Our Mission

STAR aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. STAR also supports the continued development of our Teacher-Researcher Fellows with ongoing professional development and networking opportunities.

About STAR (STEM Teacher and Researcher Program)

STAR is a nine-week paid summer research experience program for aspiring K-12 STEM teachers. To be eligible applicants must be from any California State University (CSU) Campus or be a Noyce Scholar from any US university. Undergraduates on a teaching path, STEM undergraduates seriously considering a career in teaching, or credential candidats apply to work with cutting edge researchers.

Here's how it works! You spend nine summer weeks working full-time with a research team on cutting edge projects. You work hard, challenging yourself and learning new skills while advancing real science in a field that interests you. You meet fabulous people and immerse yourself in the culture of science. Each week you participate in an education workshop focused on transferring your lab or field experience to the classroom. Finally, you share your knowledge at two conferences. Our funding partners pay you a weekly stipend for your work, the labs get you to help answer pressing questions, and -most importantly- your students get a teacher that knows how science works in the real world. Everybody wins!

The Research Experience

Our research mentors are Principal Investigators (PIs) running various research programs at partner lab facilities. Fellows conduct their own cutting edge research project designed to address a question the research group is facing under the guidance of these world-class mentors, postdocs, and lab staff. Because of the pace of modern research it is rarely possible to know what project Fellows may work on in advance. STAR Fellows have to be excited about research in general, open to new experiences, eager to gain new skills, and able to overcome challenges working independently and with teams. Visit our Lab Site Partner page to learn more about our labs. Fellows work 35 hours on their projects and 4-5 hours in education workshops every week so they also receive a $500 stipend weekly. Projects span a huge range of disciplines. Potential applicants should review projects done by other STAR Fellows at the Cal Poly Digital Commons.

The Education Workshops

Fellows attend half-day workshops every week which are co-facilitated by veteran teachers and education specialists with extensive classroom experience who can also help advise Fellows on the credentialing process. Workshops have two major objectives:

  1. Help you develop a deep understanding of the nature of research, its practices, and culture
  2. Help you develop inquiry-based teaching strategies that align well with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Workshops culminate in Fellows creating a lesson plan for an inquiry-based learning activity inspired by their specific research project.

The STAR Research Conference

Orientation events introduce the teacher-researcher identity through webinars and seminars. The Closing Conference is a research showcase and networking opportunity where STAR Fellows present their research to one another through poster an oral presentations and the broader STEM education community. You can see a copy of the 2015 Closing Conference Program.

STAR Program Goals

  1. Attract undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and liberal studies majors to STEM teaching careers by providing them with professional identities as researchers as well as educators
  2. Allow future STEM teachers to gain first-hand experience within applied research settings
  3. Cultivate increased interest and prestige in the teaching profession to address the severe shortage of STEM teachers
  4. Anchor pre-service teachers in a community of scientific practice so that they better understand what it means to be a scientist and a STEM teacher
  5. Foster inquiry-based teaching and learning strategies
  6. Increase interest and learning in STEM fields among K-12 students
  7. Reduce STEM teacher attrition
  8. Expand outreach opportunities between research facilities and K-12 schools which may include experiments, field trips, and guest scientist visits

Alumni Voices

What does STAR do for your students and for your teaching career? Listen to just some of the experiences of STAR Alumni who are now STEM teachers. This video was taken at the STAR Closing Conference at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, August 2014.