5 Organizations Improving Education In Arizona

As researchers learn more about various pedagogical approaches and how to improve learning outcomes, many Arizona-based organizations have stepped up to the plate to implement them. These new educational initiatives and programs provide students with holistic, engaging instruction, and also support the teachers who guide them. This list, in no particular order, highlights a few institutions working to better education across the Grand Canyon State.

The #1 entry is Imago Dei Middle School, located in Tucson. It is an independent, tuition-free learning establishment for children who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. The institution was established in 2005, and is modeled after the Epiphany School in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Imago Dei scholars are boys and girls grades 5-8 from diverse Tucson families, all of whom qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program under federal rules. There is no other qualification for admission.

School days at Imago Dei are 10 hours long, which allows time for arts and enrichment activities. Classes are kept small, with a 20-student cap, to maximize one-on-one attention. Kids are required to participate in long-term community service projects that give back to the neighborhood and the planet.

Coming in at #2 is Tucson Values Teachers, a partnership of business leaders, educators, and individuals with a shared mission to inspire support of preK to 12 teachers throughout Southern Arizona. It does this through community collaborations that attract, retain, and celebrate educator excellence.

TVT aims to raise public awareness of the teaching profession's value, and to provide a range of programs that benefit educators professionally and financially. It also leverages partnerships with the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and other business and education groups, advocating for funding and policies that positively impact teachers, students, and schools.

Next up, at #3, we present Ravens-Way Wild Journeys, located in Patagonia, Arizona. The company offers low-impact, small-scale, and environmentally responsible eco-adventures that include an educational component. It has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Nogales International and Green Valley News.

Ravens-Way Wild Journeys focuses on private, custom-made Sky Islands Nature Adventures that offer you and your group a unique opportunity to explore truly remote, secluded, and pristine natural areas in southeastern Arizona.

Among RWWJ's myriad adventures is Nature and Science School, which is designed to immerse students in a hands-on nature experience, incorporating a school's curriculum and the specific needs of the group. In addition to a number of outdoor activities, kids can enjoy hands-on projects and learn wilderness survival skills at the company's Stone-Age Village.

For #4, we have SolarSPELL, a mobile, sun-powered educational learning tool. Part of a social initiative run by Arizona State University, it helps learners build internet-ready skills and aims to improve educational opportunities around the world. Its digital library emits an offline WiFi hotspot, to which any capable device can connect. Library users then have unlimited access to relevant enriching material that they can search and surf for free.

SolarSPELL devices are used in several locations, including Samoa, South Sudan, and Rwanda. After implementing these digital libraries in-the-field, the SolarSPELL initiative team returns to the sites to conduct impact monitoring and evaluation. Through tools such as usage tracking software, surveys, and interviews, the group gathers feedback from users and partners.

Last but not least, at #5, we have StrongMind, based out of Chandler. This company works to empower educators and democratize knowledge by developing digital educational content. Its StrongMinded SEL platform provides a personalized social and emotional learning curriculum for students in grades 6-12.

StrongMind has programs for schools that are entirely digital or operate with a hybrid approach. The curriculum covers many subject areas, including math, English language arts, science, social studies, and a variety of electives. The company has been the recipient of many awards, and was one of six finalists in the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge.