Combining high-quality professional development for teachers with engaging hands-on STEM exploration for students – all in one day!
Arizona Science Center is on a mission to bring an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the subjects commonly referred to as STEM – to teachers, students and families throughout Arizona through its innovative, signature STEM Extravaganza program. The Center will provide customized learning to 3,500 students and 400 teachers from Metro Phoenix schools through the delivery of STEM Extravaganza programs at eight K-5 schools in 2017.
Piloted by Arizona Science Center in March 2016, STEM Extravaganza is an educational program facilitated by the Center's education staff. The goal of STEM Extravaganza is to boost teachers' confidence and competence in STEM to ultimately improve students' learning experience, sparking interest for STEM-related skills and careers. The program serves teachers and students during a full day of STEM activities for the students and professional development for teachers. Each STEM Extravaganza is customizable to meet the needs of each school.
Students' learning themes include: anatomy, astronomy, coding, ecology and conservation, physics, engineering, bioscience and medicine, to name a few. Educator Professional Development includes STEM implementation in the classroom, Engineering is Elementary curriculum series, Project-Based STEM Learning, Maker Mindset and customized training to meet individual needs. Additionally, parents participate by helping lead student group activities at each school.
"This model is brilliant," says Christine Hollingsworth, principal of Acacia Elementary in the Washington Elementary School District, who recently implemented a STEM Extravaganza at her school. "Previously, teacher professional development, providing students with exciting and relevant hands-on science content and engaging families in this process would happen with separate programs – each taking sufficient time and resources to plan and execute. With a STEM Extravaganza, we are utilizing the expertise of Arizona Science Center to provide our students and families with engaging, hands-on science content while our teachers have a chance to be inspired and supported with their own type of learning. The more hands-on, visual learning we can do, the better," she said.
Research shows there is a need for high-quality professional development, especially in Arizona. Teachers find it difficult to integrate informal, hands-on STEM activities that excite students while teaching grade level standards.
Teacher and administrator feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since the STEM Extravaganza program's launch. "This program is unique because it enables us to bring a focus on STEM education to teachers and students who would otherwise not have access to such training and resources," said Dr. Andi Fourlis, Arizona Science Center Chief Learning Officer.