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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.