Jim Tuck and Phred Salazar are STEAMing ahead with an after school model train club at Sechrist Elementary School. Ten 4th and 5th grade students are learning science, technology, engineering, art, and math as they build their model trains. Using the T-Trak system (www.ttrak.org) each student builds their own module that then connects with the other modules to create an interconnected railroad system.
The students will exhibit their trains at the Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration in the spring at the NAU dome, and also for Youth Day at the Flagstaff Mall.
Thank you to Phred and Jim for bringing STEAM to students through model trains!
Killip Elementary School's 5th grade students, with their teachers Jillian Hernandez, Tracy Blahut, and Katie Butterfield, traveled to Lake Mary to make connections between the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere they have been studying.
The students were divided into four groups and rotated to the four "sphere" stations with experts at each of the spheres. Three of the experts also participated last year, showing great dedication to this educational endeavor!
Erin Young, the Water Resources Manager for the City of Flagstaff, was the hydrology expert, linking the hydrosphere with the geosphere through observations between Lower and Upper Lake Mary. The students also discussed how earth materials control water flow to lakes and wells.
Below, Clare Stielstra, a hydrogeologist with Montgomery and Associates in Tucson, represented the biosphere, helping students make solid connections between organisms and the air, water, and land that supports them and us. Student questions had her eliciting information from the students on how Earth is different than Mars.
Meteorologist Lee Born, below, represented the atmosphere, and helped students understand connections between atmospheric phenomena including natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, and the changes they can create on earth that impact the other spheres. Students took good notes as they will be writing reports on natural disasters as a culminating part of this unit.
Vaden Aldridge, a recent graduate of NAU with a MS in geology, represented the geosphere. Vaden led lively discussions on how the geosphere impacted the other spheres and vice versa. Students had to think critically about when the biosphere becomes geosphere as fossils are formed, or as fossil fuels are buried, and then unearthed and burned becoming atmosphere!
The students understanding of how the spheres interacted truly developed as they moved through the four stations. Many thanks to our local experts for helping our Flagstaff students make connections!
Guest Blog by Laura Huenneke
As the road signs declare, Flagstaff identifies itself as America’s 1st STEM Community. The proclamation grew out of the realization that we are not just a university town but also home to many research and scientific organizations (governmental, educational, and private industry). What does it mean to be a STEM community, and what vision of the future does it describe?
People often think of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as pushing students into technical and health fields. A natural reaction is to counter with cries for STEAM (incorporating arts education into the program) or for other professional training opportunities. The arts and social sciences are certainly invaluable for insights into innovative and effective community development. So why do we continue to talk about STEM City? It’s worth thinking about the goal.
Recently I was fortunate to hear Rush Holt, Jr. speak to a scientific audience. Holt is a former congressional representative from New Jersey, and is now CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He recalled the impact of Sputnik and the subsequent national push for more advanced science and engineering in the 1950s and 60s. Many STEM professionals look back to this era, when major national investments were made in science research and in training undergraduate and graduate students in what are now termed STEM fields. (Note, the term “STEM” came about in the 1990s as a shorthand for discussing these fields at the National Science Foundation.)
But Holt pointed out this is also when we started thinking of science and engineering as something that the “best and brightest” should be pursuing; the rest of us ‘normal people’ might sit back and watch. He highlighted how this has led to today’s attitude that math and science are difficult subjects, that our political leaders scurry to claim “I am not a scientist,” and that our society more generally has lost our “reverence for evidence.” He linked this loss of general appreciation for scientific work and evidence-based decision-making to a wide range of current policy debates, from the benefits of vaccination to the denials of biological evolution and of climate science.
STEM City is really a vision that all of our citizens can reclaim the respect for evidence and for science as a process of inquiry and observation-based reasoning. Yes, we want all our students to have the opportunity to pursue professional careers in STEM, and we want our community to continue to host thriving science and research organizations. But ultimately the STEM community vision is even broader than those worthwhile ideas – something that enriches and empowers all citizens.
Guest Blog Post for STEM City and Special to the Arizona Daily Sun by Laura Huenneke, PhD Environmental Sciences. Laura also serves on the STEM City Executive Committee.
Judith Arnold, a 5th grade teacher at Marshall Elementary Magnet School, took her class of 25 students on a field trip to Buffalo Park on August 24th. The students were participating in an ambitious Monarch Butterfly project. Liz Blaker, NAU faculty and insect expert, coordinated the efforts to capture the monarch butterflies. Liz and Judith also worked together last year to capture, test the monarchs for OE (an obligate, protozoan parasite) and then mark and release the monarchs to monitor their migration if recaptured.
Jessica Thomas, a senior in Environmental Sciences at NAU, helped the students search for eggs, larvae and adults. Read below for how you can have Jessica assist your class with some Monarch and Milkweed adventures as well!
Zack Zdinak, a local naturalist, educator and artist, began the day by showing the students a species of milkweed that is not found at Buffalo Park, but that they could plant in their school garden. He donated seedlings he collected in his yard. Monarch larvae only eat milkweed, so expanding the milkweed plants in school gardens will increase the food source for monarch butterflies and hopefully increase their population.
Jan Busco, an NAU Horticulturist and the "Students for Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening" (SSLUG) Coordinator, also gave some milkweed plants to Marshall Elementary. On the field trip she showed the students the difference between some native and exotic plants. Students spent some time picking cheat grass, a highly flammable non-native species commonly found in Flagstaff.
Thank you's also go to John Taylor, of Terra BIRDS, who helped the students in Judith's class plant milkweed in the Marshall garden; and USGS Research Scientist Greg Vaughan who answered numerous student questions about space exploration as they cooled off from their monarch chasing adventures in the lobby of the USGS Astrogeology Center!
If you are interested in learning more about opportunities with Monarchs and Milkweeds, contact Mindy. She will put you in touch with Jessica Thomas, the Environmental Sciences senior at NAU who is serving as an intern for STEM City this semester!
About the Project Monarch Health citizen science project at the University of Georgia:
About OE: http://monarchparasites.uga.edu/whatisOE/
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator