Sara Chavarria has been designing and conducting informal educational programming that creates learner-centered interactive experiences for underserved and underrepresented students as well as for teachers that serve these populations. She is especially interested in best practices for attraction and retention of low income, first generation undergraduate students. More recently, Sara has been connecting College of Education researchers with UA faculty to leverage Education science expertise on topics such as Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Retention of students to facilitate research on effective learning practices for UA students and PK-12 audiences. She is also busy collaborating with researchers and staff across campus to facilitate institutional partnerships, support effective initiatives, and advance scholarship that promote equitable access to high-quality STEM experiences, resources, tools, and expertise (also as part of her role within the UA STEM Learning Center).
Dr. Chavarria is currently the PI of an innovative Office of Naval Research project using geospatial applications with undergrads to positively affect the STEM fields’ persistence rates of ROTC students. The project is designed to provide students in ROTC, as well as student veterans, with an opportunity to use geospatial thinking in a relevant and hands-on environment. NAVIGATE is an immersive science, engineering, technology, and mathematics, or STEM, training program that will provide students with specialized, defense-related training in geospatial technology.
Other signature activities Dr. Chavarria has been or is involved in include:
Leading the summer workshops and academic curriculum support for secondary school teachers and graduate student fellow partnerships for the SBAR (Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions) project. The teachers in Arizona and New Mexico will learn about the project biofuels and with their partner graduate student will co-design lessons for their students.
The development of Tree-rings and forest fire ecology lesson plans and videos (funded through two NSF awards): These lessons and videos are the result of Teacher Workshops, visits to the Valles Caldera research site in New Mexico, and a Summer Camp for middle school girls, offered at different times the summers of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 and led by participant teachers. Lessons designed covered topics on dendrochronology (Tree-rings), fire ecology, and/or climate.
An NSF EFRI (Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovations) award in which Dr. Chavarria is coordinating the broader impact efforts of the project (PI Pierre Deymier): Dr. Chavarria is working closely with undergraduate women in engineering to (1) design inclusive mentoring protocols for engineering contexts and (2) envision and design the projects signature Sound Hub space which will host hands-on experiential laboratory activities for students in which they engage with acoustics and sound. Complementing this project is a recently awarded Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) supplemental grant to take place June 2018 to June 2019. The REM grant involved preparing and supporting 6 undergraduate students for an intensive 8 week summer research experience and 12 months of mentoring support from research faculty.
Partnering with the UA School of Anthropology's Linking Southwestern Heritage through Archaeology project. The project, funded by the National Park Service, recruits local high school students and counselors to participate in archeological projects and on-campus artifact analysis along with visits to national park and local heritage sites to introduce Hispanic and American Indian participants to Arizona’s rich pre-contact and colonial past and make cultural connections that enhance their understanding of American history. The program also introduces students to a variety of scientific, historic, preservation, and education disciplines and careers.