Geographic Alliance of Iowa: Supporting professional development & field-based education across Iowa

Cuba Curriculum Development

Forest City Community School District's Tami McInroy (L) and Southeast Warren's Natasha Cooper (r) ride in a 1950s era classic car taxi during a historical tour of Havana, Cuba.

Tour of Iowa Holocaust Memorial

Participants in the GAI/UNI Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education workshop, "Geography, Conflict, and Human Rights" tour The Iowa Holocaust Memorial in Des Moines.

With such a strong tradition in teacher education and university outreach that serves Iowans, it is a natural fit to have the education arm of the National Geographic Society (NGS) at UNI.

The Geographic Alliance of Iowa (GAI) was founded at UNI in 1991 and currently has a membership of more than 2,500 K through 12 educators across the state in 98 of 99 counties and in about 80% of Iowa school districts. The organization's focus is on providing credit-bearing professional development and resources in geography that support not only geography and social science teachers but also the many K through 12 teachers who incorporate geography into their curriculum.

Tim Bulman, a middle school social studies teacher in the Allamakee Community School District, recently participated in two workshops and notes that the GAI "provides a great opportunity to collaborate with fellow educators and to explore different lessons and technologies."

In this current year, the GAI is running workshops in four different Iowa cities as well as a field-based workshop across various parts of northeast Iowa, a one-week international curriculum development workshop in Cuba and a workshop in partnership with the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. Through an NGS national initiative, the GAI also provided outdoor citizen science activities to nearly 1,000 grade 4 through 12 students from 13 Iowa schools.

The GAI recognizes the importance of supporting our UNI pre-service teachers and is funding nine undergraduate students, supporting their career skills via engagement in research and outreach projects with education stakeholders across Iowa.

Mason City native Kailyn Bettle says, "The GAI has provided me with professional opportunities such as presenting at workshops and conferences, collaborating with teachers and professors from across Iowa, and exploring and even creating my own teacher resources. I know all of these opportunities, and so many more that the GAI has provided me with, will help me to be the best teacher I can be."

Did You Know

GAI is the only entity in Iowa specifically devoted to geography education. GAI is composed of K-12 teachers, college and university professors, personnel from a variety of other educational endeavors, and citizens, all of who are concerned with improving geographic instruction in Iowa. For more information or if you want to participate, please visit