Guest Blog Post by Dawn Pfeffer, STEM VISTA at W.F. Killip Elementary
The fifth graders at W.F. Killip Elementary are hard at it again! They are learning the interactions between the Earth's systems (hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and geosphere) and will use this knowledge to develop local Flagstaff solutions to mitigate the effects of a warming climate. The students of Tracy Blahut, Katie Krause and Brenda Emry took a field trip to Upper Lake Mary on August 31st and met with community scientists working for the Grand Canyon Trust, Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant, and the City of Flagstaff Water Services Department. Each presentation engaged the students and then asked a very important question: How will climate change affect the Earth Systems in Flagstaff, Arizona? Students were eager to answer with the ideas of droughts, heavy storms, erosion, less snowfall, and changing biological food chains.
Tamara Lawless and Erin Young from the City of Flagstaff Water Services Department tag-teamed the discussion on Hydrospheres like Lake Mary, which contains over 300,000 gallons of water!
Meteorologist Lee Born described the atmosphere as “the beginning of it all” in the cycle of life; no life would exist on Earth without the specific atmosphere we have.
Felix Parham, a geologist with the Lake Mary Water Treatment Facility, explained how a fault in the Earth’s crust caused Lake Mary to be “bathtub shaped”, perfect for containing water. He also described the different rock types in Flagstaff.
Lisa Winters, the Citizen Science Coordinator for the Grand Canyon Trust, played a game with students to show them the effects of climate change, asking them to sit down when the living species they were assigned could no longer survive in the situations described.
The students continued their learning with additional information from Anthony John (AJ) Garnello, a doctoral candidate at Northern Arizona University, who visited the Killip STEM Lab on September 8th.
AJ focused his presentation on the effects of climate change in the Southwest: the increasing duration of droughts (both snow and rain), longer and hotter heat waves, increasing risks of wildfires both in occurrence and intensity, a higher risk of insect infestations, and the likely reduction of agricultural yield. He explained the increased risk of intense storms, monsoons and hurricanes throughout the world. These changes in weather force the migration of many organisms to new parts of Earth.
Carbon dioxide and methane (potent greenhouse gases) are the most likely cause of these global changes through our use of fossil fuels (natural gas, gasoline, oil, etc.) and livestock. He ended his presentation by asking the students: “What can we do here in Flagstaff to reduce our carbon footprint and try to minimize the effects of climate change?”
We can’t wait to hear what solutions these brilliant minds propose over the next few weeks!
Thank you to everyone that participated in the field trip, and to AJ Garnello for his presentation. W.F. Killip Elementary and the Flagstaff community cannot wait to see what solutions these inspired fifth graders develop!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator