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Arizona Science Center Launches New Hands-On Teacher Training Program to Enhance Quality of Science Instruction in Arizona

Author: Helios Education Foundation

Posted on: July 3, 2018

Grant from Helios Education Foundation Covers All Related Costs to Remove Barriers to Participation

July 3, 2018 -- Phoenix-  In response to the need to expand access to high-quality professional development for Arizona’s science teachers, Arizona Science Center launched the Science Teacher Residency (STaR) program. This new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teacher training program, generously supported by Helios Education Foundation, provides instruction and mentoring to third through eighth grade teachers at no cost to them. The first cohort of teachers began the program last week.

The STaR program is designed to improve educators’ understanding of science content and equip them with the skills needed to effectively teach and engage students. It underscores Arizona Science Center’s commitment to ensuring that every student in the state has access to quality science instruction, regardless of zip code. 

“Here in Arizona, we grapple with a shortage of teachers who can effectively teach math and science--and that has a dramatic ripple effect not only on our students’ engagement with STEM but also on the future of our workforce,” said Beth Nickel, Chief Learning Officer at Arizona Science Center. “The good news is we know how to turn the tide.” 

The three-year grant from Helios Education Foundation seeks to remove all barriers, many of which are cost-related, for teachers who are looking for STEM training. The STaR program relieves the financial burden, covering all costs related to attendance, including travel, materials, and a stipend equivalent to funding a substitute for their classroom.

In order to provide resources to the most underserved students in the state, participants in the STaR program must be educators who work in Arizona schools that qualify for Title I services, have a large Latino and/or Native American population, and/or are located in rural Arizona.

The innovative, hands-on program starts with five days of instruction at the Science Center led by expert facilitators and content specialists. This training focuses on correcting common misconceptions about STEM subjects that are often taught in the classroom, and giving participants the tools to take those same lessons back to their schools. Teachers also participate in two days of field trips at local businesses to showcase the practical application of STEM and connect them with professionals who use STEM in their jobs every day. The goal is for those professionals to later be guest speakers in their classrooms, or to help coordinate class visits to their workplace.

Participating teachers also receive a year of individualized mentoring and coaching as part of STaR. At the end of the program, they will walk away with all materials needed to create lesson plans to effectively teach what they learned. 

“Improved science literacy among teachers translates to increased student engagement with and interest in science,” said Vince Yanez, Senior Vice President, Arizona Community Engagement, Helios Education Foundation “That increased engagement will lead to more students graduating from high school ready for college and career. Helios is proud to partner with the Arizona Science Center to help provide access to increased science instruction to traditionally underserved students. We believe this will help increase student success and well as lead to a workforce primed for the rapidly growing number of available, high-paying STEM-focused jobs in Arizona.”

About Arizona Science Center

The mission of Arizona Science Center is to inspire, educate and engage curious minds through science. The Center, located at 600 E. Washington Street in downtown Phoenix, features more than 300 hands-on exhibits, live demonstrations, the state-of-the-art Dorrance Planetarium and the five-story Irene P. Flinn Giant Screen Theater.  CREATE at Arizona Science Center®, adjacent to the main building, is the newest addition. This 6,500 square-foot community makerspace provides workshops, including 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking and sewing. The Center offers programs for all ages, including Camp Innovation, Teen Science Scene, Professional Development  and Learning for Educators, and adults’ night out: Science With A Twist. For further details, please visit azscience.org 

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to achieve a postsecondary education. The Foundation’s work is driven by four fundamental beliefs in Community, Investment, Equity, and Partnership.  Helios invests in programs and initiatives across the full education continuum – from early grade success through postsecondary education.  In Arizona, where Latino students comprise the largest percentage of the K-12 public school population, the Foundation is implementing its Arizona Latino Student Success initiative focused on preparing all students - especially students in high poverty, underserved Latino communities - for success.  Through Helios’ Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, the Foundation is helping underserved, minority, first-generation students from the state's large population centers in of Miami, Orlando and Tampa achieve a postsecondary education. 
Since 2006, the Foundation has invested more than $200 million in education programs and initiatives in both states. To learn more about Helios, visit www.helios.org.

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