Arizona Science Center will receive grant to establish STEM education programs in project

(Evie Carpenter/DD)
The APS Foundation chose the Arizona Science Center to receive a grant to help grow STEM education programs as part of the Rural Expansion Project. The project aims to deliver beneficial education to rural school district communities. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

The Arizona Science Center was chosen by the APS Foundation in July to receive a $246,080 grant in order to help further STEM education programs within their Rural Expansion Project.

“The Science Center’s program appealed to us because not only was it really focused on teacher development but it also focused on the expansion into the rural communities,” said Laura McBride, Senior Corporate Giving Specialist at the APS Foundation.

The Rural Expansion Project strives to bring valuable teacher, leader, community professional development and student programming to school districts in rural communities, according to a press release from the Arizona Science Center.

There are currently four school districts partnered with the Arizona Science Center’s project, including the Cottonwood-Oak Creek Elementary, Humboldt Unified, Williams Unified and Winslow Unified school districts, according to the press release.

Seventy-five percent of the Williams Unified School District’s students qualify for free and reduced lunches, according to school district Superintendent Rachel Savage.

“That translates to limited resources in our district to provide additional educational opportunities for our students and limits our ability to provide STEM related professional development opportunities for our teachers,” Savage said. “So the partnership that we have with the Arizona Science Center allows us that extra support and has provided opportunities that our teachers and students would not have otherwise had.”

The grant money will be spent to further the already in-place STEM education programs throughout the districts in the rural communities of northern Arizona, said Rob Robertson, Director of Professional Learning and Development, Rural Division, at the Arizona Science Center.

“We’re able to bring in customized services as well as STEM education to rural districts that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it,” Robertson said.

“Our Arizona Science Center liaison, has conducted several content specific professional development training sessions with our teachers to give them more of an advantage with regard to hands-on STEM-related teaching concepts,” Savage explained.

All the areas being served through the project are APS customers and the APS Foundation is always looking to help teachers in those areas, McBride said.

“When you’re working with teachers, anytime you bring in a new program or initiative, they often need a lot of support to get if off the ground and make it successful,” Robertson said. “The grant allows us to go in and approach them, give them the training to the teachers, and give follow-up support.”

It’s no secret Arizona lacks education funding and that its students are struggling with the number-filled subjects in their education.

“Particularly our students are struggling with the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and math,” McBride said. “Anything we can use to help, kind of fill that gap and bring more resources into the classroom, we see as valuable.”

In 2013 when the APS Foundation decided to switch their focus to STEM education, the Arizona Science Center received a grant of $246,500 which helped establish the Rural Expansion Project, said McBride.

With this second grant in 2014, the APS Foundation and the Arizona Science Center hope to expand the program to two more northern Arizona districts, Prescott Unified and Sedona-Oak Creek Unified school districts, according to McBride.

Arizona Science Center’s grant is one of nine being given out by the APS Foundation this period.

Since 1981, the APS Foundation has given more than $30 million to nonprofits throughout Arizona and distributes their grants biannually, according to the APS Foundation’s website.

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