Multicultural Teaching Alliance organization prepares educators for diversity they may encounter in their field. Julia notes that although she is a STEM major, the Multicultural Teaching Alliance helps her prepare and educate her for whatever field she may pursue. This club meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month at 8 p.m. in the SEC, 5th floor. If you are interested in joining this organization and learning about diversity, please contact Julia North.
The last organization is the Digital Collective or DC club. This club deals with digital media. Many would think this has nothing to do with STEM, but I think this club would offer great opportunity for STEM students who are interested in staying well rounded in the digital world. With technology advancing daily this club helps students specialize in production through Photoshop, Illustrator, and more. This club also brings in speakers from surrounding businesses and visits businesses. DC club meets on Mondays at 6 p.m. in the Digital Media Hub in the Rod Library. If you are interested in learning more about production, email Elisa Phipps who is a senior interactive digital studies student.
This list of organizations I have provided does not even begin to dive into all of the wonderful opportunities UNI student groups have to offer, but if you want to learn more about all the organizations out there visit the link below. 
-Stefani Keller, UNI STEM Program Associate

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 12-17-14

Leading the way in Code.Org

Students using the website. web resources are free for all.

Only 100 affiliates around the United States conduct training workshops for the Code Studio curriculum and we have one of our very own at the University of Northern Iowa. Ben Schafer, an associate professor in Computer Science at UNI is specifically trained to conduct training workshops. is a non-profit founded by Hadi and Ali Partovi in January of 2013.  Their goal is to bring programming to K-12 education and make it accessible to everyone.  They began with a series of web videos featuring tech bigwigs and sports and entertainment celebrities explaining why learning coding is important.  As a follow up, they created the “Hour of Code” campaign to correspond with Computer Science Education week – the second week of December each year.  The Hour of Code campaign produced a series of puzzle tutorials featuring Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and this year, the characters from Frozen, which engage participants in the process of programming.  To date, the Hour of Code initiative has reached at least 72 million students, although they hope to pass 100 million this week during the second Hour of Code campaign).
In addition to Hour of Code, has designed and recently released a FREE, K-5 Computer Science curriculum referred to as the Code Studio program.  Code Studio consists of three courses containing 20 lessons each which blend “unplugged” classroom activities and browser based “plugged” activities to teach the fundamentals of computer science/programming.  Dr. Schafer says that through Code Studio students learn how actions, events, and vocabulary from their daily life correspond to principles of computer programming and how such connections can help them improve their communication and problem solving skills.
Ben is joining with to offer FREE one–day workshops for educators       interested in teaching the computer science curriculum.  “ wants to make sure that teachers understand the curriculum and are prepared to implement this curriculum in their classroom.  As such, they are funding free, full-day teacher training workshops all around the country.  Any teacher or administrator involved with K-5 education can sign up to attend these workshops scheduled all over the country.  Furthermore, any school/district/organization can request to host such a workshop and have one scheduled in their community.  I have conducted five in the last month, have one more this year, and currently have 12 public and 2 private workshops scheduled around the state of Iowa for Spring of 2015.”
Teachers who attend a workshop will receive a complete copy of the entire curriculum, lesson materials, and some nifty swag.  During the workshop they review the curriculum, experience several of the unplugged lessons, work with the Code Studio website, and engage in peer-to-peer discussions regarding teaching strategies, implementation strategies, and overcoming barriers.
When Ben first heard about this organization he had to be a part of it.
“I have been working for five years to engage students, pre-service teachers, and in-service teachers with the concepts of computer programming.  When they first organized in 2013, I was very interested in their efforts and how simple yet engaging their materials were. I've learned that there is a very recent feeling in the US that computer science is more than just a little fad that we might teach to kids.  More and more teachers are recognizing that.
Ben has been able to learn so much as an affiliate for “The skills kids learn in a computer science classroom translate into other areas including increased ability to communicate, collaborate, problem solve, and think critically.”
“I love what I'm doing.  The excitement that is present in each of the workshops I've conducted is very real.  The teachers who have been coming WANT to be there and they want to know how they can help give their students necessary skills.”

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 12-10-14

A Whole New World Perspective on STEM

Britney Bockstahler, UNI Early Childhood Math and Literacy Student

Britney Bockstahler  is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa. Her major is in Elementary and Early Childhood Education with Math and Literacy minors.   “I have always had a passion for kids and learning, teaching is the perfect intersection of those interests. “ Britney chose UNI for its premier teacher education program. Also the size and distance from her home town was an added bonus.
“My favorite major course was Human Relations, because I was able to travel to Tanzania with a group of seven other UNI teaching majors and experience all the content first hand, it was a fantastic experience. We went for 12 days. We spent three days teaching in the schools, everyone taught one math lesson and one English lesson. I taught numeral recognition to Kindergarteners and English superlatives to 4th graders. We spent two days in Serengeti National Park and saw all sorts of animals up close, in their natural environment. The same was true in the Ngoro Ngoro Crater. We also went to a Maasai village, attended a local church, toured a banana plantation, and visited with artists making wood carvings and Tingatinga paintings. Each part of the trip was incredible and different, there is no way I could pick a favorite place.”
“I would definitely advise other students to study abroad, both my Camp Adventure experience in Japan and ‘The Ultimate Field Experience’ in Tanzania changed my perspective on the world and taught me so much that I couldn't have learned in the classroom.”
Britney’s favorite math minor course is Math for Elementary Students with Special Needs. “This class gave me the opportunity to practically apply all the mathematical content, particularly reasoning and problem solving, that I have learned throughout my program with both students in need of remedial support and enrichment.”
One of Britney’s favorite memories at UNI is the first annual Plot Harvest Festival, which is a celebration of over a years worth of work founding a community garden on the UNI campus. “The first Panther Plot Harvest Festival was in early September 2013. At the festival there was music, garden tours, appetizers made from food harvested from the garden, and a hog roast. It was to celebrate the first summer of the on campus garden, the Panther Plot. A team of nine of sophomore students started the garden with the support of many university entities throughout the 2012-2013 school year. “
Britney’s commitment to STEM began with her work with the kids at Elk Run Elementary School, “supporting their exploration and learning about shadows. It was an experience that really confirmed my belief in the importance of hands on, integrated STEM in early childhood.”
Britney’s future plans are to teach Pre-K, Kindergarten, or First grade in Colorado Springs, where she has family.
In her free time Britney enjoys reading, scrapbooking, cooking, watching movies, playing games, and spending time with her friends. “I like trying new things, I have found lots of new recipes from the 100 Days of Real Food challenge. Some of the unique things I have tried are cauliflower pizza, homemade chicken noodle soup, and turnips with bacon.”
Britney also holds several jobs including being a STEM Ambassador for UNI, a nanny for two families and tutors elementary students in reading.
Her advice to a future panther is:“Seek out every opportunity you can and take advantage of them! At the beginning of my college career I wouldn’t have imagined all the amazing experiences I would be presented with and how impactful they would be. Never be afraid to try something new, something outside your comfort zone, it might turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done.”

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 12-03-14


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