Supporting science strengthens tomorrow's work force
The yet-to-be discovered possibilities of the dark skies soon will be a bit brighter and more in focus for 15 Yuma teachers and the hundreds of students they will reach.
Through a partnership between the APS Foundation and NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory), 15 sixth-grade teachers were presented with two days of professional development led by the NOAO education and public outreach team. They also received Dark Skies and Energy Education kits that include an iPad-Mini, an adaptor to connect to interactive displays, a digital Sky Quality Meter that measures night sky brightness, and light pollution games and activities, videos and reading resources as well as other reference materials and simulations.
I'm proud that this educational opportunity, which will not only improve our view of the stars but also conserve energy and protect wildlife, was made possible through a $62,671 grant from the APS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that is committed to advancing programs that improve Arizona student performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, subjects commonly grouped and referred to as STEM.
NOAO, the U.S. national research and development center for ground-based astronomy based in Tucson, earned the funds for Yuma based on its work in the Dark Skies Energy Education Program: Energy Awareness for a Sustainable Future.
APS strives to make a positive impact in the communities and organizations where our families, neighbors and customers live. In addition to our volunteer and community outreach programs, the APS Foundation is just another of the many ways we support the communities where we live and work.
A priority of the APS Foundation is funding projects directed toward teachers, who are broadly credited as the single most important factor in the K-12 educational system. Dollars contributed help educators increase content knowledge in STEM subjects or strengthen their teaching techniques.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 30 fastest-growing occupations projected through 2016, more than half will require mastery within the STEM subjects. Arizona student performance in STEM subjects continues to lag behind the rest of the nation. And, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 29 percent of Arizona eighth-graders are proficient in math, while only 22 percent are proficient in science.
In addition to benefiting the future leaders of our community, we believe supporting STEM is necessary to provide the next generation of our state's work force with the skills and resources they will need to keep Arizona workers strong and competitive.
APS Foundation's support of STEM programs in Yuma schools is not only an investment in the Yuma community; it addresses a major need in Arizona. By providing additional training and resources to just 15 teachers, we are helping to ensure hundreds and even thousands of students will enter the job market with the skills needed to make substantial contributions to Arizona's business landscape.
When focus on educating our youth, we all win. Students can graduate to higher-paying jobs. Large companies, including APS, can better meet future recruiting and staffing needs. From a broader perspective, Arizona will become more innovative, and will attract science and technology companies that bring higher-paying jobs to our state.
Founded in 1981 through an endowment from Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the APS Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) organization and is not funded by customers. During the last 30 years, the APS Foundation has been a source of support to help ensure a strong Arizona, providing more than $30 million to worthy causes.
Andrea Bereznak is the business and community relations manager for Arizona Public Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.