Iowa Area Education Agencies

VAST Science Unit Upgrades Netting Positive Feedback

May 28, 2015

The Grant Wood AEA Van Allen Science Teaching Center (VAST) science curriculum units are increasingly visible in area districts, and are netting positive feedback from teachers.

The Grant Wood AEA VAST Center originated during the 1992-93 school year in response to a need expressed by educators. Kathy Schultz, Grant Wood AEA Vast Center consultant,  explained, “At that time teachers expressed the need for hands-on science materials that would allow their students to investigate the content studied in their science textbooks. Grant Wood AEA responded by developing a science resource center to provide materials to enhance the classroom curriculum.

“Today, the science materials sets include everything a teacher needs for a particular unit, including an investigations guide and online support to aid with instruction and learning,” she continued. “The new and updated units take the instruction a step further and integrate the state’s focus on early literacy.”

The focus of the current science curriculum unit upgrades encompass grades K-5/6.

“With the early literacy focus in legislation, it impacts the time spent on science,” Schultz  explained. “Less than half of our teachers spend 25-30 minutes per day on science instruction,” she continued. “We know the units are designed to be taught daily. We hope the new curriculum will help teachers to integrate more science content into their school day, not only during science instructional time, but also during their literacy and math time.”

“In addition we want to share opportunities and strategies to promote literacy through science instruction. The science curriculum provides a hands-on, minds-on learning approach to science, that includes research-based science instructional strategies and integration with literacy, science and math,” Schultz elaborated.

Materials upgrades and building improvements
During the past year, Grant Wood AEA has seen a 24 percent increase in orders of earth science units, which means there are close to 1,900 earth science units being taught in schools today.

“We are starting to get materials in for phase II of our upgrade, which is life science,” Schultz continued. “Materials will be available in the fall and we already have 1,800 life science orders. That’s a 33 percent increase in life science orders alone. Life science will include six new units and earth science includes seven new units. Next year we anticipate sending over 5,500 science units to teachers in Eastern Iowa.”

The science curriculum units are distributed through the Grant Wood AEA service area at a subsidized cost, and at a full cost rate for some districts in neighboring communities.

The current Grant Wood AEA VAST Center facilities are experiencing a remodel, which will provide an expanded area for facilitating and processing the science curriculum units.

“Most people don’t realize that we operate a small manufacturing center at the 33rd Avenue facility,” Schultz said. “The mission of the VAST Center is to provide leadership and support to the teachers we serve as they teach and promote science literacy,” Schultz concluded. “We are excited about the new science curriculum we are able to provide for our teachers and students and the success it will lead to in their classrooms.”



Iowa Area Education Agencies
Central Rivers AEA Grant Wood AEA Great Prairie AEA Green Hills AEA Heartland AEA Keystone AEA Mississippi Bend Northwest AEA Prarie Lakes AEA
All Iowa AEAs are required to adhere to state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in programs, activities and employment practices. For specific information, contact your AEA.
Iowa Area Education Agencies
Connie Johnson
Statewide Communications Director
Iowa Area Education Agencies
712/335-3588 ext. 2015

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About AEAs
Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs) were created in 1974 by the Iowa legislature to ensure equal educational opportunities for all children from birth through age 21. As regional service agencies, AEAs provide special education and school improvement services for students, families, teachers, administrators, and their communities.

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