As Iowans adapt to a challenging new school year, they have more tools than ever to learn about art, history, film and culture.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs today unveiled an array of free online resources for students and lifelong learners — for in-class and at-home education, extracurricular fun and professional development. The department also announced a new Virtual Arts Experience Grant to help schools and arts organizations provide online arts activities for K-12 students whose exposure to the arts may be limited.

“This school year presents new challenges but also extraordinary opportunities to stretch beyond the traditional boundaries of the classroom or school auditorium,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “These new online resources can help all Iowans by being connected to useful content and inspiring virtual experiences, whether they’re in school, at home or the creative workforce.”

Following is a look at new or expanded offerings:

Virtual Arts Experience Grants

The Iowa Arts Council’s new Virtual Arts Experiences Grants of $500-$1,000 for Iowa schools and $1,000-$10,000 for Iowa nonprofits that want to provide online arts activities, performances and educational content in a year when the pandemic has kept guest artists from visiting schools and kept most classes from visiting the local museum or performing arts center.

Applications were accepted online starting Oct. 1 and will be considered on a rolling basis as long as funds are available.

Academic Learning

A growing collection of Primary Source Sets now available online address 64 broad historical topics infused with Iowa history. The sets include over 1,400 primary source documents, including photos, maps, videos and more from the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Library of Congress. Specifically designed to help K-12 educators, these free resources align with the Iowa Core Standards for Social Studies.

Extracurricular Opportunities

The annual Poetry Out Loud program for high school students is shifting online for the first time ever, so students can register as individuals or through their schools. Participants memorize and recite poems at the local, state and national levels while mastering public speaking skills and self-confidence. The Iowa Arts Council manages the program here in Iowa, with help from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

National History Day in Iowa is a year-long program that encourages middle and high school students to dig into historical research and share their conclusions through papers, exhibits, websites, documentaries and performances at district, state and national levels.

Just for Fun

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs recently curated several new tours on its Iowa Culture mobile app, which maps more than 3,500 arts, history and cultural landmarks throughout all 99 counties. The new self-guided tours include historic sites from “Iowa’s Presidential Past” (available through Nov. 9) as well as sites along the Grant Wood Scenic Byway and the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway (both available through Nov. 23). The app is available for free from the App Store and Google Play.

More information about all of these and other programs can be found on the new “Educational Resources” page at

Trending Video