Free hands-on teacher training at Arizona Science Center

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 program earlier this summer.

Participants in the Arizona Science Center’s June cohort of the Science Teacher Residency program. (Submitted photo)

This new science, technology, engineering and math teacher training program, supported by the Helios Education Foundation, provides instruction and mentoring to third- through eighth-grade teachers at no cost. The first cohort of teachers took part in the training in late June and the next cohort will take place in September, according to a release.

The three-year grant from the 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, according to the release.

An activity at the Arizona Science Center’s Science Teacher Residency program. (Submitted photo)

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 hands-on program starts with five days of instruction at the science center led by 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, according to the release.

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.

“This has been a very refreshing and energizing experience,” Christina Hirtzel, sixth-eighth grade teacher in Scottsdale Unified School District, said in the release.

“I am much more inspired by the rationality of the five E’s of science and the PBL approach to design a classroom experience than by a more kit-directed curriculum,” she said of project-based learning.

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

“Improved science literacy among teachers translates to increased student engagement with an interest in science,” Vince Yanez, senior vice president for Arizona community engagement for the Helios Education Foundation, said in the release.

“That increased engagement will lead to more students graduating from high school ready for college and career,” he said.

“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,” Mr. Yanez said.

Applications are open for the next cohorts to be held Sept. 25-26. Applications are due by Friday, Aug. 31, and individuals selected to participate will be notified by Friday, Sept. 7.

Mileage and accommodations will be reimbursed for those traveling more than 50 miles to the Arizona Science Center. For more information, email STR@azscience.org. Visit azscience.org/educators/science-teacher-residency-star-program to register.

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