In 2016, leaders at Sahuarita Unified Schools in Arizona knew they wanted to replace their outdated science textbooks.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.