A potentially game changing, innovative way to experience professional development is coming to Maine and will then be rolled out across the country. Out of school educators, including librarians will soon benefit from Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance’s (MMSA) most recent grant award
MMSA has received a National Science Foundation ASIL grant. 1.85 million dollars will be used to deliver virtual STEM professional development and to facilitate peer coaching. The ACRES project (Afterschool Coaching for Rural Educators in STEM) has been piloted in Maine over the last two years and will soon be formally launched in an entirely online format. At the heart of this innovative professional development is educators, first learning STEM skills during engaging video conference sessions, they then record themselves teaching youth. Those video clips become the focal point of follow up virtual coaching sessions where a cohort of rural educators can find comraderie and support. During the pilot phase, MMSA’s evaluation highlights that 100% of people who participated in ACRES would do so again and 89% saw a change in practice.
Never has there been a greater need to reach rural educators, specifically those teaching in afterschool environments. “Rural students are only half as likely to have STEM experiences as their urban counterparts, even when socioeconomic factors are controlled….Rural areas represent one of the greatest, opportunities for STEM education to impact workforce development.” (Carnegie Science Center, 2014). Rural afterschool educators, including librarians have limited access to collegial support and to quality professional development due to distance and limited finances. Often they feel isolated. The ACRES- Virtual project will change that for afterschool educators in Maine and across the country. Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance will create virtual cohorts to connect providers and train coaches over the next three years. Well over 14,000 youth and roughly 500 program providers are expected to be impacted by this professional development model.