Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO of the Arizona Science Center, was working the floor, when she heard kids on their way out asking their parents questions about what they’d seen that day and saw parents using their smart phones to search for the answers.
“We’re a place that makes learning fun. That’s the whole point of Arizona Science Center,” said Humphrey, who joined the center in 1998 as vice president of marketing and development. She became CEO in 2006.
Getting the half million people who visit the 164,000-square-feet space in downtown Phoenix each year to be “motivated to learn more and have those ‘a ha’ moments” is the charge of Humphrey and her 670 volunteers and staff.
“A teacher who walked in while I was on the floor said, ‘I’m so grateful for the Arizona Science Center, because you take what I’m teaching in the classroom and you bring it to life,’” Humphrey said.
She is adamant that the center work knows no age limits. Targeting “K to gray” exhibits and programs that emphasize getting kids to think about the future and preparing them for careers in science, technology, engineering and math are key, said Humphrey, who was recently named president of the Association of Science – Technology Centers.
While the center’s role as a visitors’ attraction will continue to be primary, Humphrey said better preparing Arizona’s teachers for the challenge of bringing STEM to life has become an increasingly important part of its mission.
Q: In November, the Arizona Science Center was awarded grant of more than $260,000 by Helios Education Foundation to help improve STEM instruction. What are you doing to help educators teach science, technology, engineering and math?
A: STEM instruction is a vital component of what we do here at Arizona Science Center. It is a tool to support an inquiry- and research-based approach to learning. It is a way of learning that integrates content in relevant and rigorous ways and is key to students being able to compete in a global market. STEM instruction is critical to us finding innovative solutions for our world of today and the future.
The purpose of the Helios Education Foundation grant is to develop a K-12 continuum systemic change model of content-integrated teaching and learning practice with a STEM focus to benefit students in a global world. The foundations of this initiative are professional development for educational leaders and teachers, and the integration of STEM content.
We have developed collective goals across four main focus areas: Systems change, leadership, teaching and student learning. Through the initiative we are defining the qualities of effective STEM teaching and learning.
We are helping teachers learn models of STEM engagement involving science and engineering practices. We are supporting mentoring and instructional coaching into K-12 classrooms. And we are also helping the districts with strategic plans for engagement with higher education, and business and industry partners.
Q: What partnerships with businesses are you especially proud of?
A: We are tremendously proud of our signature programs in partnerships with the Professional Learning and Development department and business and industry including Freeport McMoRan Foundation Center for Leadership in Learning, APS Foundation Rural Communities Expansion Project, Helios Education Foundation Teaching and Learning Continuums, SRP Teacher Summits and Intel Educator Design Initiatives.
Some of our additional partnerships that continue to bring STEM education and science learning to Arizona include Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University faculty, engineers, and researchers, Governor’s Office, Arizona Department of Education and Arizona Science Teachers Association.
Q: What new Arizona Science Center exhibits, programs and camps can kids, teens and their parents look forward to in the next year?
A: This is an exciting year at Arizona Science Center! We’re proud and excited to have our latest featured exhibition, The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, here through May 4. This exhibition brings science learning and education to the masses through fun, outrageous and unbelievable facts, exhibits and events.
Our upcoming featured exhibitions include Lost Egypt, coming to the center June-September, and Gridiron Glory, which we will feature in the spring of 2015.
We’re also thrilled to introduce our newest permanent gallery, Flight Zone, where the science of flight comes together with Arizona’s flight history, providing a unique and engaging experience.
The blue building blocks of The Imagination Playground have also recently found a permanent home within the center, and we’re excited to introduce spring and summer camp sessions to children of all ages, with topics including young Olympians, LEGO robotics, archaeology adventures, survival science, ocean explorers and much more.