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Science Techbook Impacts Student Engagement and Achievement

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Sahuarita Unified School District

Sahuarita, Arizona

Discovery Education's Impact

In 2016, leaders at Sahuarita Unified Schools in Arizona knew they wanted to replace their outdated science textbooks. But the cost of new textbooks was high, and their budgets were facing some new challenges. They had to be innovative in funding sources, so they turned to Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, a local mining company’s  investment foundation that aims to make transformative changes for communities to improve their wellbeing.  

Sahuarita was awarded a grant from the foundation, which they used to implement Discovery Education Science Techbook for middle school as a supplemental resource, eventually expanding in the elementary grades.

With the amount of changes Arizona was undergoing with standards and funding, Techbook was selected because it was fluid and could adapt to the current science standards, as well as NGSS. It was cost efficient, flexible, and user friendly. It also proved to make a huge difference in access to engaging science curriculum.
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Brett Bonner
Assistant Superintendent, Sahuarita Unified School District

The initial implementation included district-provided professional learning, a research study, and professional learning from Discovery Education on ideal implementation and usage of Science Techbook in the classroom. The district then transitioned into using Science Techbook as the core curriculum for grades K-8, increasing their in-house professional development along with that offered by Discovery Education.   

Sahuarita has seen promising growth in terms of student achievement since the implementation of Science Techbook, as it creates high engagement levels across grades especially when used with hands-on labs and science projects. The teaching staff is also invested in its use. They appreciate and value having high-quality, updated resources and digital access to support their instruction.

When you combine an up-to-date curriculum, easy-to-use learning platform, content aligned to state standards, and robust professional learning, you have the perfect mix for a successful implementation.
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Brett Bonner
Assistant Superintendent, Sahuarita Unified School District

Science Techbook Implementation Study

For the 2022-2023 school year, Sahuarita Unified School District conducted an implementation study of Science Techbook to determine its impact on middle school students. Nine teachers from three middle schools participated.   

Pre- and post-assessments were given to 363 students in grade 6 and 378 students in grade 7 to serve as the control and response variables. The results showed a statistically significant positive correlation between the post-assessment scores and each variable of Techbook usage measured throughout the year. These results meet ESSA’s rigorous evidence-based Tier 3: Promising Evidence.  

Additionally, a survey was conducted among the educators involved in the use of Science Techbook, which revealed a high satisfaction with the quality of Techbook and support from Discovery Education.  In fact, “teachers who were more experienced with Techbook, invested time in learning it, valued the resources within it, and used it more . . . had students who generally performed better on the post-assessment.” 

The study also revealed the need for the district to invest more in technology to help increase access to students. Using ESSER funds, they are now at almost a 1:1 ratio with student Chromebooks.

Lightbulb Moments

Sahuarita believes that having an online resource like Science Techbook is a viable, affordable, and user-friendly solution that benefits both teachers and students. Even during the pandemic, it helped greatly reduce disruptions in learning because students could access it outside of the classroom. Additionally, it helps the district face the challenges of a teacher shortage by providing easy-to-use resources that are accessible to any level of teacher.

All the resources have strengthened academic skills the students need to succeed, but they also require active participation. I’ve found that the students are really engaged from start to finish—they’re reading, they're watching videos, and they're interested in the curriculum. The lessons are really fast paced and the students actually enjoy them, so the hour goes by quickly!
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Stacie Trebes
Middle School Science Teacher, Sahuarita USD

Even language acquisition students feel supported. There are plenty of Spanish resources available in Science Techbook that help ensure that language is never a barrier to learning. Additionally, Discovery Education offers resources translated into multiple languages to involve families whose primary language is not English

Connecting to the Community

Sahuarita believes in working closely with the community, because investing in education affects everyone involved. It regularly shares updates on its public website so that families can stay informed on all things Science Techbook and understand how it supports science learning for their children, as well as how it can be accessed at home. It also meets regularly with a diverse group of community stakeholders to ensure all voices are heard and to help identify areas of investment that align to community needs.  

In collaboration with Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, Sahuarita Unified Schools is a model example of how the impact of education goes well beyond the classroom and can help bring an entire community together. They recognize that the success of their students means the success of their community.

We want ALL our students to succeed, as well as our community, and Discovery Education helps us accomplish that.
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Brett Bonner
Assistant Superintendent, Sahuarita Unified Schools

Quick Facts

School Details

  • 10 schools serving 5,800 students
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2016

Solutions

  • Access to Education
  • Professional Learning
  • Standards Alignment
  • Bilingual Learners

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental
  • Core Curriculum

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Elevating Student Voices While Meeting Academic Standards

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Arizona Department of Education

Discovery Education's Impact

In 2021, Discovery Education and the Arizona Department of Education embarked on a 3-year partnership to tackle the need for high-quality, diverse resources that help students achieve cross-curricular skills outlined in the state’s academic standards. Additionally, the Department of Education wanted to highlight Native American culture and heritage to help students see themselves and their world in the materials, ultimately deepening engagement and providing new ways to develop critical skills that are a growing component of statewide assessments.

The state used ESSER funds to bring equitable access to Discovery Education Experience and its transformative digital resources, as well as provide ongoing professional learning to as many educators as possible throughout the partnership. Discovery Education was chosen for several reasons, starting with our longstanding record of delivering high-quality resources, engaging content, and simplified integration and usability. The alignment of Discovery’s resources to the state’s standards, specifically in social studies, was a plus, too.

We really wanted to make it easy for teachers to work smarter, not harder, and engage students with primary sources and materials to make social studies relevant.
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Linda Burrows
Deputy Associate Superintendent of Academic Standards, AZ State Dept. of Ed.

Additionally, many of the state assessments include primary sources and stimulus-based questions that require students to demonstrate understanding and apply knowledge in context. State officials recognized that the strategies, questions, and content in Experience are very similar in nature, so these resources can be used to expose students to rigorous, stimulus-based questions they will encounter on later summative assessments.

Elevating Student Voices Through Curated Content

To deliver on the need for instruction around Native American history and culture, Discovery Education worked closely with the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona educators, and the Office of Indian Education to create the Native Stories of the Southwest Channel—a curation of Southwest Indigenous stories that are authentic, culturally relevant, and allows students to see themselves in their learning. It was a priority for all parties involved to ensure the Native stories across the Southwest were brought into all classrooms across the state, as they sought the help and guidance from a diverse group of educators, especially those who are members of Nations being represented.

Finding educational materials that accurately reflect important historical events and portray Indigenous people authentically can be challenging. There are over 574 federally recognized tribes and 63 state-recognized tribes, each with their own diverse languages, customs, history, and traditions. Because of this rich diversity, educational materials need to evolve to reflect the multifaceted Native identity.

The teams carefully searched for resources, reviewed them, and determined the best grade level for them. There were deep conversations about what type of content could be open to all students and what was developmentally appropriate for different age groups. The goal was to ensure the educational materials were authentic, accurate, and most importantly, vetted by the Indigenous communities and wisdom keepers. The channel was designed to include grab-and-go lessons, interactives activities, videos, and more that can enrich K-12 classrooms across the state.

Indigenous students need to see accurate portrayals of their history that balance and honor the tragedy and loss of what’s happened in these communities with the joy and innovation that have come from them. It’s also vital for non-Native students to reflect on Indigenous people’s contributions and perspectives . . . It was important to us [working on the creation of this channel] that all teachers and all students could learn, engage, and find meaning in this powerful learning experience, and I believe the channel has accomplished this!

These resources are also standards-aligned so AZ teachers can meet standards throughout multiple grades, including those that cover state history, early American history and Indigenous voices, tribal governance, and U.S. history. Because the social studies standards were purposely written to complement the ELA standards, the resources in this channel, as well as other resources and strategies in Experience, help students practice their reading and literacy skills.

We created a crosswalk to see how the standards in social studies and ELA match. Then, very purposefully made the connection for teachers so they can seamlessly bring in disciplinary literacy. Social studies and ELA are like peanut butter and jelly! They fit well together, and the standards help these subjects work together at both the elementary and secondary levels.
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Linda Burrows
Deputy Associate Superintendent of Academic Standards, AZ State Dept. of Ed.

Since the launch of the channel in 2022, students are truly engaging with the material to get a better sense of the world in which they live. It has also helped educators to create a community where students from diverse backgrounds can learn about, and from, each other in a collaborative manner.

Professional Learning

Thanks to the collaboration between Discovery Education, the AZ Office of Indian Education, and the AZ Office of Academic Standards, teachers were provided with free professional learning sessions throughout year that targeted relevant topics to Arizona educators—notably how to incorporate and elevate indigenous voices in the classroom. While it is mandatory to teach about the history of the Indigenous peoples of Arizona, the state was also aiming to incorporate marginalized voices into standards-based work.

It was very important for us to offer resources to our teachers to cover these topics because many non-Indigenous teachers didn’t know how to find the right resources and were worried about making sure they were culturally appropriate. It was a great collaboration between my team, our Office of Indian Education, and Discovery Education to ensure our teachers knew how to find and use these resources to the benefit of their students.
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Linda Burrows
Deputy Associate Superintendent of Academic Standards, AZ State Dept. of Ed.

Professional Learning was also offered at the secondary level to help with cross-curricular support and to connect standards. For example, bridging the gap between courses like World Literature and World History would help those teachers introduce the same terminology and concepts so they can reinforce skills and help students build background knowledge.

Lightbulb Moment

The teaching strategies that Discovery Education provides created a lightbulb moment for teachers. They realized that not only is the content in Experience, notably the Native Stories of the Southwest Channel, high-quality and authentic, it also supports cross-curricular skills and standards. The strategies show teachers how they can use the content, meet multiple academic standards across subjects, and give students an authentic, engaging learning experience in one lesson.

Looking Ahead

Arizona’s focus is continuing to help teachers understand the ability of Discovery Education to support their efforts in delivering high-quality resources and meeting academic standards and making the connection between the two. Additionally, Arizona will continue to be a leader in elevating student voices, especially in Native American communities, and empowering their educators to do the same.

Quick Facts

Partnership Details

  • All public and private schools in the state
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2021

Solutions

  • Discovery Education Experience
  • Professional Learning

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental
  • Cross-curricular Support
  • Alignment to Standards
  • Diverse representation

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Making a Change in STEAM Culture​

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Cherokee County School District

Acworth, GA

Discovery Education’s Impact

With increased awareness on the immediacy of providing students with STEAM opportunities that prepare them for a bright future, Cherokee County School District was committed to ensuring educators could instill a new and effective STEAM culture in their classrooms. In 2019, Cherokee County School District launched a 3-year partnership with Discovery Education to transform the STEAM culture in its elementary and middle schools. Through this innovative partnership, a professional learning program was implemented to build capacity in high-quality STEAM instruction and help teacher-leaders across the district bring engaging, personalized, and inquiry-based learning to classrooms. Together, Discovery Education and Cherokee addressed the district’s strategic goals to:

  • Provide students with opportunities to become STEAM literate and competitive in the future workforce;
  • Transform a culture of teaching and learning that integrates critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity to develop a student-centered learning environment;
  • Ignite a clear and uniform STEAM definition for the district;
  • Integrate digital content into a cohesive K-12 curriculum, with consistent and effective professional learning that supports a sustainable culture shift; and
  • Foster community, business, and key stakeholder engagement.

The partnership also gave K-8 teachers access to Discovery Education Experience, our PreK-12 learning platform, and Mystery Science to help them implement the culture shift in STEAM instruction and support cross-curricular learning. These solutions offer ways to engage students with real-world learning and give teachers peace of mind in planning their day.

My biggest challenge was finding materials that are student friendly. Discovery Education has eliminated the process of having to search through various resources to find information that is student friendly, and I know that students will like. Having two Discovery Education products within one platform eliminates the hassle of having to navigate extra resources. It has shortened my prep time significantly and has helped me spend more time with interventions and enrichment activities.

Looking Ahead

Today the partnership successfully delivers a quality, engaging STEAM education to K-8 students that builds leadership capacity, improves instructional practice, and increases student engagement. Through Discovery Education’s digital resources and professional learning support, educators across the district see the impact of investing in a STEAM culture that prepares their students for success.

Quick Facts

School Details

  • 40 schools and centers serving 42,000+ students
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2019

Solutions

  • Experience
  • Mystery Science
  • Professional Learning

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental STEAM for grades K‑5
  • STEAM leadership professional learning

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Building 21st-Century Skills Through Hands-On STEM Instruction

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St. Vrain Valley Schools

Longmont, CO

St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado is on a roll. In just under a decade, the district of 32,000 students has transformed itself through a variety of initiatives to provide students with a hands-on education that sets them up for success well beyond the halls of their schools.

“Our systematic approach is very unique,” says Superintendent Dr. Don Haddad. “What we’ve done is establish a pre-K–12 system where every one of our schools is focused on the things that we know work.”

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Haddad highlights the core components of St. Vrain—a district-wide 1:1 program, STEM studies that start at pre-K and run into higher education, curricula that push students to problem solve and employ critical thinking skills, a “design thinking” mindset from administrators, public–private partnerships, and effective professional learning that reinforces all these ideas.

That’s what makes the system work. What you see as a result is systematic gain. It’s not limited to one school—it’s district-wide.
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Dr. Don Haddad
Superintendent

Presenting the material in a new way can boost student understanding, too. Wellington says the district’s move to use Discovery Education Techbook has really changed how its students can understand our curriculum.

St. Vrain’s educators are finding new ways to use Discovery Education Science Techbook as a platform to enhance the hands-on experience of students, he said.

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“We are always looking for ways to incorporate 21st-century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. This mindset allows our teachers to push past previous limits of traditional educational practices, unleashing the learning and contribution potential of our future scientists,” said Michael O’Toole, the K–12 science coordinator at St. Vrain Valley schools.

Students have built robots, done computer programming, designed apps and websites, and even served as beta testers for companies.

Our district’s overall success is a result of all stakeholders, including the students, the teachers, the classified staff, the parents, the business community, and the elected officials, coming together to make a strong statement that educating our children is our top priority. And we in the St. Vrain Valley Schools could not be more grateful to the community for their support. That’s at the heart of why we’re so successful.
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Dr. Don Haddad
Superintendent

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Bringing Standards-Aligned Curriculum to All Students​

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Miami-Dade, FL

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is one of the largest school systems in the United States. It serves a diverse student population in a city that is a gateway and hub to Latin America and the rest of the world. The Miami-Dade County Public School District leadership realized that today’s students have changed, that they needed more access to the world in preparation for their futures, and that schools needed to catch up.

Challenge

In a district with over 345,000 students, ensuring consistent and equitable curriculum access for all learners is paramount. They also decided one of the most effective ways to accomplish this was to build educator capacity to transform teaching and learning.

Solution

They turned to Discovery Education in order to infuse digital resources, complete with curriculum alignment and pacing guides, as well as targeted professional development into their schools to make learning more relevant for their students. Services included:

Results

Evidence shows that when educators within Miami-Dade County Public Schools used Discovery Education Streaming Plus with students, it was associated with better performance on the science FCAT as compared to classrooms in which students were not engaged with multimodal resources from Discovery Education Streaming Plus.

With a focused effort around teacher effectiveness as well as ubiquitous access to content that brings the world to the classroom, Miami-Dade County Public Schools achieved a 7 point increase on the 8th and 11th grade science FCAT exams.

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STEM Support Creates a Dynamic Magnet Program​

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Pine Lake Elementary

Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Miami, FL

The hallways are abuzz with excitement every day at Pine Lake Elementary School, where students are actively engaged in the school’s new innovative STEM magnet program focused on botany and zoology. A year in, the school is seeing dramatic changes in school climate and culture.

Experiential Learning Attracts Hands-On Partners and Revives Student Interest

The magnet program, made possible through a U.S. Education Department Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant, aims to help students see themselves as forward-thinking, action-oriented global citizens and stewards of the environment. The project-based learning (PBL) curriculum provides students with experiences that emphasize high-level, research-based inquiry, resulting in engaging, real-world learning through partnerships with Zoo Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the Everglades National Park, and Discovery Education.

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The program revitalized the school, which had been experiencing a downward trend in enrollment, student achievement, and community support over the previous five years. “The magnet program has served to reinvigorate curriculum focus, student achievement, and community involvement,” said Curriculum Support Specialist Marta de Tuya.

One year into the program, students are studying animals at Zoo Miami, examining diverse plant life at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and experiencing one of the world’s most unique habitats at Everglades National Park.

Project-based learning is the only way to go. It appeals to all students. The kids are always excited when they get to class, and they’re disappointed if they miss a site visit.
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Marta de Tuya
Curriculum Support

STEM Support for Both Students and Teachers

In the late summer of 2018, Pine Lake Elementary partnered with Discovery Education to support teachers in cultivating engaging, rigorous, inquiry-based learning experiences for their students.

A cohort of educators were selected to work in partnership with Discovery Education through a multi-year professional growth program focused on PBL, a student-centered pedagogy that aims to deepen learning through active, dynamic learning experiences in which students solve real-world problems. The partnership included professional development to support teachers with STEM content and methodology, job-embedded professional coaching for more individualized support, and a STEM Family Night to engage and ignite the entire school community. The partnership also included access to a suite of Discovery Education digital curriculum and content tools—Discovery Education Experience and STEM Connect—for the duration of the 2018-19 school year.

The professional learning sessions focused on building a student-centered, STEM classroom using Discovery Education Experience and STEM Connect instructional resources designed to support transdisciplinary learning experiences. Teachers who participated in the session engaged in collaborative activities focused on how to integrate 21st-century skills with real-world challenges and how to inspire students to become solution seekers. The immersive sessions featured instructional strategies, model lessons, and collaborative lesson planning.

Dr. Evonne Alvarez, District Director of School Choice and Parental Options, said the implementation of PBL was a catalyst for change among both teachers and students.

The [professional development] from Discovery Education has been more than influential. Teachers have learned how to plan, align standards, and the project-based learning knowledge they acquired prepared them for that next tier of strategic work with students.
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Dr. Evonne Alvarez
District Director of School Choice and Parental Options

Dr. Robert Strickland, Administrative Director of School Choice and Parental Options at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said the results were encouraging, and they are hoping to see them instituted at other schools.

“When you’re doing these kinds of changes in a school, it’s a change for everybody on the staff, not just the teachers. And for them to all buy in, understand the vision, and contribute to it, you don’t see that kind of thing very often,” he said.

Cultivating Community Collaboration

The shift in school culture and curriculum was accompanied by a comprehensive re-branding and community outreach campaign that highlighted the program’s thematic connection to a highly regarded magnet high school program in the county, BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12.

“One of the first challenges that emerged in rallying the community was getting the parents and community members to truly believe in this new vision of learning,” said Dr. Strickland. “We changed the branding, the mascot, to something larger than life. We did community outreach, hosted local events, and brought the message to life on social media. In all of these efforts, we were trying to help the community see that this is part of a powerful, thematic feeder pattern. BioTECH has become very well known in the community for its conservation biology studies, and parents responded very well to knowing there’s a solid curriculum track to lead their kids to that school.”

As part of these efforts, Discovery Education—in collaboration with Pine Lake Elementary staff—hosted a STEM Family Night to bring the new approach to learning to life for the community.

The STEM Family Night hosted by Discovery Education made a huge splash. The parents were so excited we couldn’t get them to leave. It has really brought everybody together. I think Discovery Education played a critical role in getting buy-in from the community to be part of this new hands-on learning approach.
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Marta de Tuya
Curriculum Support Specialist

Nothing but Optimism for the Future of STEM

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While it is too early to draw any conclusions about the impact of the new curriculum on student achievement, the school did see a noticeable one-year uptick in fifth grade science Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) scores.

“Proficiency in the science FSA in prior years fluctuated a bit, but this past year there were dramatic gains,” noted Dr. Alvarez. “We saw fifth-grade student performance jump from 27 percent [in 2018] to 65 percent proficiency [in 2019].”

A year into the new program, the Pine Lake Elementary School community is energized. “These fresh learning opportunities have scattered the gloom around students’ expectations of what school is all about,” said Surey Rios, the magnet content teacher responsible for botany and zoology. “The hands-on learning makes them fearless, and when you’re fearless, it’s okay to be curious. That’s the first step to being a scientist.”

The hands-on learning makes them fearless, and when you’re fearless, it’s okay to be curious. That’s the first step to being a scientist.
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Surey Rios
Content Teacher

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