Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education

Regents Center for Early Developmental Education Banner


Iowa Regents' Center Director Advisor for FIRST LEGO® LEAGUE JR.

The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based robotics programs that build STEM skills, inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. FIRST has recently added the Discovery Edition to its programs to meet the needs of preschool, kindergarten, and first grade children. Iowa Regents' Center Director, Beth Van Meeteren, has been serving as an advisor in the development of this year's FIRST LEGO® League Jr. Challenge, Boomtown Build along with Susan Nail Bales from the FrameWorks Institute, Charlene M. Czerniak from the University of Toledo, Lisa Guernsey from New America, and Jackie Marsh from the University of Sheffield, UK.  Information about FIRST Programs can be found at

Iowa Regents' Center Participates in Think Tank for New National STEM Center

Members of the Iowa Regents' Center were identified by leaders in the early childhood STEM field as having experience and expertise related to early learning in science, technology, engineering, math or STEM and were invited to participate in an assessment of current evidence-based practices, topics, content, and processes in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) early learning. Director Beth Van Meeteren, Dr. Mary Donegan-Ritter, and Dr. Jill Uhlenberg attended a summit in Leesburg, Virginia December 4 and 5 to contribute to the STEM Innovations for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMI2E2). The purpose of STEMI2E2 is to identify key content and provide resources to support the application and integration of early STEM learning opportunities for young children with and without disabilities (birth to age 5) and their families. STEMI2E2's goal is to gather information about STEM priority areas, current practices, and approaches to develop a comprehensive model on STEM and inclusion with resources and support for early interventionists, early educators, and families.

October 3, 4, and 5: Iowa Regents' Center at the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children's Conference: Iowa's Workforce Behind the Workforce

On Thursday, October 3rd, Center Director Beth VanMeeteren, Center Faculty Affiliate, Mary Donegan-Ritter, and Center Program Coordinator, Sherri Peterson, presented a full day pre-institute session at the Iowa Early Learning Fall Institute at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. The session “ Engaging All Learners in STEM Learning Experiences” is a hands-on workshop where participants will develop an understanding of the developmental progression young children demonstrate when engaging in STEM experiences, with a focus on Chutes & Silos and ramps and pathways. These activities integrate learning about science, technology, engineering and math in developmentally appropriate ways that promote executive function skills. The principles of Universal Design for Learning were used to provide teachers with strategies and a framework for planning a physical science inquiry learning center. Participants explored a variety of interesting materials, discussed ways to present the materials and modify the environment so that all children can participate in physical science learning centers, and identified the early learning standards that can be met through STEM experiences.

On October 4th, Center Program Coordinator Sherri Peterson, presented “Infant and Toddler Problem Solving with Chutes and Silos” at the Iowa Early Learning Fall Institute. This 90-minute session will focus on how chutes and silos can support problem solving and STEM learning for infants and toddlers. The 90 minute session provided participants with a hands-on session to facilitate an understanding of the developmental progression young children demonstrate when engaging with a physical science experience with a focus on force and motion. This experience integrates learning about STEM in a developmentally appropriate way that promotes executive function skills Video and photographs from infant and toddler classrooms provided participants with information about how to set up the center, how to use observation to identify and document learning, and opportunities to engage with the materials used in the Chutes & Silos center. Small group discussion centered on alignment to the Iowa Early Learning Standards.

Later that evening, Ramps & Pathways, Chutes, & Silos, and Light & Shadow were featured at the Attendee Networking Reception. These are integrative STEM and literacy experiences for developing young children from birth to grade 3. Attendees had the opportunity to explore the materials to consider how children investigate force and motion in early development. These explorations promote higher order thinking and problem solving as children actually engage in science and engineering practices when they design and build their own technology of a system to move objects. These experiences encourage young children to deepen their understanding of concepts like force and motion. Participants had the chance to experience first-hand the many possibilities to think, create, test systems, make adjustments, and try again. Ways to adapt these materials to engage children with diverse abilities were included. 

Director Beth Van Meeteren Keynote Speaker at UNK-Community 2019 Early Childhood Conference

September 20 and 21, Director Beth Van Meeteren attended the UNK-Community 2019 Early Childhood Conference in Kearny, Nebraska. The theme of the conference was promoting well-being for children and families. Van Meeteren delivered the keynote entitled, Growing STEM in the Heartland:  Preparing Fertile Ground for a New Crop of Innovators and ran two smaller sessions on force and motion: Ramps & Pathways and Chutes & Silos

Director Beth Van Meeteren Participates in Developing Policy Approaches to Early STEM

The Education Commission of the States supports all 50 states and four territories – the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Each state appoints seven commissioners who help guide our work and their own state’s education agendas; territorial appointments vary. Commissioners also have the authority to approve amendments to bylaws and provide strategic information to our staff regarding state education policy issues. On September 17-18 in Denver, Colorado, the Education Commission of the States invited Director Beth Van Meeteren as one of twelve thought leaders who represent early learning and STEM research and policy with the goal of articulating a comprehensive set of high-leverage, actionable state policy approaches to improve STEM skills and outcomes for preschool-third grade students. The meeting outcomes will inform the development of an Early Learning STEM Policy Framework Brief that Education Commission of the States will produce in the Fall/Winter of 2019. 

Director Beth Van Meeteren Presents Webinar on Early Engineering

June 5, 2019, Iowa Regents' Center Director Beth Van Meeteren and colleagues Peggy Ashbrook and Carrie Lynne Draper presented a webinar entitled, Supporting Young Children's Creative Thinking Using Problems They Care About: Engineering Design in Early Childhood Education. The webinar is part of Early Childhood Investigations Webinars, a series of free webinars specifically for early childhood program administrators and others in the early care and education sector. Established in 2010, over 1 million early educators have participated in Early Childhood Investigations’ Webinars, a series held in high regard nationwide and internationally. The series has become well-respected for outstanding content delivered by experts such as Peggy, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Nell Duke, Alison Gopnik, Judy Jablon, Karen Nemeth, and hundreds other renowned presenters who generously contribute their time. The session attracted over 3,000 registrants and are highly-regarded nationwide and Internationally. You can access a recording of the webinar by registering at the following link:

Iowa Regents' Center Director Guest at LEGO® Idea Conference in Billund, Denmark

In March, Director Beth Van Meeteren was a guest at the 2019 LEGO Idea Conference in Billund, Denmark. The LEGO Idea Conference is the LEGO Foundation's annual flagship event where 300+ participants meet to discuss children's play, learning and development. 

The LEGO® Idea Conference invites thought leaders, practitioners, researchers, government representatives and social innovators to share their insights on new ways of learning that will equip and empower children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners.

Each LEGO Idea Conference features some of the most inspiring and influential speakers on topics related to learning, education and early childhood development. From young protagonists trying to change the system to established voices who are part of a deep-rooted way of thinking about learning and education. A short video of the conference can be found at this link:


May 10th: K-2 Discover and Wonder: Hands On STEM

Central Rivers AEA Early Childhood, Central Rivers AEA Science, Central Rivers AEA STEM, Central Rivers AEA TAG, and the Iowa Regents Center for Early Developmental Education will be hosting a STEM event for students in kindergarten through second grade on May 10th from 8:30-11:45 at the Central Rivers central office in Cedar Falls.

Regents’ Center staff will be facilitating five STEM centers for the event:

Water Movement (Let it Flow)
Air Dynamics
Ramps and Pathways
Light and Shadow

Additional centers will be facilitated by Central Rivers staff:

Squishy Circuits
Catch A Rainbow
Hoop Gliders
AWIM/Rolling Things
AWIM/Engineering by Nature

Each group of five students will explore three centers during the morning STEM event. Exploration of each center will be followed by a brief discussion and opportunity to document discoveries.

Regents’ Center Hosts OK Go Events:

On April 12th, the Iowa Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education partnered with the GBPAC and UNI STEM to host fifth grade students from Lowell Elementary in Waterloo. The event was part of a kick-off for the OK GO performance on Friday, April 26th at the GBPAC.

Each of the 49 students experienced hands-on learning with roller coasters and ramps and pathways. Jodi Stone facilitated the roller coaster activity which engages students in a physics activity using foam insulation, lots of tape, and a variety of supports. The ramps and pathways participants were encouraged to work with a small group of classmates to build a system with unit blocks and wooden track on which a marble could move. The systems could include corners, multiple levels, jumps, and drops.

The students were also introduced to some of OK Go’s recent work including a TED Talk where the musicians discussed the subject of creativity and how they get the ideas for their amazing videos.


On April 26th, Regents’ Center staff facilitated a pre-show STEM activity in Jeeb Hall at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center prior to the OK Go show. Families with young children were invited to arrive at GBPAC an hour before curtain call to build together. They were able to use the unit blocks, wooden track, and small objects to build systems on which the objects could move. Families worked together to build and rebuild their marble runs.

The Iowa Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education selected by the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council for Light & Shadow Scale-Up 

The Governor’s STEM Advisory Council each year selects high-quality STEM education programs to be offered to schools, after-school programs and other settings for grades Pre-K through 12. School districts, non-public schools, after-school programs and other active learning communities that serve students can bring these Scale-Up programs to their classrooms or organizations at no cost through a fully-funding award program. If selected, these institutions receive kits that include all curriculum and materials needed to implement the program with their students. Light & Shadow has been selected for a 2019-2020 Scale Up Program. All preschool, kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers as well as informal learning programs can apply now for this award. Awardees will get a classroom set of materials to investigate light and shadow and two days of high quality professional learning developed by university researchers, tested in the classroom, and taught by experienced early childhood classroom teachers with a Master's Degree. The professional learning will use the very materials teachers will take back to their classrooms: a variety of light sources, variety of screens, materials to interact with light to block light, diffuse light, or produce colored light and shadows, and connections to the Iowa early Learning Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Educators will earn a $240 stipend and under graduate/graduate credit for attending both sessions and participating in ongoing communication with their Instructor and classmates. 

Learn more about the STEM Scale-Up Program

How to apply:

Local Education Agencies (or “LEAs”) may apply to bring Scale-Up programs to their schools or organizations for the 2018-2019 school year. The current application period is through March 5, 2019.

"LEA" is defined as any school (public, private or home school association), a Boy/Girl Scout troop, a 4-H Club, library, a childcare organization or any organization that works with youth—formally or informally.

Applications must be submitted by March 5, 2019. Click on the Apply Now button below to begin your application!
Awards will be announced mid-April.

Apply Now

For questions about Scale-Up or Iowa STEM, contact Sarah Derry,, 515-271-2403

Mapping Pathways to STEM Learning: Building a Community of Practice

Saturday, June 16, Ramps & Pathways awardees from the Governor's STEM Advisory Council met at the Iowa Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. Awardees shared their experiences with STEM learning through Ramps & Pathways and investigated how they could use their materials to maximize STEM learning for their young learners. Awardees found that STEM learning with Ramps & Pathways is effective in many diverse educational settings. Peter and Joann Gansen from Dubuque shared, "We are a home childcare not a traditional classroom. When we started  the ramps and pathways we had children from 8 months to second grade in our home. We have a huge range of ages. One of the first things we were really impressed with was how all of the children could participate. There is not a day that goes by that we aren't picking up blocks at the end of the day. It has been a really positive experience and we are so grateful that the STEM committee has allowed home child care providers to participate in this." 

2018-2019 Ramps & Pathways awardees will receive their materials at their first day of professional learning as early as the end of July. Many of the 2017-2018 awardees are excited for this new cohort and are willing to serve as mentors to new awardees. Research says that educators' growth continues when they are connected with other teachers with similar goals and develop relationships with each other within a community of practice. Thank you to the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council for this opportunity to connect with so many Iowa educators! 


Regents' Center to Provide Session at NAEYC's Professional Learning Institute

On June 11, the Iowa Regents' Center will put on a two-hour session entitled Ramps & Pathways: A Developmentally Appropriate Integrative STEM Experience for Young Learners for NAEYC's Professional Learning Institute held in Austin, Texas. The session will focus on the following two objectives:  

Objective 1: Identify materials and contexts ripe for integrative STEM When hard­pressed, early childhood teachers can find ways to address science and mathematics, even if they are not totally comfortable with these domains. But engineering is different. Engineering is often viewed as something outside the child’s world. It is something specialized adults do and something young children should learn about to entice them to think about becoming a future engineer. To assist children in learning about engineering, engineering practices from the outside adult world are broken down and made easier to fit inside the child’s world. This is engineering education from the outside in. This session flips this notion by viewing engineering education from the inside out. Recent research is identifying playful contexts within the child’s world that inspire young children to engage in precursors to engineering. Engineering is already part of the child’s world, and should be grown from the inside out. In this session, participants will engage in playful engineering with unit blocks, tracks, and marbles. They will value the integrative nature of engineering and identify meaningful concepts in science, technology, engineering, and spatial thinking within mathematics that young children will grapple with as they design and build using these materials. 

Objective 2: Examine and reconsider the early childhood environment through three lenses: physical layout, socio­emotional, and intellectual. Children must have access to time, space, and open­ended materials to fully capitalize on the cognitive value of integrative STEM. Early childhood teachers often express difficulty in finding time for STEM and state they do not have space or materials. This session will challenge participants to analyze and reconsider their current setting’s physical arrangement and use of time for the potential to develop children’s intellectual goals of reasoning, predicting, analyzing, and questioning in addition to moral development. Participants will reflect on their experiences building ramps and pathways and consider its potential for growing children’s intellectual goals. Suggestions for possible changes to the physical layout, time schedule, and the socio­emotional environment to include ramps and pathways experiences will be discussed.


Regents' Center Preparing for Second Round of Professional Learning for Governor's STEM Advisory Council

Iowa STEM Advisory Council

The Regents' Center Professional Learning Instructors are preparing to travel the state of Iowa to deliver classroom materials and professional learning for awardees of the Iowa STEM Advisory Council. Awardees will be able to implement Ramps & Pathways in their preschool, kindergarten, first, or second grade classrooms. Upon completion of professional learning, awardees will be invited back to the event Celebrating Ramps & Pathways: Mapping New Pathways to Student Learning  on the campus of UNI. This event will celebrate and connect teachers who implement Ramps & Pathways, and also provide some additional materials to bring back to their classrooms.  Thank you to the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council for this opportunity!