Sustainable Trainer Engagement Program (STEP)


"It was so much more that I learned about earth and space than I thought I would and not only that but having the activities that were good inquiry based activities that took the kids to a higher level.  I cannot say enough good about it." - STEP Teacher

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Teacher Development/Training
Hands on/Project-Based

Target Audience

Teachers/Educational Leaders



Grades 6 - 8

 Promising link

Program Impact
  • The primary goal of STEP is to enable participants to present workshops on Earth and Space Science topics to other teachers.  Since 2012, STEP participants have led or assisted with 60 workshops, for approximately 2169 teachers in Texas.
  • STEP has compiled activities and resources to meet all of the middle school Texas Earth and space science standards.
  • External evaluation by Harris County Department of Education shows an increase in STEP participants’ knowledge, and confidence in skills and ability to prepare other teachers to teach Earth and space science. 

Program Overview

STEP is a train-the-trainer professional development project for middle school science education specialists and teachers. It is designed to improve their knowledge, confidence, and pedagogy in Earth and space science, and to help them lead professional development for their colleagues.

STEP provides in-depth long-term professional development for educators in Earth and space science, activities and strategies for teaching all middle school Earth and space science topics, and connects them with Earth and space scientists from local institutions.  Each workshop is designed to incorporate formative assessment activities and to build teacher (and student) knowledge through a series of activities. 

Working with science education specialists at a variety of districts, STEP has compiled activities for the classroom to address the Texas middle school Earth and space science standards.  Activities include constructing and observing hands-on models of phenomena, as well as analyzing data to better understand phenomena.  STEP has also incorporated extensive training on how to plan and lead high-quality workshops, and assists participants in conducting these workshops.

How To Get Involved
  • Corporate supporters can sponsor a single workshop or a series of workshops for science teachers in Earth and space science, or the preparation of a new cohort of STEP participants.
  • Costs per workshop day are approximately $2500.
  • Preparing a new cohort requires approximately 20 workshop days (15 preparing the STEP participants and 5 in conducting follow up.)
Funders and Partners

STEP has been funded through a NASA Science Mission Directorate EPOESS grant. 

Program partners include the Harris County Department of Education, and scientists at NASA, Rice University, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the National Weather Service, and the University of Houston.


Christine Shupla, Education Lead

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.