Rural Communities Expansion Project
Bringing STEM subjects to life in rural Arizona schools
The Rural Communities Expansion Project was first launched by Arizona Science Center in 2012 with the goal of increasing teacher confidence and competence in hands-on, inquiry-based STEM instruction, ensuring the same opportunities for success for all students, regardless of geography.
In July 2016, the APS Foundation awarded Arizona Science Center a $385K grant to continue the program in Cottonwood-Oak Creek, Humboldt, Winslow, Prescott, Sedona, Tonopah, and Florence, with expansion into Yuma schools. Since its inception, the APS Foundation has granted more than $2.4 million to this program.
The project sends Arizona Science Center staff to schools around the state, where they deliver tailored professional development programs for teachers, training for administrators, and student programs featuring hands-on STEM programming and STEM Extravaganzas. These events provide teachers and students the opportunity to expand their STEM knowledge through various hands-on science activities including a mobile planetarium, catapult construction, roller coaster building, and more.
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"The teachers love it," says Scott Keller, principal of West Sedona School. "As a rural school, without this program, we wouldn't have access to the resources that the Arizona Science Center provides. Additionally, we have a high English Language Learner population, so the more hands-on, visual learning we can do, the better," said Keller. "But these hands-on STEM projects aren't just great for ELL learners. They're effective for all learners."
"For example, in second grade last year, a teacher did a wind engineering project. Students built sailboats on straws and used a fan to see whose sail would capture the most wind. The whole class was super engaged. The kids all wanted to show me their boats. There was one hundred percent student engagement."