Who teaches the teachers? When the subject is how to prepare students for the scientific world of tomorrow, it makes sense they could use a little help. Luckily, a local teacher was up for the challenge, and started the STEMAZing Project, a Pima County School Superintendent's Office program preparing teachers for a STEM-centered world.
“When I found out there was nothing like this project here, it seemed so important to do,” said DaNel Hogan, director of the STEMAZing Project.
Hogan taught physics for nine years at Catalina Foothills High School, then received an Einstein Fellowship to serve as an educator fellow at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. While on the east coast, Hogan worked on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education issues in the United States. Full of passion and know-how, she returned to Tucson, where the county allowed her to develop the STEMAZing Project for local teachers.
“I got to start something that didn’t even exist before,” Hogan said. “Most people probably wouldn’t like that, but for me it was a dream come true.”
For five years, STEMAZing has provided workshops for local teachers, mainly pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, laying the resources out on how to inspire students in the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics.
“I don’t think students are exposed to enough STEM,” Hogan said.
STEMAZing hosts workshops multiple times a week, almost always with Hogan present. Thanks to funders Tucson Electric Power and the Thomas R. Brown Foundation, they can afford to give away supplies to local teachers to bring back to their classrooms.
“We give away a lot in our workshops,” Hogan said. “Robotics has been intensely popular.”
STEMAZing recently finished their “Summer Institute”, which ran from June 19 to 21. The Summer Institute taught teachers everywhere from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade about local energy and water, as well as cultivating gardens at school with a scientific twist.
“We try to play off of what we know teachers are interested in,” Hogan said. “Not only that, but also what we think teachers might not know of but will be interested in once they learn.”
Now that the school year is finished, STEMAZing is anxiously awaiting to see the new science standards for teachers for the upcoming semesters. But they’ve already reached local teachers, and many Pima County schools have STEM programs for their students.
“Beyond just engaging the people at our workshops, we’ve seen a real impact in Pima County,” Hogan said. “It’s been incredible.”
Local schools such as Quail Run Elementary, Marana Middle School, Canyon del Oro and Marana High School offer STEM programs for their students, in a growing trend of computer and scientific literacy education.
“There’s certainly a growing network of educators in Pima,” Hogan said. “And it’s no surprise. I would have to work to make this boring.”
Beyond the in-person workshops, STEMAZing also offers a treasure trove of educational supplies on their website. This includes links to past workshops, books, links to science competitions, science videos, and resources of every level of schooling.
“The most important service we provide has nothing to do with STEM at all,” Hogan said. “More than anything, we give a morale boost by treating teachers like professionals. Engaging them and making them love what they do is so important.”
The project also serves as a hub for showcasing local science teachers and promoting causes such as women in science.
“I never thought I would get as much personal satisfaction working with teachers as I did working directly with students in my classroom.” Hogan said. “However, when a teacher says that they would have quit teaching if they hadn’t found the community and support provided to them by the STEMAZing Project, it fills my cup!”
For more information, visit stemazing.org.