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In August 2020, the STAR Teachers: Inspiración Científica para el Futuro program provided a series of free virtual professional workshops for elementary and middle school STEM teachers from around the island of Puerto Rico. A total of 8 workshops were created that included Biology, Chemistry, Nanotechnology and Space Sciences.
The workshops were created by Abniel Machín and Yasmin Santiago, the Executive Director and the Assistant Director of the Science and Visitor Center at the Arecibo Observatory. The program was made possible through a generous donation of $20,000 from the Angel Ramos Foundation.
A series of activities for each subject area were developed and provided to the teachers at both the elementary and middle school levels. These activities were mapped directly to the Department of Education’s curriculum requirements.
“The COVID-19 pandemic inspired the development of these workshops,” Dr. Machín explained. “Teachers from all over the world, including Puerto Rico, had to do a quick transition into the online world. Ms. Santiago and I knew that it would not be easy, but we wanted to develop simple educational modules and workshops that could be recreated by teachers, students, and students' parents without any problem.”
“The workshops, far from replacing what is already offered by the teachers, sought to complement their existing educational materials,” Dr. Machín added.
“The workshops, far from replacing what is already offered by the teachers, sought to complement their existing educational materials,” - Dr. Abniel Machín, Exec Director of the SVC at the Arecibo Observatory
Initially, the workshops were going to be offered to 240 teachers, but due to the multiple earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was expanded to include every teacher who expressed interest.
Ultimately, the program consisted of 721 teachers, representing 55 unique school districts across Puerto Rico. Participants included public, private, and homeschool teachers. At the end of the workshops, the teachers received a certificate acknowledging their participation and contact hours.
The teachers were given pre- and post-workshop tests. The results showed that all of the post-tests were higher than the pre-tests, meaning the teachers better understood the STEM concepts after participating in the workshop.
“These results show that there is a necessity to keep training teachers in STEM areas like the ones presented in these workshops,” the team concluded.
Reviews of the workshops were extremely positive, and included comments such as, “excellent!” and “it was made in a way that elementary school kids can understand the concepts!”
Following the program, the Angel Ramos Foundation encouraged Dr. Machín and Ms. Santiago to continue developing more workshops.
“The responses and the number of teachers that participated serve as proof that there is a need for these types of workshops,” Dr. Machín asserted. “We are going to keep developing more workshops, and hopefully will continue to increase the number of teachers!”
“The responses and the number of teachers that participated serve as proof that there is a need for these types of workshops..." -Dr. Abniel Machín, Arecibo ObservatoryIf you are a teacher and interested in learning more, please visit the STAR Teachers website or contact Dr. Abniel Machín.
Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist
Exec. Director of the Science & Visitor Center
Keywords: observatory, arecibo, STAR, radio, telescope, teachers, education, outreach, workshops,