STEM workshop focuses on emerging elementary education educators

STEM workshop focuses on emerging elementary education educators

Iowa Elementary STEM Expo for Emerging Educators

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -  This April, future teachers will explore STEM in the elementary class setting at the Elementary STEM Expo for Emerging Pre-K-6 Educators, sponsored by the University of Northern Iowa College of Education. 

The conference – for students in teacher preparation programs across Iowa – will be held on April 13 at the Schindler Education Center at UNI and on April 27 at the Urban Campus of Des Moines Area Community College. 

Brenda Kauffman, a second grade teacher, PK-6 STEM coordinator and model teacher at North Tama County Community School District and an adjunct instructor for science and math education at the College of Education, is a featured presenter. She will participate on a teachers’ panel as part of the day-long immersion bridging elementary education and STEM education. Kaufmann was a finalist in the 2024 Iowa Teacher of the Year recognition by the Iowa Department of Education and is currently a finalist for the 2024 Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Previous conferences have focused on preparing teacher education students to include STEM education in their classrooms at all K-12 levels. This year’s focus is intentionally on elementary education. 

“Research shows that our elementary teachers spend limited time teaching science in contrast to language arts or math. In addition, less than 25% of elementary teachers feel ‘very well prepared’ to teach science,” says Dana Atwood-Blaine, professor and Jacobson STEM Fellow at UNI, who’s coordinating the expo. “By connecting students with in-service elementary teachers who are skilled and excited about teaching science and STEM, we hope this event can provide a confidence and enthusiasm boost for teaching science and STEM at the elementary level.” 

The Friday prior to each event, students have the option to observe STEM lessons taught by local teachers in classrooms in Newell, Iowa Falls, Van Meter, Ankeny, Albia and Andrew, Iowa. For those without easy local access, Kaufmann is offering a “Live from the Classroom” virtual observation. She will teach a STEM lesson with her second graders that participants can observe via Zoom remotely while Atwood-Blaine fields questions.

The Saturday schedule includes:

  • A STEM teacher panel 
  • Hands-on OpenSciEd elementary immersion experience for K-2 and 3-5
  • Gallery walk of STEM happenings in Iowa's elementary classrooms 
  • STEM Resource Showcase, a chance to interact with STEM resources representatives 
  • Mobile gamification with “STEM Quest.” 

The OpenSciEd immersion allows students to play the role of learner while a facilitator leads the lesson. After the immersion, students then debrief to discuss their reaction. “This is a curriculum that is currently being field tested in Iowa classrooms and will become publicly available next fall,” Atwood-Blaine says. “Students who attend our events are getting a ‘sneak peek’ to a free curriculum that will likely become one of the most common science curricula at the elementary level in the near future.”  

Participating students can earn free prizes including teacher books and materials, and be entered in a raffle for two science kits worth more than $300. Registration is free and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Interested faculty are welcome to join in the fun.  Find a full schedule and registration information on the conference website. Direct any questions to