Research by assistant kinesiology professor Elizabeth Stegemoller shows that singing can improve speech and swallowing in people with Parkinson's disease. Singing groups like this one in Ames will be recorded to facilitate virtual singing groups in Calhoun County. Contributed photo.

Iowa State engages Iowans with new Human Sciences research

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is launching two new research projects in northern Iowa. One will build literacy and STEM skills in children, while the other will use singing training to improve quality of life for Iowans with Parkinson’s disease.

The two proposals have been selected for funding through the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program, a partnership of ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Human Sciences. This new program funds research projects that focus on engagement, translate research into practice, and involve and benefit Iowans, their families and communities.

Funding is provided by ISU Extension and Outreach and county extension councils.

The “Literacy and STEM Summer Library Internship Program for Teacher Candidates” has been awarded $38,000. The research team includes principal investigator Constance Beecher and co-PI Mollie Appelgate, both faculty in the School of Education, and human sciences extension specialists Sandra McKinnon and Phyllis Zalenski. Partnering county extension councils are Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Sioux, O’Brien, Clay and Winnebago.

ISU Extension and Outreach and community libraries in these counties will collaborate to provide internships for teacher candidates from Iowa State’s elementary education program. The interns will gain experience in planning programs for children focused on literacy and STEM. They will be mentored by human sciences specialists who will model how to provide creative, relevant and diverse programming within their communities. The project also will develop a manual that could be used to replicate the program. The project will run from July 2016 through December 2017.

“Exploring the Feasibility and Effectiveness of Virtual Singing Groups for Iowans with Parkinson’s Disease” has been awarded $30,000. The research team includes principal investigator Elizabeth L. Stegemöller, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology; Donna Donald, field operations specialist for Human Sciences Extension and Outreach; and David Brown, a human sciences extension specialist in family life. The Calhoun County Extension Council is partnering on the project.

Stegemöller is a board certified music therapist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her research has demonstrated that singing training can significantly improve swallowing and respiratory functions, often major impairments in people with Parkinson’s disease. In this project, Stegemöller will lead sessions with a singing group in Ames that will be recorded and used to facilitate virtual singing groups in Calhoun County. The purpose of the project is to test this virtual singing group intervention so it could be replicated across the state for other Iowans with Parkinson’s disease. The project will run from July 2016 through June 2017.

“The College of Human Sciences is excited to be a part of this innovative approach to solving real-world problems. It is rewarding for faculty and students on campus to know they are directly engaged in projects designed to address concerns of our counties,” said Pamela White, dean and Dean’s Chair in the College of Human Sciences.

“We anticipate these pilot programs can be replicated in many other locations after this first year. Also, we imagine the success of these funding efforts will encourage more joint programs between counties and the campus in the future,” White said.

College of Human Sciences faculty and extension specialists submitted nine proposals for potential funding. Dean White reviewed the proposals along with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Director Debra Sellers, Assistant Vice President for County Services Bob Dodds and Iowa Association of County Extension Councils Executive Director Terry Maloy.

“Many of the faculty who submitted proposals had not worked with ISU Extension and Outreach before. We were looking for how well their proposals aligned with our educational programming throughout the state focused on health and well-being, K-12 youth development, food and the environment, or economic development,” Sellers noted.

“County extension council chairs reviewed the proposals based on local needs,” said ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach Cathann Kress.

“Extension councils have a history of partnering with ISU Extension and Outreach to bring educational programs to county residents. However, the Engaged Scholarship Funding Program provides an exciting opportunity for county extension councils to invest in new research with Iowa State,” Kress said.