Leaders in Arizona STEM Education Partner to Create the First State-Based STEM School Community of Practice

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Andi Fourlis

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Professions based on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are some of the fastest growing and highest paid professions in today’s economy. So it’s no surprise that schools and educators at every level are looking for ways to more effectively integrate STEM learning into their classrooms. But doing that in an informative, impactful way is easier said than done, especially given the budgetary constraints that schools face today.

To better prepare teachers all over the state, Arizona SciTech, the state’s leading innovator and proponent of STEM education, partnered with the Arizona Science Center, Maricopa County Education Service Agency and Intel to launch a joint initiative to create the first ever Arizona STEM School Community of Practice.

This collaboration between high-tech businesses, community members, educators, students, and parents brings key stakeholders together. As part of the Community of Practice, these groups formed cross-stakeholder teams, which include at least one school leader, teacher, parent, community member or business partner, and a student. They meet to share best practices, build relationships and learn from one another. Teams then leverage their collective existing knowledge and varied experiences to design innovative solutions to the problems and challenges they have identified. They understand that knowledge is an asset that can be shared for the greater good.

The group also incorporates site visits so that members can see first-hand how other educators are successfully integrating STEM education, as well as how they can replicate the programs. And to facilitate ongoing learning, the group is in the process of creating an online web forum where teams can post questions, tips and more.
Response to the launch of the program was beyond encouraging. With 61 forward-thinking, creative schools dedicated to sharing best practices and finding solutions to educate Arizona’s youth in STEM, the movement is still growing. The ultimate goal is for each school to get better at what they do by learning from one another. The Community of Practice will hold four meetings throughout the year.

So far, feedback on the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants have found the meetings meaningful and valuable, for both their students and their own understanding and professional growth. Here is what some people have said about how the Community of Practice has made a difference:

  • It has taught me how to use different strategies
  • It has really made us take look at how we can improve our STEM community
  • It made me think outside the box with funding
  • The networking is invaluable, amazing!
  • The ideas shared are invaluable the networking has made STEM implementation much smoother
  • Participating in the Community of Practice has impacted my work by showing me that we can teach STEM in fun and creative ways

For more information, including how to join the Arizona STEM School Community of Practice, visit http://azstemcop.org. The next meeting will take place on April 20, 2017.

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