STAR Academy



The STAR Academy is an extracurricular, semester-long program for High School students at the Arecibo Observatory (AO). It was established in the Fall of 2019 with the main goals of: (1) contributing to the scientific development of Puerto Rico through high quality educational experiences for High School students; and (2) providing students from diverse backgrounds access to high quality STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) education.

The curriculum for the STAR Academy was created by Bradly Rivera during his time at AO in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. An important component of the program is developing how the students develop their scientific identity.

According to Mr. Rivera, the focus on scientific identity is important because a person’s identity is intrinsically related to their culture, and their culture can influence the subjective values assigned to specific tasks or goals.

The Results:

The STAR Academy is inspiring students to pursue STEM careers. In a survey where 84 students have participated:

    • 89.5% of the students that were currently in high school indicated that they plan to pursue a career in a field related to STEM.

    • Out of those that were already at the university level, 87.5% indicated that they are enrolled in a field related to STEM.

    • Using a Likert-scale of 5 points to report how influential STAR Academy was on their decision, 61.9% selected highly influential, 34.5% influential, 3.6% neutral, and 0% not influential or highly not influential.

This table shows the mean pre- and post-test scores of the students participating in each semester of STAR Academy, as well as the sample size (N) and standard deviation (SD).

Each semester, 1-2 projects have been selected to be presented at a relevant scientific conference. This experience has a significant impact on students’ academic and scientific identity.

After running the STAR program for six semesters, Mr. Rivera concludes that being exposed to an environment where everyone can - and is encouraged - to do science serves in favor of the student’s scientific identity development. The STAR team finds that, through the combination of representation and active learning, it is possible to deconstruct social and cultural expectations and beliefs on what it is to be a scientist.

STAR students present their projects for the AO staff and STAR students and mentors.

The STAR program is sponsored by NASA grant #80NSSC19K0523. You can find the presentation by Bradly Rivera, which contains this information and more, here:STAR Academy Presentation

Arecibo Media Contact
Ricardo Correa
Universidad Ana G. Méndez (UAGM)
787-878-2612 ext. 615

Keywords: arecibo, observatory, star, academy, stem, education