The first encounter of a reasoned explanation solving the world’s mysteries can become the spark to a mind fueling a lifetime of curiosity.
The study of science --- the seeking of truth behind planet Earth’s mysteries --- can be a trigger to inspire, educate and engage with students on a different intellectual plain expanding the realm of what he or she may have believed possible.
Upon discovery of the principals of science, which is the pursuit of empirical truth through use of the scientific method --- a world once ordinary is transformed into extraordinary, officials at the Arizona Science Center contend.
Based in downtown Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, seeks to help all learn of how science can enrich the lives of the curious and improve the world of those in need.
“The mission of Arizona Science Center is to inspire, educate and engage curious minds through science,” said Beth Nickel, chief learning officer at Arizona Science Center. “Our vision is to be a global leader in creating relevant and engaging science experiences that foster a community where people understand science, technology, engineering and math as a way to inform decision-making and enrich their lives.”
Ms. Nickel offers the Arizona Science Center is one-of-a-kind experience --- more than a sight-seeing jaunt for a family on a Sunday afternoon meander.
“As the largest informal science learning institution in the state, Arizona Science Center features a full complement of exhibits and programs designed to ignite an appreciation of science,” she pointed out.
“What makes Arizona Science Center unique is the combination of its physical exhibits, galleries and programs with learning and professional development resources for educational leaders, teachers, parents and students that are delivered across the state.”
--- Beth Nickel
A key function of the Science Center, Ms. Nickel says, is the educational component of the institution.
“This combination of comprehensive services creates an impact model of support for learning that better serves Arizona K-12 educators, parents and youth to positively impact student learning,” she said. “No other institution in the state has this model for support and programming.”
But sometimes, to make a real impact the science has to go to where the students are, Ms. Nickel says of the Arizona Science on Wheels program.
“Science on Wheels brings the excitement of hands-on STEM education directly to classrooms, libraries, and community-based organizations throughout Arizona,” Ms. Nickel said of the statewide program meant to serve low-income students, but also, in particular, students in rural areas of the state.
“With a selection of more than 80 hands-on STEM lessons for PreK-8 students, Science on Wheels provides engaging learning experiences through classroom programs, live demonstrations, group assemblies, Family Science Nights, a mobile planetarium, a mobile makerspace, and other activities.”
Ms. Nickel outlines the impact of the Science on Wheels program is tremendous.
“In the past year, Science on Wheels vans traveled more than 51,000 miles throughout the state of Arizona and delivered 2,541 Science on Wheels programs to nearly 58,000 students and 16,000 teachers every county in the state,” she said. “This type of outreach is especially important for rural and low-income areas where visiting Arizona Science Center is difficult. Through the support of community supporters, such as Fiesta Bowl Charities, Arizona Science Center is able to provide Science on Wheels programs at no cost to the school.”
This current grant cycle, Fiesta Bowl Charities provided the Science on Wheels program at the Arizona Science Center a $50,000 grant to aid the organization’s mission.
For Arizona’s children to prosper, math and science will be a key ingredient and introducing those tenets of STEM as early as possible is critical, Ms. Nickel contends.
“STEM education is the key to Arizona’s future prosperity and competitiveness. We bring science learning and enrichment opportunities to communities, especially those that have been historically underserved, throughout Arizona.”
But those education efforts are not limited to just the classroom, Ms. Nickel points out.
“Research shows that visiting science centers is the only type of science learning experience that consistently affected youth and adults’ science interest,” she said.
“Visits to the Science Center contribute significantly to STEM learning in our state. Arizona Science Center inspires 500,000 visitors annually, with four levels of learning, creativity and innovation, and more than 300 hands-on exhibits,” she said of the number of people who experience the center on an annual basis.
“Arizona Science Center is working to increase the number of skilled science teachers in our state through robust teacher professional development. Annually, we provide training for more than 5,000 teachers and educational leaders across the state of Arizona.”
Fiesta Bowl Charities Community Relations Director, Kristina Chumpol, says access to science for all children is a critical mission of more than just the Science Center.
“The Science on Wheels program at the Arizona Science Center is directly aligned with the mission of Fiesta Bowl Charities and our commitment to youth and education,” she said. “Science on Wheels is all about bringing the exciting world of science to youth across Arizona who otherwise might not have access to these types of programs.”
--- Kristina Chumpol
Who doesn’t know a kid who asks a ton of questions? Ms. Chumpol asks.
“Science is critically important for kids. Honestly, kids are natural scientists. There is no one that asks more questions than kids! Why is the sky blue? How do flowers grow? How do airplanes fly?” she quipped.
“Science creates a spirit of exploration by showing kids how things work in the real world while encouraging them to solve problems and teaching them how to find answers. Science programming should be available to all youth to create equal opportunity for learning.”
Ms. Chumpol says the Arizona Science Center is a true gem of the Arizona landscape.
“The Arizona Science Center is an extremely impressive organization. Nationally recognized for its programs, staff, volunteers and exhibits, it offers unforgettable and impactful learning experiences to every guest that walks through the door,” she said. “Arizona Science Center has a standard for excellence and we are lucky to have such a wonderful resource in our community.”
Ms. Nickel offers staggering numbers of attendance and programs proving the Science on Wheels program while simple in scope can have a major impact on the development of many Arizona children.
“We provide free onsite and offsite STEM education programming to almost 100,000 students, teachers and families each year,” she said. “Annually, Science Center programs impact more than 70% of Arizona’s low-income Title I school ZIP codes.”
Go to azscience.org.