Kinney Construction Services (KCS) is the most recent business to join the Scientists in the Classroom program, founded by Jillian Worssam, at Sinagua Middle School. KCS is working with one of Gretchen Downey's 8th grade MITe (Middle School Institute of Technology and Engineering) classes, and leading them through the process of commercial construction on an undeveloped site.
The first lesson focused on the many different people and careers involved in the construction business, including many engineering roles. KCS introduced an authentic case study that the students will follow through the year, as they continues their monthly outreach with the class. In the spring the students will likely visit the site on a culminating field trip. These highly-engaged students received stress ball construction helmets for answering questions on different jobs from initially surveying a site, designing the layout of the buildings for a site, and discussing how to make the project as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible.
KCS is committed to sustainable construction and was the commercial general contractor on NAU's International Pavillion. NAU, KCS and RSP Architects won the prestigious President's Award for Special Achievement, "Best of Show", as well as the coveted Crescordia Award at Arizona Forward's Environmental Excellence Awards. This new building produces as much energy as it uses onsite and is on track to be Arizona's first “Net Zero” energy higher-education facility. It was recognized as a "Building of the Future" and as one of the greenest buildings in the nation. And it is now used to teach a new generation of future citizens! You can see a short video and read more about the building and award in this article by AZ Central, and in the KCS Press Release.
KCS is also connecting their expertise in building for the future with the students involvement in the Future City program. The 8th grade MITe students are competing in this design-and-build competition for the 3rd year.
Thank you to KCS for joining the Scientists in the Classroom program!
The Scientists in the Classroom program has over twenty business, agency, and non-profit partners that meet monthly with students in a class they are partnered with at Sinagua Middle School. If you are interested in learning more about this program designed to engage students in real-world STEM applications, please contact the STEM Coordinator.
By Dave Engelthaler, Associate Professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Chair of the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance. This column was adapted from the keynote speech, given by the author, at Science Foundation Arizona's "Giving a Voice to STEM" Conference at NAU on September 30, 2016.
I have often referred to Flagstaff as the Shining City on Arizona’s Hill. It is no accident that I borrow this phrase from the famous, precisely American, ideal of a “Shining City on a Hill”. The early pilgrims imagined that they could create such a community for themselves after escaping the historical norms of European controls on destiny.
Three hundred years later John F. Kennedy reminded of this founding ideal, stating that the world was watching our shining city and that we must live up to our promise; shortly there after, we embarked on one of the greatest journeys of all time and put a man’s foot on the moon (Flagstaff had something to do with that, more on that below).
Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan again reminded us of this American City on a Hill ideal; and while we may not often remember Reagan as a champion of science, he was convinced during his tenure to not only not cut the budget of the National Science Foundation, but rather double it, before he left office. But, as under Kennedy and Reagan and other presidents in before and after, no matter what our economic and cultural condition, we have always led the way in advancing humanity through the sciences.
It is this ideal that convinces me that in Flagstaff, we are a Shining STEM City on Arizona’s Hill.
In August of 2012, a group of Flagstaff Leaders, Businessmen, Educators, Scientists, and Concerned Citizens gathered in the woods on the base of the San Francisco Peaks. This group coalesced around the idea that Flagstaff is a STEM-rich City and that we as a community, businesses and schools, elected leaders and CEOs, teachers and families, needed to collectively band together to bring this rich surrounding to bear on the education of our children and enrich our communities.
There, up on our Hillside, we all mutually pledged our time, talent and resources towards making the STEM City ideals happen. In short – our goal was to have the most STEM literate graduates living and working in a thriving STEM-based economy.
We also had a unofficial motto for the day: “Dare Mighty Things”, which we borrowed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who had, just the preceding night, coordinated the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars (and again, Flagstaff had something to do with this mission). And we both stole that from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Far better it is to dare mighty things” speech.
Historian, Fredrick Jackson Turner, just a few years before TR’s famous speech, gave us his “Frontier Thesis”, and proclaiming that with the end of the American Frontier, so might be the end the American spirit. While Jackson aptly, and controversially, linked Americanism and American spirit to the discovery and exploration of the American Frontier, I feel that he missed the mark in not understanding the new frontiers that we would identify and explore.
Our increased understanding and use of science and engineering opened up brand new frontiers, beyond land and sea.
One such Frontier, The Space Frontier, was no longer a pastoral landscape to watch from afar. Our STEM City has been at the forefront of the exploration of this new frontier, from the discovery of Pluto, to the training of Apollo astronauts in our backyard, to the camera control of the Mars Rover from our USGS facility, and now finally to the deep space explorations through our Discovery Channel telescope, providing insight into the beginnings of our universe and images of a frontier previously unseen.
Likewise, Flagstaff is home to TGen and the new Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at NAU, where some of the brightest minds are exploring another previously unseen universe – the microbiome. Every day, scientists in Flagstaff are embarking on the incredible journey into the human microbiome – the unseen ecosystem of bacteria and viruses and fungi that live on and in the human body. We are trying to understand how these microbes live, compete, collaborate and otherwise interact during our healthy and disease states. We, ourselves, our bodies, are the new frontier – and again that frontier exploration is here in our STEM City.
And we could go on about the new frontiers ventured by W.L.Gore engineers and SenesTech scientists and MNA paleontologists and Park Service geologists. The frontier is here in our STEM City and some of the greatest pioneers are the trainers of our next generation– the teachers and education professionals of our great public, charter and private schools. Most are ready, willing and able to interact with all of these resources; and some, like former STEM City Teacher of the Year Jillian Worssam, just kick down the door and say: “Let’s do this thing!”
Our STEM City is Worssam’s wildly successful Scientists in the Classroom. It is the Flagstaff Festival of Science (the longest running one in the country). We are the Coconuts; we are the Annual STEMMY'S Awards Ceremony; the STEM Art Competition; and the Super Bowl of STEM in the Dome event (where upwards of 8% of Flagstaff turns out!); we are the Space Station Science Experiment and the High Altitude Balloon Launches; and the superstar Killip Kindergarten Chess team that likes to challenge our Mayor. We are seventh-grade girls wearing lab coats inside a world-class research lab and we are a group of high schoolers rafting down our majestic Canyon to learn our geologic past. We are the Chamber Coding Camps. We are grad students teaching and learning in the K-12 classroom. We are parents, students and teachers on a hill having a star party. We are, in a phrase, America’s First STEM Community.
Arizona, and the rest of the country, is watching our shining STEM City
and we must live up to our promise.
Hi all! I am a native Michigander who made the leap west in 2011 to pursue a M.S. in Aquatic Ecology at Utah State University. I then moved down to Flagstaff to work as a Colorado River Fish Biologist in Grand Canyon, where I discovered the beauty of the desert as well as a love for Ponderosa pines and Abert’s squirrels.
As the Citizen Science Volunteer Coordinator with Grand Canyon Trust, I look forward to creating stewards and advocates for the unique landscape, water, and wildlife of the Colorado Plateau. I am particularly passionate about making scientific research more accessible to the public and spreading my curiosity and joy of nature with others.
In this next year, I hope to contribute to the Flagstaff STEM community, connect people with our amazing natural surroundings, and encourage the next generation of conservationists. If not chasing leopard frogs and garter snakes for work, you can likely find me hiking in our national parks, baking something sweet, pretending to be a runner, or crafting something I saw on Etsy.
Guest Blog Post by Lisa Winters, Flagstaff STEM Education Program VISTA Member with Grand Canyon Trust
With wide eyes, note-filled worksheets, and an urge to move and explore, 5th graders from Killip Elementary School shout out their observations on a sunny, Tuesday morning at Upper Lake Mary. “We’re part of the Biosphere!” they proudly state.
For the third year in a row, Killip Elementary School held a field trip revolving around the earth’s spheres: the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Over sixty 5th graders from the classes of Ms. Butterfield, Ms. Hernandez, and Ms. Blahut moved through four stations to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the ecosystem around them at Lake Mary. Local experts led each of the sphere discussions.
Lee Born (above), NAU professor and KNAU's staff meteorologist, represented the atmosphere with a lively conversation of atmospheric conditions, natural disasters, and how floods and hurricanes create changes that impact other spheres.
Felix Parham (left), a geologist from the City of Flagstaff, was the geosphere expert. Students thought critically about not just the ground we stand on, but all of the material that forms the foundation of our earth, how it’s shaped, and what we extract from it.
Also from the City of Flagstaff and a proud Killip Cougars alumni, Rae Byars (center) led the hydrosphere conversation. Students learned about the water cycle, and then connected the processes with the other spheres, as well as who and what needs water.
Lisa Winters from Grand Canyon Trust, with Naturalist Chris Keefe, pulled things together by discussing the biosphere, and how all living organisms rely on the other spheres. Students identified animals and their habitats around Lake Mary. They then made connections between their own interactions as members of the biosphere with their needs from other spheres.
Students reflected on the discussions they had at each station. And they will continue the learning back in the classroom where they will research a natural disaster and how the connections between spheres may change. They will conclude the unit by formally presenting their research posters.
This is what STEM education at Killip looks like, thanks to the dedication of the educators and the contributions of the "STEM professionals" from our community!
"My name is Meg Kabotie and I am the VISTA for the Museum of Northern Arizona. I am looking forward to connecting youth in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas with all the STEM opportunities the museum has to offer!
I am a Flagstaff native and spent years during my childhood running around MNA. I lived there when I was a teenager while my dad painted a mural in the kiva gallery, and I have worked and volunteered there off and on for most of my adult life. I am a graduate of Northern Arizona University with dual majors in biomedical science and psychology with a minor in chemistry. While at NAU, I worked in a stream ecology lab assisting in entomology and symbiotic relationship research on Fossil Creek and Beaver Creek. I also worked in a cellular and molecular biology lab doing research funded by The Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention studying possible molecular mechanisms of cancer. I love science in all its beautiful shapes and forms! I am especially passionate about conservation and appreciating the beauty and wonder of nature.
Because of my long history with the museum, as well as my love of natural spaces especially around northern Arizona, I truly believe in the mission of the museum, which is to inspire a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through collecting, studying, interpreting, and preserving the region's natural and cultural heritage. I believe the museum has unique opportunities to spread STEM education through projects learning about Environmental Science, Forestry, Hydrology, Ecology, Biology and all sub fields, Geology, Paleontology, Archeology, Anthropology, Reclamation and Clean Energy Technology, Pollution Control, Water Conservation and Treatment Technology, Environmental Engineering, LEED Building Engineering, and math as it is applied in all these fields. I also think that framing STEM education in this way may draw interest from historically underrepresented groups such as many of the Native American tribes around the Colorado Plateau, whose lives and history are deeply connected to the land. I would like to get more youth from these tribes involved with STEM education at MNA in addition to the youth living in Flagstaff and surrounding rural areas."