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The Helios STEM Schools Journey
The Helios STEM Schools Journey

Using STEM to expand student opportunities through a sysSTEMic change in culture.

September 2012 - May 2016

The Journey...

The Beginning

The Helios Stem Schools Pilot Program was part of a strategic partnership and investment by the Helios Education Foundation and Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) to help the Arizona STEM Network develop a coordinated and effective STEM education system that provides the infrastructure, resources and metrics needed to improve educational outcomes and achieve collective impact for Arizona students.

The purpose of the Helios STEM School Pilot program was to identify models of effective implementation of STEM education teaching and learning that can be sustained, measured and replicated throughout Arizona in the future. To achieve this goal, the Helios STEM School Pilot funding and support assisted sites with the integration of STEM programs aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards and worked to equip teachers with the knowledge, resources and skills they need to provide their students access to quality STEM learning experiences.

To begin this process, Helios and the Arizona STEM Network, led by SFAz, released a competitive request for proposals (RFP) in September 2012. This competition was open to all public and public charter schools in Arizona. The Helios STEM School Pilot sites were selected, through a highly competitive process, from a statewide pool of 57 applicants that participated in the RFP. The selected pilot sites represent districts and schools in Maricopa, Coconino, Yavapai, Pima and Yuma counties and will include:

  • Alhambra Elementary School District, K-8 (Phoenix)
  • Altar Valley School District, K-8 (Tucson)
  • Bagdad Unified School District, K-12 (Bagdad)
  • Congress Elementary School, K-8 (Congress)
  • Salt River Elementary School, K-8 (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Scottsdale)
  • W.F. Killip Elementary School, PK-5 (Flagstaff)
  • Yuma Elementary School, K-6 (Yuma)

The seven proposals to funded, represented a diverse range of geographic and demographic communities from around the state, span across multiple grade levels, and represent a varied array of educational opportunities. Over a 3-year period, these sites received a total of $1.85 million in financial and technical support to implement STEM programs and activities.

The Process

In order to achieve the desired goals of the Helios STEM School Pilot Program, the SFAz staff developed a process that included the completion of a variety of Planning, Support, Communication, and Data Collection activities each year per site. SFAz initiated the activities, which included the creation of proprietary templates and tools to assist the sites. In addition, SFAz Technical Advisors assisted and supported the sites in the completion of the activities throughout the grant process. Finally, all of the materials created and compiled by the sites were gathered and reviewed regularly by SFAz staff. Through oversight by the SFAz staff, adjustments and modifications were suggested to the site’s Design Team for implementation.

The activities completed by the sites include the following:
Data Collection
  • Development of Initial STEM
  • Strategic Plans
    (template provided)
  • Development of Initial STEM Professional Development Plans
    (template provided)
Ongoing all 3 years:
  • Coordinator Meetings
    (all HSSP coordinators and site representatives together with SFAz staff, twice a year in person)
  • Administrator Meetings
    (All HSSP site administrators and SFAz staff, Virtual, 2-3 per year)
  • Ongoing Virtual Support
    (Technical advisors working directly with site coordinators and administrators as needed)
  • Routine Site Visits
    (mostly in person by technical advisors, approximately 1-2 per month)
  • Year-End Site Visit
    (Technical advisors, SFAz Directors, outside evaluators, and selected site staff each spring)
Ongoing all 3 years:
  • Bi-Monthly Reminders
  • HSSP Newsletter
    (sites wrote articles, SFAz compiled and distributed, 3-4 times per year)
  • Design Team Meeting
    (individual sites, used to review program progress and plans, 1-2 per year)
Ongoing all 3 years:
  • Milestone Reports
    (template provided, quarterly)
  • Financial Reports
    (template provided, quarterly)
  • District Assessment Data
  • Pre-Post Interest Surveys(MISO)
  • TERC-External Assessment Gathering
  • Update STEM Strategic Plans
    (Use initial template, add in STEM Professional Development Plan and current modifications)
Beginning in Year 2:
  • Sharing through online Arizona STEM Network
    (groups, routine postings, and sharing of resources)
  • Sharing through conferences, publications, and presentations
    (varied by site, increased by year three)
  • Develop STEM Sustainability Plans
    (template provided)
  • Sites create a 4-5 year Strategic Plan
    (template provided)
Completion of Year 3:
  • HSSP Site added to Online Arizona STEM Network
    (includes summary of HSSP process and results, and a compilation of site information, metrics and resources)
Addition in Year 3:
  • Gathering of qualitative data on sustainability
    (using sustainability plans as the guide)
Towards the Future

In year three, each school/district met with their Design Team to create a Sustainability Plan. Once funding from the grant was over, we were interested in designing a plan to sustain the programs. We found three key areas that our research identified as being necessary for continued program implementation. The site Design teams focused on a series of questions. The following overview inquires led the sites through this process:

  • Changing STEM Culture: How are you working to sustain the momentum for STEM within your school/district?
  • Pathways Activities: How are you connecting with schools within your PreK-16+ community to ensure that your students will have opportunities to continue their STEM education?
  • Creating STEM Eco-systems and Partnerships: A STEM Ecosystem is an interconnected network of partners that collaborates across sectors (i.e. school/business/community) in new and creative ways to increase equity, quality and STEM learning outcomes for all. Explain how and to whom you made sustainable connections within your community to provide authentic instruction and links to local careers and opportunities.

Additional questions and support were provided to the sites as they moved through this process.

The Sites...To learn more about the HSSP sites, click on the images below:
Alter Valley ESD
Alhambra ESD
Bagdad USD
Congress ESD
Salt River Elementary School
W.F. Killip Elementary School
Yuma ESD

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