The Arizona Science Teachers Association (ASTA) is on a mission to improve science education throughout our state, one teacher at a time.
From online book studies and webinars to workshops and multiday conferences, ASTA provides professional development to science teachers. Their resources inspire, engage and support educators in the classroom.
SRP is proud to call the ASTA one of our education partners. Together, we’re working to create better science education in our state.
We sat down with ASTA Executive Director Sara Torres to talk about why science is critical in today’s classrooms, how ASTA sets teachers up for success (even during a pandemic), and the benefits of a longtime partnership with SRP.
Why do you think science education is so important in classrooms today?
Sara Torres: Every day you hear about science and technology advancements in the news. Our students need to have the skills to understand the science and be able to have careers in STEM fields.
What’s the secret to getting kids to take science education seriously?
Sara: Our children begin school with natural curiosity about the natural and designed world around them.
That curiosity needs to be nurtured throughout the students’ K-12 education. They will be critical consumers when they are adults and participate in civic, political and cultural discussions related to science.
How does ASTA nurture a love of science in both students and teachers?
Sara: Our mission is to inspire, engage and support science educators through professional development. This includes:
- Online book studies
- Multiday conferences
- We also provide up-to-date science content, teaching strategies and research. By sharing the joys of teaching and learning science and utilizing the best practices based upon research, we are helping teachers be successful in the classroom.
This pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty in education. How have you shifted your approach to continue supporting teachers?
Sara: ASTA had to pivot just like so many other organizations when the pandemic hit.
One of the first things we did was a weekly “Science Talks ,” a conversation among 200 educators from around the state sharing successes, challenges and resources to teach in a virtual setting.
We’ve moved this weekly call to a monthly conversation where the teachers can connect by grade level and discipline.
What a great idea. What other ways have you adapted your programs?
Sara: We have transformed many of our face-to-face workshops into virtual workshops that demonstrate how to teach science in a virtual setting.
We also created one-hour webinars to help teachers continue learning about new science education standards and support them in implementation, whether they’re face-to-face or virtual teaching.
What is the connection between ASTA and SRP?
Sara: During the past 10 years, SRP has partnered with ASTA to create multiple programs that build leadership capacity in science education.
The partnership has impacted thousands of teachers and students across the state.
Can you tell us about some of the most impactful projects?
Sara: One program that SRP supported was a Teacher Leadership Program, which offered a mentoring program for novice teachers. It also helped mentors build leadership capacity for science education reform.
In 2014 to 2015, we partnered with SRP and teacher leaders in the community to build the basis for new science standards .
Together, we also helped form the Ambassador Program . It’s a “train-the-trainer” program where ambassadors develop and facilitate professional learning to others across the state through webinars and workshops.
That’s amazing! What are some of the more recent projects ASTA and SRP have collaborated on?
Sara: In February 2019, SRP hosted the Summit on Science Education for ASTA and the science education community.
This event resulted in a strategic plan on how to support teachers, administrators, schools, districts and the state in shifting the way science is taught.
Lastly, every year SRP works with ASTA in developing and printing our conference program. Having the expertise from SRP helps ASTA host a conference for teachers that is professional and engaging.