Welcome to our pressbook, our attempt to provide 8th grade science teachers in Iowa a free curriculum targeted at the new Iowa Science Standards based on real-world, evidence-based, Iowa-based science. Teachers and students are presented with interesting phenomena, like cell phone usage, concussions in sports, and how Iowa’s land has changed over time. Students will be guided through an introductory lesson on the topic, then are encouraged to explore deeper into areas of their own interest. Additionally, these lessons are designed to allow students to gather their own data, use place-based education, local and real sources of data and aren’t cookie cutter, guess what’s in my teachers head games. This is designed with the learner first!


These new Iowa Standards were adopted in August 2015, but don’t exactly follow the Next Generation Science Standards. This was fueled by public feedback; a team of people listened to and determined that Iowa would be better served by aligning the middle school portion of NGSS into grade specific areas instead of a broad band. A primary reason for this was the transient nature of students today. Here is Standard Review Team Report that takes you through the process of how this was determined (particularly pages 21 – 32: Appendix 2).

The official rollout date was a four year adoption with implementation starting fall 2019. We have put this together as a live, active document, open to feedback and improvement, as a tool for you to use. In addition to being free, we are also interested in assessing how it truly impacts student learning. If you’d be interested in having your students learning assessed, please let us know. Currently, we are looking to pilot bundle 5 and 6 in classrooms to measure their impact.

Now, lets talk about the framework of the book. It is divided into 6 “bundles”. Each unit utilizes multiple standards through the usage of a real-world phenomena. In essence, you can view each bundle as a new chapter, or, in teacher speak, a new topic to teach. Each topic/chapter consists of a standard outline that may adjust slightly by the unique challenges of each unit. In general they go like this:

Tier 1: This is the start of each unit that is done by the whole group. It typically includes an introductory video from a real-world scientist and is designed to get kids engaged in the topic at hand. These initial tiers are set up for the whole class to get into a new phenomena, and so spark their interest in the topic.

Tier 2: This section is a more focused exploration into a topic. In most chapters there are multiple tier 2 options available, giving teachers and students a lot of flexibility. In essence, a teacher could choose to have the whole class work together on any tier 2 bundle. However, teachers may also differentiate and allow students to explore areas of interest.

Tier 3: Get out of the way and let your kids learn – that’s what this bundle is all about. By the time you’ve gotten to tier 3, students have generated a lot of questions/topics they may be interested in pursuing. We encourage kids to ask relevant questions, use real data and communicate their findings via collaborative work, just like in the real world. Creativity and originality is the name of the game. Let them create videos, write to the local paper, or present to the city council. Sky is the limit! Additionally, we would LOVE to see the learning that occurs, and are trying to find a way to house that information.

Finally, the book has an appendix for additional resources.

We realize that many students may initially struggle with not being given direct answers, words to memorize or doing school how it has always been done.  Below is a short interview on inquiry from Dr. Kate Tierney. We really like how she explains that data is critical, that students need to practice using it and understanding it.  This little video could be used by you or even viewed by your students, a gateway to having kids talk about how to do real science.


We view this book as your book, with a desire to incorporate feedback into the book to grow into the future. No profit is being made by anyone on this book and it will remain a free resource for you, use it as you will.

Feedback, input, recommendations, new lessons (tiers), ideas and others can be sent to

Finally, we would like to thank CGRER (Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research) for their expertise, financial support, and access to world-class scientists.  Without them, this would have always remained a dream. The College of Education, who is always pushing us to strive to improve learning for students. To the team: you are amazing and such wonderful colleagues, truly honored to work with you every day.