Iowa Science Phenomena


In 2017, Iowa schools and teachers began a dramatic shift in science content expectations and pedagogy with the adoption of the new NGSS-aligned Iowa Science Standards. Iowa PBS recognized a key part of this instructional shift is the emphasis on locally relevant, real-world issues and phenomena. The NGSS, defines “phenomena” as “observable events that occur in the universe and that we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict.” As a statewide public media station, Iowa PBS identified that we had an opportunity to convene educators, scientists, and community members in a way that only public media can. The result was the 2019 creation of Iowa Science Phenomena. This new web-based platform and sustained service aims to build Iowa educator and scientific community member capacity to identify and capture unique, local phenomena across the state of Iowa. Early in the design of this project we collaborated with statewide area education agencies, colleges and universities, conservation and environmental education agencies and community groups with an aim of creating a sense of community ownership and buy-in for this platform and service. Through sustained engagement with Iowa’s rich scientific and educational professionals across the state we have been able to create, curate, collect and share this collection of over 200 user-generated, standards-aligned, Iowa-based phenomena for use in Iowa classrooms – and that collection continues to grow!

However, the measure of this service is not in the quantity of phenomena alone, rather it is in the community-created and owned processes used to vet the user-generated submissions prior to publication. The results are resources which reflect the highest quality in terms of accurate scientific facts, alignment to science standards, representation of best practices for science-based teaching and learning, as well as relevancy to the diverse population of Iowa teachers and students. To ensure Iowa educators are best positioned to use the resources effectively, we have collaborated with master teachers from Iowa school’s small and large to create teacher classroom resources aimed at meeting teachers where they are in their integration of phenomena-based teaching and learning grounded in local student and community interests.