My name is Brian Travers and I am the STEM Education VISTA at Killip Elementary School. Killip is known for its STEM programming and I will have the opportunity to support the school, its faculty, and students throughout my year of service by building STEM based curriculum.
I am originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and spent much of my childhood in the greater New England area enjoying outdoor sports and activities such as camping, skiing, ice skating and even picking fresh blueberries! However, ice hockey is my true passion and I hope to find time to engage Flagstaff youth in the joys of the sport.
For most of the last 14 years I have worked as an accountant for a variety of big firms. I also worked at the Children’s Hospital in Boston for a year. This work really inspired me and I co-authored an article published in the Journal of Epilepsy.
Coming from a family of teachers, I realized I wanted to change my path in life and engage in humanitarian based pursuits. After examining options, I found the perfect fit with AmeriCorps VISTA, and packed my bags and moved from my most recent home in Florida to become part of the Flagstaff community. After my VISTA term I hope to return to graduate school and further expand my contributions to the community.
Guest Blog Post by Erin O'Keefe, STEM VISTA Open Space Aide, City of Flagstaff - Originally published in the City of Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter
On Saturday, March 10th, 2018, Open Space staff completed the first session of the 2018 Indigenous Youth STEM Academy. This year, we are partnering primarily with the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory which consists of 9th-12th grade Native American students from various tribes. We had 9 students participate in our first session. The STEM focus area of this session was astronomy and included a site visit to Lowell Observatory. Our program began with a hike from Kinlani Dorm to Lowell Observatory via Observatory Mesa trail system. This gave us an opportunity to explain the significance of the relationships between Flagstaff Open Space and our neighboring properties.
Participants were given a private one hour tour of the Lowell campus followed by a 30 minute guest presentation from astronomer and researcher, Dr. Deidre Hunter, who is also co-founder of the Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach Program. This program connects astronomers from Lowell to schools on the Hopi and Navajo reservations to partner in culturally-relevant astronomy-based curriculum. Dr. Hunter tailored her presentation to our specific group with a focus on the importance of minorities in STEM. She discussed her educational background and career path, gave information on her research, and described the Navajo-Hopi Outreach Program and how the program came about. The program session concluded with lunch provided for the students, transportation from Lowell back to the dorm provided by the Boys and Girls Club, and a gift card drawing for all participants. Students filled out questionnaires that aimed to gauge their interest in STEM careers, their interest in college, their favorite and least favorite parts of the program session, and why they think it is important for Native Americans to be in STEM careers fields.
Our next session will be a two part session taking place on March 26th and 31st with a STEM focus of Art and Graphic Design. Our guest presenter, Corey Begay, is a local Navajo STEM professional and artist who is the Lead Artist and Graphic Designer at the multicultural publishing company, Salinas Bookshelf, Inc. He will present to students on Monday night at Kinlani Dorm about his career path in STEM followed by a hands-on art activity. Part two of this session will take place on Saturday, March 31st which will consist of a visit to Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The students will be taken on an interpretive tour of the Preserve where we will focus on the importance of our interpretive signs to show the possibilities of turning interests in art and graphic design into a professional career. Corey Begay will be present during this tour to share his knowledge and experience about turning a passion for art into a career.
Thank you to Marcus Yazzie, Recreation Coordinator, and Vicki Anderson, STEM VISTA at Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory, for their assistance with this event! If you would like to sign up for the Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter, click here!
Guest Blog Post by Val Callaway, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for the Flagstaff STEM Education Project
It is AmeriCorps week! Time to celebrate all things AmeriCorps! From its thousands of host sites to all its amazing members “Getting Things Done!”, AmeriCorps works to build stronger communities, alleviate poverty, respond to disasters, and create healthy futures.
Since its inception in the 1960s, VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) has been working on the alleviation of poverty in the U.S. After joining the overarching AmeriCorps program in the 90s, VISTA has continued to grow and develop a rich history and culture of service, caring, dedication, and community.
Here in the greater Flagstaff community, there are currently 14 VISTAs serving at various locations. These VISTAs commit to a year of fulltime service at their host site where they focus on building capacity to increase the overall academic performance and well-being of under-served youth populations. These VISTAs are highly skilled and extremely talented. Working on different projects, tied together with a common goal (STEM VISTA Education Project), these VISTAs have increased opportunities for youth to engage in STEM activities and have paved new paths to STEM inspired careers.
Flagstaff is STEM City! Let’s take a glimpse at what just a few of these amazing VISTAs having been doing around town!
VISTAs Sally and Julia currently are working with Grand Canyon Trust to complete grant applications and present conservation programs to local youth. Way to go! Grand Canyon Trust is a non-profit organization that advocates for the conservation of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau.
Next stop, the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory (FBD) where VISTA Vicki Anderson spends her day working on a variety of awesome projects! The FBD provides residential and educational services to the youth (9-12th grade) who stay there while attending Flagstaff High School. As the Educator and Curriculum Developer, Vicki recently worked with the youth at the dorm to plan and implement a “Second Chance” Valentine’s Day Dance that incorporated STEM concepts into the design and logistics. Currently Vicki is writing grants and coordinating with the local CAVIAT program to recruit and retain youth in their programs.
Let’s drop in on Mary Berta who represents VISTAs at CCESA (Coconino County Education Service Agency) writing grants and doing community outreach. The CCESA supports the local school district through professional and community development, school elections and financial services, as well as in the area of political advocacy. Recently Mary has been working on an EPA grant focused on environmental education. This grant would increase the CCESA’s professional development initiative. The F.A.R.M. (Food and Resource Management) grant targets 6-8th grade science teachers. This grant would create an opportunity for these teachers to participate in high-quality, standards- based professional development. Keep up the good work Mary!
While we have a bunch of great sites and awesome VISTAs to celebrate, our last stop for this post will be STEM City where Camille Alexander serves as the Evaluation Coordinator. STEM City’s vision is to collectively work to strengthen STEM literacy, promote STEM-related business, and sustain STEM initiatives. Camille enjoys her work creating a STEM inventory of local businesses, schools, and non-profits. Her mission will help evaluate the “state of STEM” in Flagstaff in order for community agencies to better be able to connect and serve youth effectively by creating increased access to resources for STEM education.
BIG SHOUT OUTS to all the VISTAs and their sites that we will continue to highlight in the upcoming months: Brian Travers at Killip Elementary (STEM Curriculum), Chelsea Silva at Friends of the Rio (Watershed Stewardship Coordinator), Erin O’Keefe at Flagstaff Open Space (Open Space Aide), Madison Ledgerwood at NAU Rethink Possible (Education Connect Specialist), Nick Siskonen at CAVIAT (Recruitment Specialist), Whitney Yarbrough at NAU CSTL (Database Coordinator), Charlie Humphrey at Grand Canyon Youth (Volunteer Coordinator/ Fundraising), and Sarah Michal at NAU CSI (Opioid Education and Abuse Prevention).
Eleven high school students in the CAVIAT iCREATE bioscience class publicly presented their unique solutions to the authentic problem of tracking and reporting influenza-like illnesses in Coconino County. The presentations were held on March 7th at NAU's Center for Science Teaching and Learning. The students are in the second semester of this college-level course that earns credits from both Coconino Community College plus from Coconino High School or Flagstaff High School. The class meets after school for 2.5 hours each day from Monday to Thursday to learn the CTE (career and technical education) bioscience standards through an epidemiologic lens and with rich community involvement. Community partners include Coconino County Public Health Services District, North Country HealthCare, Northern Arizona Area Health Education Center, Northern Arizona Healthcare and TGen North. The students also gained assistance from Corryn Smith in using GIS technology for their reports.
Instructors Dr. Aaron Tabor and Robert (Bobby) Woodruff co-teach the class at NAU. Both have extensive experience in research and education. They also include additional community partners for in-class presentations and field trips. Students have toured the Science and Health Building at NAU, the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (ECOSS) laboratories, the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at Flagstaff Medical Center, and more!
The students study disease-causing agents as then use the tools necessary to determine what microbes cause the illnesses. The class includes biosafety skills, microbiology techniques, DNA extraction, separation and analysis. Students take an end-of-year test to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
Congratulations to all the students! And thank you to the community members that attended their presentations! NAU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Kain (Left), FUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Mary K Walton (Center), and FUSD Superintendent Mike Penca (Right), all came to hear the student presentations and ask them questions about their unique solutions to this authentic community problem.
The 5th Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration was held on March 5th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the NAU Walkup Skydome. An estimated 5,000 people enjoyed the celebration of all things STEM in Flagstaff, Arizona.
There were 26 schools in attendance with creative interactive displays including the Kinsey Inquiry and Discover School's Infinity Machine, Flag High's Underwater Welding and Field Research to Dominica, FALA's Paper Rockets, STAR School's Water Reclamation Bus and much more!
Flagstaff STEM businesses, government agencies, higher education and non-profits came out in full force! There were six businesses, 14 government agencies (including city, county, state and federal), 22 NAU departments and clubs, 13 tables of STEM groups from CCC, 22 non-profits and several robotics clubs and teams represented! Wow!
Thank you to everyone who helped make the 5th Annual Celebration such a Flagstaff-style success!