The 2nd graders at Killip Elementary School are designing a pond for the Luna Park area at their school. To learn more about what the students need to consider for their design, educators Kim Edison, Mable Goodwin, and Wendy Tucker took their young students on a field trip to the Arboretum at Flagstaff on Wednesday, August 23rd. There they met experts from the Arboretum and Natural Channel Design to learn about forest health, as well as the differences between man-made ponds and natural ponds.
Teacher Wendy Tucker and her students observe the pond with Allen Haden
Allen Haden, the lead at Natural Channel Design, shared his expertise on aquatic ecosystems with the students. Allen asked the students to think about what they need to survive, and joked that the fish in the pond can't walk to the grocery store to get what they need. The students observed and then discussed what man-made ponds need to successfully keep organisms alive.
Coreen Walsh and Shannon Benjamin of the Arboretum at Flagstaff engaged students with information on lichens, plants, birds and beetles that make the forest their home.
Shannon Benjamin has the students guess what bird they are hearing and looking at,
and then she passed around a small vial with pine bark beetles inside.
Stay posted for more updates as the pond designs are developed and the pond gets built! Thank you to Allen Haden of Natural Channel Design, and the Arboretum for contributing to a successful educational field trip! If your school is interested in a field trip to the Arboretum before they close on October 31st, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
"My time at NAU shaped me into the educator that I have become and I am grateful for all of the NAUTeach professors that put their heart and soul into the program. It was truly their dedication and passion that helped prepare myself and the rest of the future educators for the rigors of the profession. A special thank you goes out to Dr. Danielle Ross who showed faith in me and encouraged me every step of the way during the very strenuous application process. This fellowship will shape my career and I am so incredibly thankful for the encouraging words to apply. The structure of NAUTeach really emphasized the importance of inquiry and student-centered classrooms. These ideologies that I learned in the program helped me succeed in achieving the Knowles fellowship. Science education in this country needs a greater focus on problem-solving and real world applicability. This is exactly what the Knowles fellowship looks for; teachers who want to transform mathematics and science education in this country. Without NAU and NAUTeach, I might not have found a passion for students and showing them how relatable science can be in their everyday lives. It is my hope with this fellowship that I can make high school science more accessible for all learners while inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals."
Tyler student-taught at Flagstaff High School in the Spring of 2016. "I loved my semester at FHS and consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to learn from the veteran teachers there. Flagstaff High School gave me my first taste of true classroom experience and that too helped prepare me in achieving the Knowles Fellowship. The classroom management strategies that I learned and the students that pushed me to be a better teacher all aided me in growing as an educator. I am so thankful for my time in Flagstaff and all of the opportunities that it has given me for my career."
KSTF, now the Knowles Teacher Initiative, is committed to supporting a national network of mathematics and science teachers in building leadership and collaboration, facilitating exploration and innovation, and ultimately improving mathematics and science education in the U.S. The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program—the Foundation’s signature program—is a comprehensive, five-year program that supports early-career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and lead from the classroom. Through the program, Knowles Fellows have access to grants for expenses associated with purchasing classroom materials, engaging in professional development, and spearheading leadership activities that have an impact beyond their own classrooms. Fellows also benefit from access to stipends, mentoring and coaching from experienced teachers and teacher educators, and membership in a nationwide community of more than 300 teachers who are committed to improving education.
Guest Blog Post by Lisa Winters, Research and Stewardship Volunteer Coordinator, Grand Canyon Trust
Did you know springs support more than 20% of the endangered species in the United States?
Despite being small areas compared to lakes or oceans, springs are really diverse! However, springs are also one of the most threatened ecosystems: the Springs Stewardship Institute reports that a lack of information and attention to springs has resulted in over 90% of springs lost in some areas.
Earlier this year, Kathryn Wertz’s 6th graders at Sinagua Middle School, Kesava’s 4-6th graders at Haven Montessori, and the Centennial Forest Outdoor Leadership Academy with Manager Cheryl Miller got the chance to contribute to springs research. Students traveled to different springs, defined as emerging groundwater, and measured water quality, water flow, identified plants and animals, and collected information on the source and extent of the spring. Afterwards, they discussed why springs might be threatened: human water use, livestock grazing, mining, or pollution are just some of the threats to our springs. “Use less water!” “Practice leave no trace principles!” and “stay on the trail!” rang out when prompted for suggestions on how we could become stewards of the springs.
These data collected help support a large forest restoration project in northern Arizona. The Four Forest Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort across 2.4 million acres, to bring natural fire regimes, plant and animal diversity, and healthy forests back to the area. The project focuses on thinning small diameter trees, small prescribed fires, and also protecting water in the forests.
Springs are critical water sources for the diversity of animals that call forests home, and also for a variety of plant life. When forests become overcrowded (a healthy acre of forest should have about 30 trees or less, whereas now we might see 300 trees/acre), all those trees send deep roots down to suck up the available water. By thinning some of the trees, we will hopefully raise the water table, and provide access to surface water for the other species. The trees that are left to grow also have more space, more nutrients, and an easier time staying strong and healthy. A win-win for everyone!
Not only did these students collect important information that will be useful for forest management, but they also proved to be capable and enthusiastic citizen scientists! We can’t wait to do it again! Thank you to Joseph Holway from the Spring Stewardship Institute, Cheryl Miller from Centennial Forest, and Grand Canyon Trust for helping make this project a success. Thank you also to Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Heritage Fund for providing financial support to help get students outside doing real life STEM!
Teachers can apply for field trip funding through the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Grant program. Link to the Heritage Grant site above and/or download the pdf here! The grant proposal is due by October 31, 2017.
The first cohort of 15 Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs) are ending their year of service to the Flagstaff STEM Education Project, a collaboration with NAU's Civic Service Institute and STEM City. We are beyond thrilled and proud of all they have given to our community. The following infographic shares a little bit of the successes these VISTAs have contributed to the agencies they worked with and to all of Flagstaff in pursuing the overall goal of the project: The Flagstaff STEM Education VISTA Project seeks to increase the academic performance of low-income youth in STEM fields and their interest in pursuing STEM careers.
You can read more about the first cohort of VISTAs here. Please congratulate them all on their service. Thank you, thank you, thank you from Flagstaff STEM City!
Front Row: Maria Archibald, Mira Peterson, Kate Stanley, Megan Carmel, Meg Adakai Kabotie, STEM Coordinator Mindy Bell; Back Row: Dylan Lenzen, Lisa Winters, Chelsea Silva, Geoffrey Kie, Vicki Anderson, Robert McCann, VISTA Leader Kathy Farretta. Not pictured: Jake Burwell, Holly Havlicek, and Erin O'Keefe.
What did you do on YOUR summer holiday?
Sisilia Sinaga is a senior at BASIS Flagstaff who spent her summer as a volunteer intern at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff. Sisilia has a head start on her senior project focusing on her keen interest in artificial intelligence and neural networks. Alicia Vaughan, the Director of Student Affairs at BASIS, partnered Sisilia with her mentor Dr. Ryan Anderson at the Astrogeology Science Center. Because Sisilia already has a strong math and coding background, she was able to step into one of Dr. Anderson’s projects with the Mars Curiosity Rover.
Ryan and Sisilia are using PySAT (Python Spectral Analysis Tool), a program that Ryan is developing to analyze spectra like those returned by the ChemCam instrument on the Curiosity Mars Rover. ChemCam shoots a laser at rocks and soil on Mars, breaking them down into a spark of plasma. The spectrum of light emitted from the spark contains a fingerprint of the chemical elements in the target. Sisilia is working on using neural networks to more accurately read that spectral fingerprint and dete4rmine the chemistry of the rocks and soils of Mars.
Neural python is the language within python that uses a library called TensorFlow™ to create neural networks. TensorFlow's website states that it was originally developed by researchers and engineers working on the Google Brain Team within Google's Machine Intelligence research organization for the purposes of conducting machine learning and deep neural networks research, but the system is general enough to be applicable in a wide variety of other domains as well.
Artificial neural networks (ANN's) are computing systems inspired by organismal nervous systems. Useful in image recognition ANN's can learn to identify images that contain a specific mineral by analyzing example images that have been previously labeled with that mineral.
Sisilia's biggest passions are computers, engineering, physics, astronomy, and math. She loves to program and write code in her free time. She is in her school's robotics club and participates in FTC competitions. She is also in the National Honor Society and volunteered with STEM City to assist students. Her first challenge was to fix the earthquake simulator at Killip Elementary School! You can see, via this video from Killip, that she was successful!
We wish Sisilia every success as she continues her senior project and pursues being accepted by her preferred university!
Thank you Sisilia for all you have done to advance STEM in STEM City!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator