We would like to welcome our new Executive Director, Kris Penca! STEM City is really excited to see what direction she's going to take our organization. Read more about her below.
My name is Kristine Penca and I'm looking forward to working with STEM partners and to increasing accessibility to stem resources for all of Flagstaff.
I love to run, hike, walk, and bike. I also enjoy trying new restaurants and Flagstaff is a great place for that!
My husband's name is Mike and we have two kids, Clay and Kenzie.
In my free time, I like to travel, paint, and make things.
I was born and raised in Iowa and received a BA in education from the University of Iowa in 1994. I taught science and math in grades 5-8 for 20 years in Iowa and I encouraged the connection between math and science in Mason City.
I was part of a team that made our intermediate school a STEM school and I also created a $20,000 Makerspace at Lincoln Intermediate.
Other than teaching, I owned, managed, and taught classes at my own business- Iowa Cheer Academy. I also served on many Boards in Iowa including Mason City Baseball Association and the Stebens Children's Theatre.
I moved to Flagstaff with my husband in 2017 and I am currently teaching 7th grade in the MIT-e program at Sinagua Middle School-I teach Science and Engineering.
I am involved in Diving Deeper into the Arizona Science Standards-Educators chosen to unwrap the new Arizona science standards and create 3-dimensional designed units around the standards. In the future, I will be serving as the Digital Learning Coach for FUSD.
I am a believer in STEM education making opportunities for students. STEM makes their future choices brighter!
Earlier this month the STAR school sixth grade had the chance to attend Camp Colton, a camp owned and operated by Flagstaff Unified School District that is dedicated to teaching participants about environmental science. The students spent four days and three nights at camp and attended environmental education classes such as forestry, aquatics, wildlife and geology, taught by Camp Colton's staff.
Each environmental education class was designed to get the students to interact with their natural environment and work as a team to accomplish a specific goal. For example, the Geology class consisted of the students exploring the nearby Lava Tubes and discussing the different types of igneous rock present inside the tubes.
Some STAR students get ready to explore the Lava Tubes
The classes were also designed to be engaging and hands-on, encouraging the students to interact directly with their outside environment. In Aquatics class students measured the circumference of a pond and were then given a chart depicting different types of aquatic animals and insects. Using this chart, and a net and tray, the sixth graders tried to capture as many aquatic life forms as they could and determine the health of the pond based on the types of animals they found.
Some sixth graders examine the insects and animals they caught during Aquatics class
In addition to classes, the students participated in fun camp activities like campfire sing-alongs, square dancing, and stargazing. They learned the Camp Colton morning chant, played Boom Ball, and heard the spooky tale of Able Gable.
Camp Colton was outside of many of the students' comfort zones but they gave every class and activity their best effort, trying new things and making new friends. Many of them did not want to leave at the end of the week, and said it was one of their favorite parts of their school year.
Thank you to Camp Colton staff and Friends of Camp Colton for fully funding our students' camp experience.
Written by Regan Gee.
Killip Elementary School was incredibly excited to host scientists from the Flagstaff area to speak with our 3rd-5th grade students for their natural disasters unit over the past two weeks. Each disaster group of 25+ students had the opportunity to ask questions and see the disasters in action!
Our volcano and earthquake groups had an absolute blast with USGS scientist Greg Vaughan in the STEM Lab on Monday, May 6th. We were grateful to have him share his expertise and personal experiences, including showing videos of lava flows in Hawaii and earthquakes in Japan. The students came prepared with insightful and high-level questions which needed detailed answers.
The tornado and flood groups spent sessions with meteorologists Brian Klimowski and Megan Taylor from the National Weather Service on Tuesday, May 7th. Both gave engaging talks and showed examples of their respective disasters that occured in the Flagstaff area.
As a last minute addition, we were fortunate to give our volcanoes group another expert; staff geologist Ryan Thompson from Speedie & Associates Inc. on Thursday, May 9th. After using Google Earth to illustrate volcanic activity all over the world, he showed his collection of volcanic rocks and explained how they formed.
Our drought group had a productive session with scientist Molly McCormick from the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center. She coordinates the Restoration Assessment & Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS) program, and her expertise brought a unique perspective for helping to mitigate the effects of drought in our area.
Finally, fire prevention specialist Andrew Hostad gave the fire group an demonstration on how wildfires can lead to increased flooding. This connection was illustrated using coffee grounds and a sponge, which represented runoff and trees respectively. When water went through this area, the flooding was minimized. When the trees were burned down, however, there was nothing to stop the water from entering other parts of the area.
The students were consistently engaged and curious about each presentation, and will certainly be a massive help for their presentations happening this week. Thank you to our speakers!
Written by Stefan Nelson.
Louise Yellowman County Park is centrally located in Tuba City and offers great benefits related to health and wellness, education, cultural values and much more for the community. The park includes a basketball court, playground, ramada equipped with picnic tables, bathrooms, one-mile walking trail and a skate park. This park is highly used by the community and let’s keep our park beautiful by a clean-up day at the park!
Trash pick-up was conducted by volunteers that were supplied with a 5-gallon bucket, gloves and a trash picker tool. Majority of the trash findings was micro-trash such as small glass, cigarette buds, receipts and wrappers located around the park. Each bucket of trash was later condensed to fill about six trash bags. Overall, an estimate of 75 gallons of trash was picked up by volunteers during the event.
This park faces many challenges with graffitii tagging on a weekly basis and the county staff do there best with graffiti clean-up as soon as discovery. Majority of the graffitti taggings is revealed at the skate park area. These are the the before pictures of the recent taggings.
Before Pictures: April 05, 2019
Graffitii Removal was handled by the Coconino County Maintenance staff. They focused on pressure washing the heavy taggings located at the skate bowl and at the restroom facility . Majority of the heavy taggings was spray painted onto the concrete surface at the skate bowl area. The pressure washer was able to remove majority of the spray painted areas. It took about 400 gallons of water to clean the markings with the pressure washer equipment. The pressure washer also helped remove dirt build up inside the skate bowl.
Photos taken during and after the event: May 04, 2019
The volunteers participated with fun STEM & Art related activities that consist of educating the youth with a hands-on project of building molecules with jelly beans and having the youth draw their vision of “re-imaging our park” through art. Majority of the volunteers showed interest with the molecule building structure. These were great activities to help connect with volunteers.
During the event, we were able to complete park user surveys forms. These surveys have 12 basic questions about the demographics, usage, safety and ways to improve the park. These surveys will provide additional data support with improving the park and recreational area in the future and will contribute to the database.
Overall, we had 13 volunteers that were involved with picking up micro-trash, graffiti removal, completing survey forms and participating with STEM & Art related activities. These volunteers I have met during the event are identified as park users, National Honor Society students, AmeriVISTA members and Coconino County Staff that come from the community and who are neighbors to the community. They all made a positive impact for our community park. With a great team of volunteers, a total of 48 hours of work was contributed at the event and we were able to pick up 75 gallons of trash and successfully remove graffiti.
A big thank you to the local business and community for the in-kind donations that valued up to $252.50 for the event. We appreciate your support and partnership in helping keep our park beautiful.
Written by Camille Keith.
April 16th, 2019, marked the 2nd Annual Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit. Over 50 students from 10 schools and community organizations gathered at The Arboretum of Flagstaff to share climate action and renewable energy projects. Teams included youth in 4th-12th grade from Killip Elementary School, FALA Environmental Coalition, Hopi Junior Senior High School, Montessori School of Flagstaff, Coconino High School, Summit High School, Northland Preparatory Academy, Arizona Trail Association Gear Girls, Copper King Elementary School (Phoenix), and Pine Forest Charter School.
The Summit include presentations for two challenges, a sustainability expo, climate research tour, and guest keynote speaker. Teams in the Climate Action Challenge presented projects that addressed climate change related issues in their neighborhood, school, or community. Teams in the KidWind Challenge presented and tested originally designed wind turbines for energy generation and efficiency. When not presenting, youth explored the sustainability expo, which included turning on lights with bike-generated power, learning about waste and recycling, hands-on activities illustrating how pollution affects water resources, and nature trivia. Students also attended tours of the SEGA (Southwestern Experimental Garden Array) climate research at the Arboretum.
The Summit concluded with keynote speaker Dr. Ted Shuur, NAU Professor of Ecosystem Ecology, who shared his research and first-hand experience with the impacts of climate change in Alaska, followed by an awards ceremony. Congratulations to all participating teams, and a special shout out to the challenge winners and runner-ups!
Climate Action Challenge
4th-8th Grade Challenge Winner: Northland Preparatory Academy 7th Grade Science, Eco-Canvas
4th-8th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Northland Preparatory Academy 7th Grade Science, Fork It
9th-12th Grade Challenge Winner: Hopi Junior Senior High School Project Uuyii, The Effect of Climate Change on Hopi Fields
9th-12th Grade Challenge Runner Up: FALA Environmental Coalition, The Pledge for Veg/Change the Meat You Eat
4th-8th Grade Challenge Winner: Team Windova, Cooper King Elementary School (Phoenix)
4th-8th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Team Wind Riders, Cooper King Elementary School (Phoenix)
9th-12th Grade Challenge Winner: Team A.D.A.M., Coconino High School
9th-12th Grade Challenge Runner Up: Team Swifty, Coconino High School
The 2nd Annual Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit was a collaborative initiative among the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Program, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, and The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Read more about the Summit and view photos at https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/4123/2019-Summit.
Written by Lee Bryant.
To commemorate the legacy of Cesar Chavez, Killip Elementary School and the Civic Service Institute at NAU (CSI@NAU) collaborated on a Day of Service cleaning up and building up the Killip school gardens on March 29th, 2019. We had participation from local service members, elementary students and teachers, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and longstanding community partners.
As part of a National Service day, service member participants included 7 volunteers from the CSI@NAU VISTA program, 1 FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member, 1 CSI@NAU AmeriCorps volunteer, and 5 NAU students interested in the Peace Corps.
There were 8 classes with over 200 students who integrated the service day into their learning. Jessica Beekman's 3rd Grade and Courtney White's Pre-K classes worked in Luna Park to remove pine needles and trash, clean the pond, and paint tables. Lisa Hatch's 2nd Grade and Kim Edison's 4th Grade classes prepared the garden beds in front of the school and planted violas and pansies. Tracy Blahut's 5th Grade, Michelle John's 4th Grade, Tim Begley's 2nd Grade, and Mabel Goodwin’s 2nd Grade classes prepared the Learning and Plant Part Gardens by tilling the soil, adding natural soil amendments, reconstructing garden beds, and turning compost.
Beyond the amazing work of service members, students, and staff, we also had over 30 volunteers from the community, including associates from Home Depot (East Flagstaff Store) and NAU’s Farm-to-School First Year Seminar and Master’s of Sustainable Communities program. Home Depot (East Flagstaff Store) donated the materials they used to build a raised 140-square-foot U-shaped garden bed designed in part by the 4th and 5th Grade students, Home Depot (West Flagstaff Store) donated saws to build benches and for future use by Killip, and the Coconino County Master Gardener Association funded the materials to develop an outdoor classroom in the Learning Garden, including materials to build benches and chalkboards. NAU has offered consistent support for the after-school garden club and ensures that all garden needs are met.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this day (and all garden days!) possible. Over 12 cubic yards of trash were removed, and the new garden bed and benches have made the gardens ready for upcoming outdoor learning units. Check out the great work our volunteers accomplished with the before and after shots below!
Before (top) and after (bottom) view of the main Learning Garden.
Students till and amend soil in the front yard garden beds, and plant flowers.
Written by Lee A. Haferkamp and Brooke Kahl.
Just because Earth Day has passed, that doesn't mean you can't continue to learn about the changing planet!
Here is a climate change experiment you can do at home with limited materials.
What Is Climate Change?
Standard deviation is a statistic that tells you how closely a group of numbers (for example, temperatures) are clustered around a mean value (average temperature). When the standard deviation is small, the numbers are fall close to the mean. When the standard deviation is large, the individual values are spread out far from the mean.
In this environmental science activity, students explore both science and statistics as they track changes in temperatures over time. Check out more STEM activities for your students at Education.com.
What You Need:
- Calculator(Microsoft Excel may alternately be used if it is available to the student.)
What You Do:
1) Based on your personal observations of the weather patterns, formulate a hypothesis that predicts whether local weather conditions are outside historical norms.
2) Decide on a location whose weather patterns you wish to monitor.
3) Check the United States Historical Climatology Network web site to see whether it includes historical weather data for the location you have chosen to study. If it doesn’t, select a nearby location. The website has temperature precipitation data going back over 100 years for many locations in the U.S.
4) Calculate the average temperature and precipitation values for each month going back at least 30 years.
5) Tabulate and plot your results.
6) Compare temperature and precipitation data for the current month with the historical values.
7) Determine whether the average measured temperature falls within one, two or three standard deviations of the mean.
8) Evaluate your hypothesis. If necessary, revise it and perform additional calculations.
Provided by Education.com
The April Lunch with an Expert at Killip was a huge hit! This month we had Turtle Expert and Wildlife Biologist, Shellie Puffer, from the USGS. She came in with tons of pictures and videos of turtles in the desert Southwest, that she has been doing research on. Shellie also came in with some turtle shells, bones, and even a turtle x-ray!
The kids got to touch the turtle shells and look at the x-ray, where they could see turtle eggs still developing inside the turtle. Thank for the awesome presentation Shellie!
Where does my food come from, and how much water and energy went into its production? How long will we have water if our power fails? How will a hurricane in Texas increase the cost of gasoline in my city? How much will a drought in California impact my food choices?
These are the kinds of questions that citizen science project FEWSION (Food-Energy-Water Fusion) For Community Resilience (F4R) is setting out to answer for rural communities and small cities throughout the United States. The project is led by NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL) and School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS), and it is currently sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
What has F4R already done?
Last year, the project started its data collection and procedure development with a volunteer group and an NAU graduate class, who also collected publicly-available data for counties throughout the United States. F4R only collects data on other countries that show their trade with the U.S., and does not track which part of another country traded resources came from or went to. Even so, F4R has already modeled the simplified global impact of disasters in the United States, such as Hurricane Florence.
The map above, produced by F4R data scientist Richard Rushforth, is a prediction of the impact Hurricane Florence would have throughout the world. Further information can be found at http://news.nau.edu/fewsion-hurricane-florence/#.XLTtxDBKiUn.
Where is F4R heading?
This year, more volunteers and students are taking this work and collecting more detailed data for the Flagstaff area. The data collection and analysis F4R will publish will provide some vital information to help communities make informed decisions ranging from what products to buy to environmental legislation and health education efforts. F4R is collecting county-level data on where all these resources are coming from and going to. The Flagstaff research will also be used to help streamline the process for other communities to collect and interpret their data.
The feature I am most excited about, “FEW View,” allows you to see where each county in the United States imports its resources from, where it exports them to, and how a disaster in one area may impact another. While it is not yet available to the general public, it currently has a few built-in disaster scenarios, some options for custom disaster scenarios, and options to focus the map on any set of resources and counties you want.
An example screen of FEW View from https://fewsion.us/visualization/ shows a state-level breakdown of where California’s “virtual” water is going. Virtual water is the water that was consumed by the production of something else, such as crops, electricity, or manufactured goods.
How can I learn more?
All published results so far, more detailed project information, and more can be found at https://fewsion.us/. As a citizen science project, F4R welcomes all interested members of the Flagstaff community to share any helpful information or skills they have.
In addition, F4R is hosting an open house on Saturday, April 27th, from 1:00 to 2:00 P.M. in the Downtown Flagstaff Public Library to share some preliminary results and take feedback from our community.
Written by Laura Haferkamp
Mountain Charter School hosted its first annual STEAM night on January 24th, reaching out to students, parents, alumni, and community members to engage in STEAM activities for all age ranges. A wide variety of activities were available to explore, designed by community members in STEAM fields, Mountain School staff, and their fellow classmates. These activities ranged from math games to stargazing to having discussions about the importance of our local watersheds.
Lowell Observatory: STEAM night attendees navigated the stars with Mary Lara from Lowell Observatory. Attendees searched for constellations, galaxies, and nebulae while enjoying a s’more. At the stargazing station, students learned the importance of space exploration and gained insight on why we should all take a moment to look to the stars.
Coding: As students finished their s’mores they moved inside to investigate all that STEAM night had to offer. Students practiced coding with Mountain School’s kindergarten teacher and programmed a coding mouse to move along their desired path to get to its final destination.
Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project: The Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project was there to emphasize the importance of wolves and their positive impacts in our ecosystems. By learning about the region wolves inhabit, how to identify them, and their impact on the ecosystem, students were motivated to take action for wolves and help educate their peers.
Oak Creek Watershed Council: Students and community members also participated in activities put on by the Oak Creek Watershed Council learning the importance of Oak Creek watershed and the effect it has in their communities. Students walked through the effects of litter and how long it can last in an ecosystem. Student also learned through a 3D model of the watershed how litter is carried through our watershed and in some cases into drinking water. Through these activities students were informed and motivated to implement “Leave No Trace” practices into their daily lives.
Tynkertopia: Tynkertopia worked with students as well to learn the importance of engineering all while tapping into their creative side. Students dipped paper into water and paint to create works of art and see where art and science intersects. Tynkertopia inspired students to look outside the box and problem solve creatively and in their own unique way.
Teacher- and Student-Led STEAM Activities: Teachers and peers also provided a range of activities that explored many areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Creating snowflakes, students learned about symmetry and that harmonious proportion and balance is important in both art and math. Using prisms, students learned about the color spectrum, and investigated how light passes through a prism and separates into the colors of the rainbow. Students discovered that light and color can be both beautiful and educational! Boat building, the engineering behind oil spill clean up, and how the design of a bird’s beak affects its diet were all among the topics to investigate. Students learned about force and motion, friction, and magnetism through a series of exciting games, and discovered the bones in a human hand. Math games from the classroom were a popular activity, and students had a chance to be the teachers as they shared with their parents.
Mountain Charter School’s STEAM Night exposed students and community members to all that STEAM has to offer. STEAM Night not only opened attendee’s minds to all the different fields STEAM encompasses, but connected local community members and the Mountain School families in a night of STEAM, games, and family fun!
Written by Crystal Routhe