Feb 01, 2018

Grant Wood AEA VAST Center logo

Celebrating 25 Years...
The Grant Wood AEA Van Allen Science Teaching Center (VAST)

Grant Wood AEA Van Allen Science Teaching Center (VAST) is celebrating 25 years of providing hands-on science learning experiences for students and educators.

The GWAEA VAST Center supports:

  • Opportunities to learn in a hands-on, minds-on oriented classroom using research based, comprehensive curriculum for all students.
  • The structure to experience science with the integration of reading, writing and mathematics.
  • Assistance to districts and educators with curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development.


KiDS Doing Science Project launched in 1992

The predecessor of the VAST Center was the KiDS Doing Science Project, which launched in 1992 by Dean Hartman, who was a GWAEA educational consultant - science.

During a recent interview, Hartman explained that it was the recognition of a need by area educators that led to the creation of the KiDS Doing Science Project.

“My predecessor at Grant Wood AEA had been there for two years before moving to Portland, Oregon. We kept in touch and he always encouraged me to create this type of project,” Hartman said. “In 1992, Ron Fielder, who was the GWAEA chief administrator, shared that funding was uncertain and you may want to explore grant options.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Hartman continued. “Why don’t we try to write a grant for such a center? Teachers need to have materials for students to work with and in a way so they don’t have to personally purchase these items for their classrooms.”

“So, we decided to apply to the Carver Foundation and received a grant for $70,000. During the summer of 1992, this gave us the opportunity to hire 16 teachers for two to three weeks. Ten districts were identified and invited to use their Eisenhower funds to pay their teachers to attend the training sessions. We then chose teachers from those schools to come together for a writing session. Each of the 16 teacher/writers developed one unit teacher’s guide and kit materials list, guided by the three coordinators/mentors.”

Dean Hartman (left) joins teacher/writers of the KiDS Doing Science Project staff during the summer of 1992. Front row: Kathleen Moore, Central City. Second ro: Mark Schneider, instructor, Mid-Prairie; Cici, College Community; Chris Anderson, Lone Tree; Cec Parks, Novak Elementary, Linn-Mar. Third row: Dean Hartman, director, Grant Wood AEA; Candi Kilburg, instructor, Center Point-Urbana; Sue Hollenbeck, Vinton-Shellsburg; Wendy Allen, Kalona Elementary; Luann Byerly, instructor, Alburnett. Back row, Jeff Kingland, English Valleys; Nancy Helle, Vinton-Shellsburg; Rick, Alburnett, Tim Cronin, Linn-Mar. Two of the original units were Properties of Chemicals by Cec Parks, Novak Elementary, and Aeronautics by Wendy Allen, Kalona Elementary.

“The KiDS Doing Science Project expanded from this point,” Hartman continued. “The project included a total of 16 units – eight units for grades 3-4 and eight units for grades 5-6. The kits were assembled at the Grant Wood AEA Sixth St. facility in a small room at that time located behind the switchboard.”

Hartman shared that the kits were available the first six weeks during the fall of 1992 and tested in classrooms by the teacher/writers. Inservice training was held during the second six weeks. Teachers could use the kits only if they had completed the inservice training. The teacher/writers and coordinators served as the leaders for the inservice sessions.

A teacher/writer uses the computer to assemble a teacher’s guide.


A teacher/writer works with balances.


Two teacher/writers exchange ideas on a science unit.

Nancy Helle, Chris Anderson and others working with equipment development.

Luann Byerly and Rick examine various rock materials.

Cici and Tim Cronin examine a page from a teacher’s guide.

Sue Hollenbeck makes some science unit parts.