Office of Education

STEM and civic engagement come together at Chief Science Officer Town Hall

By Governor's Office of Education
Friday, Mar. 4, 2016

Arizona SciTech Festival Logo

On February 19, the Governor’s Office of Education hosted a youth town hall for over 110 Chief Science Officers during their Statewide Cabinet Meeting at the Honeywell Aerospace Hangar in Deer Valley. Chief Science Officers (CSOs) are 6th – 12th grade students elected by their peers to advocate for STEM and innovation in schools and the broader community. On campus, CSOs inspire youth to take up careers in STEM by identifying engagement opportunities like STEM clubs, while increasing exposure of existing STEM programs such as robotics. Off campus, CSOs advocate for school STEM opportunities at city councils, school boards, and chambers of commerce. Collectively, CSOs work as a statewide “cabinet” to collaboratively engage in Arizona’s conversations about STEM and education. The Chief Science Officer program is the first of its kind in the nation, and its inaugural cohort includes 138 CSOs elected from 78 schools throughout Arizona.

During their Statewide Cabinet Meeting, CSOs participated in a Town Hall led by Dawn Wallace, Director of the Governor’s Office of Education, and they explored a variety of aerospace technologies with Honeywell executives, engineers, and pilots.

Dawn Wallace kicked off the Town Hall by describing her career path to education policy and emphasizing the important role civic engagement plays in government. Superintendent Betsy Hargrove from Avondale Elementary School District then facilitated the Town Hall discussion, asking students and their adult mentors to brainstorm top-of-mind public issues and popular communications vehicles and use those ideas to create a detailed advocacy plan for a public issue close to their hearts. After several rounds of group brainstorming, the students presented their final advocacy plans to the entire cabinet, receiving real-time feedback and encouragement from Dawn Wallace.

Dawn Wallace speaks to students at CSO Town Hall

Dawn Wallace provides opening remarks to students at CSO Town Hall


Students put forth a variety of thoughtful and creative advocacy plans around youth education and advancement of STEM and edtech. Although these CSOs may be young, they came up with some mature, outstanding ideas. Here are just a few of their many innovative proposals:

  • Bring more STEM funding to schools by:
    • using crowdfunding tools like GoFundMe
    • inviting business executives on school tours
    • outlining how STEM fits into school curriculum so the local business community can have visibility into the scope of STEM opportunities
  • Increase student interest in, and support for, STEM by:
    • showcasing the cool side of technology through 3D printed phone cases
    • showing students how education connects to their future careers by conducting simulations
    • using makeup production as an introduction to chemistry
  • Increase the use of technology in schools by:
    • finding ways to utilize social media in the classroom to enhance learning
    • presenting data to school boards on the impact of technology on student learning

Another fantastic proposal came from a group focused on improving synergy around STEM education. Reeti, a senior at Basha High School, described the proposal beautifully. “We would love to see a stronger connection between industry and the rest of the community, including the student population and schools,” Reeti said. “With a closer connection, students and parents will be able to be more aware of available internships and job shadowing opportunities with local companies that can help launch professional careers.” To implement this idea, Reeti’s group suggested that schools can be a communications liaison between companies and students by relaying corporate opportunities to students using mass text messaging services such as Remind.

Student poster

Student poster from a CSO group focused on improving synergy around STEM education


The Town Hall was a success for students like Scout, a sophomore at Trivium Prep, who enjoyed discussing important issues regarding STEM in schools and felt student voices expressing the need for technology and STEM education in schools were heard. “I learned that people in charge of education [in Arizona] actually do care about making it effective,” Cody, a senior from Cactus High School, said.

Arizona ranks fourth in the country in the projected growth of STEM jobs over the next decade, and second in the projected growth of computing jobs. Our state needs STEM advocates of every age like this group of CSOs to work together to meet this demand for STEM jobs. Thank you to this bright group of students for being a part of the solution and for leading the nation in this youth-produced STEM collaborative!

Student group at CSO Town Hall

Student group presents their final poster detailing an education advocacy plan at CSO Town Hall


Want to see more photos from the CSO Town Hall? Find them here


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