I’m Mallory Schaefer and I will be working at STAR School as a part of the AmeriCorps VISTA Flagstaff STEM Education Project team. I moved to Flagstaff in 2013 to attend NAU where I received a Bachelors degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and a minor in Sustainable Community Development. For the past four years I have been working at Willow Spring Program Center, a Girl Scout camp located in Prescott, AZ. Working there is what really made me passionate about working with children in an outdoor setting and allowing them to interact with nature in fun and developmental ways! I would love to pursue a career in Outdoor Education in the future where I can continue to inspire a love for nature in today's youth. I am excited to be back in Flagstaff and to have the opportunity to work with and learn from Native youth and Native communities.
At my site I will be working on developing the schools existing STEM program to meet the needs and wants of the teachers. I hope to develop after school activities with a STEM focus that are both fun and engaging for the students. I will also be working on a special water project that includes setting up an aquaponics system to get the students involved in the importance of water as well as assisting with the implementation of a water testing and filtration project for the near by community. I am looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in our year of service!
Hey there! My name is Charlie Humphrey and for the next year I will work in Flagstaff with Grand Canyon Youth as their Office Manager through the Flagstaff STEM Education AmeriCorps VISTA Project. I will devote my efforts towards smoothing office processes, coordinating volunteers, and engaging in community events.
I grew up among the copper sunsets, vast deserts, and jagged mountains of Phoenix and Sierra Vista. I inherited my love for nature from my father, who taught me early on that we can recognize that we are part of something more when we spend time outdoors. I traded Saguaros for Ponderosas when I moved to Flagstaff in 2013 so that I could study at Northern Arizona University. In May of 2017, I graduated with a BS in Parks and Recreation with an emphasis in Outdoor Education.
GCY works hard to ensure that diverse populations of youth have an opportunity to participate in outdoor immersion programs. That is what I am so proud to member of the Grand Canyon Youth team. I am very excited about this chance to help connect the youth of America to the best that the southwest has to offer.
Guest blog post by Julia Sullivan and Sally Henkel, AmeriCorps VISTA Members at the Grand Canyon Trust
Scientists in the Classroom is a STEM mentorship program that facilitates the collaboration between an entire class and a local organization committed to STEM education. For the Grand Canyon Trust, this partnership takes place once a month with sixth graders at Sinagua Middle School. Lead by Lisa Winters, Research and Stewardship Volunteer Coordinator at the Trust, this partnership is now heading into its second year. Americorps VISTA Members Sally Henkel and Julia Sullivan have joined the partnership as well. In October, students learned about the different types of public lands on the Colorado Plateau, how federal agencies work together, and that everyone has ownership in public lands. This month, they learned about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region and potential changes to the present rules on the mining of uranium in this area.
Uranium mining is a complex topic. In order to break it down, we first discussed the differences between renewable and nonrenewable energy and the ways in which we consume energy on a daily basis. Then, students got a sneak peek of the Trust’s new film on the status of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region. The film highlights the recent review of the 20-year moratorium on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon and gives voice to the communities that could be affected if the ban were to be lifted. After digesting the film, students identified some major themes and were encouraged to think critically about the issue and discuss further questions they would like to know more about. It was uplifting to see young people think critically about the use of public lands and to use their young voices to advocate for the places that they care about!
Guest Blog Post by Erin O’Keefe, Events & Outreach Coordinator with Flagstaff's Open Space Program through the STEM Education VISTA Project
The Indigenous Youth STEM Academy Completes its Pilot Year
This past summer, the City of Flagstaff Open Space Program implemented a pilot year of the Indigenous Youth STEM Academy (IYSA) at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. As Native Americans are one of the most underrepresented groups within STEM careers and among STEM degree-holders, I recognized a need for focused programming with Indigenous youth on these topics. As such, the goal of this program is to provide Indigenous youth in Flagstaff and the surrounding communities with an opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in connection to culture, community, and stewardship while providing resources for pursuing higher education and professional careers in STEM fields.
Programming took place at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve as it provides a unique opportunity for learning about Northern Sinagua petroglyphs and habitation sites, has an outdoor classroom area, interpretive signs throughout the Preserve, and represents a place of cultural importance for many surrounding tribal communities. The Academy consists of daylong sessions with various Indigenous youth groups. The key components of each session include an interpretive tour of the Preserve, a panel discussion with local STEM professionals and students, followed by an interactive learning project.
This year, we programmed with three different groups: the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (Gallup, New Mexico), Native Americans for Community Action (Flagstaff, Arizona), and Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory (Flagstaff, Arizona). Youth participants ranged from middle school to high school age, and represented tribes including Navajo, Zuni, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Hopi, and Apache. The learning projects included rock art documentation and plant identification. Our panelists represented STEM fields from organizations including the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Natural Channel Design, Friends of the Rio de Flag, Museum of Northern Arizona, and Departments from Northern Arizona University including Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Communication, Forestry, and Applied Indigenous Studies. Panelists discussed their experiences in STEM, why they are passionate about their field and their advice for young people pursuing education and careers in those areas.
In order to gauge response to the programming as well as any changes in interest to pursue STEM in college or careers, our youth participants filled out pre- and post- survey questionnaires. The surveys included questions such as, “How interested are you in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) as a potential career?”, “How interested are you in going to college?”, and “How important do you feel it is for Native Americans to work in STEM fields?” One participant expressed, “It is extremely important for Native Americans to work in STEM careers. I feel Native Americans are extremely overlooked as we are seen to not be well-educated.” Another participant stated, “One of the biggest barriers [to Native Americans pursuing careers in STEM] is poor education in our home towns.”
Overall, we identified increased interest in pursuing college as well as learning more about various STEM areas and topics. There was a large number of positive responses to the programming activities, and many of our participants expressed that they found great value in the panel discussions specifically.
As this is the first year of the Indigenous Youth STEM Academy, we plan to incorporate lessons learned into year two of programming in 2018. We plan to focus on enhanced collaboration with a specific youth group in order to provide continuous and more focused programming to build upon each session rather than providing only one-time sessions with various youth groups. We will also be transitioning our program schedule from summer sessions to sessions taking place during the school year to be able to engage youth more consistently throughout the year.
It is extremely exciting and rewarding to have these types of experiences where we are learning alongside Indigenous youth and witnessing their strength, intelligence, leadership and potential. We greatly look forward to continuing these efforts into the next year and the future.
Guest Blog Post by Dawn Pfeffer, STEM VISTA at Killip STEM Academy
During the start of Killip Elementary School’s fall break, some 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students spent time using the engineering design process to design gloves for astronauts in space! We spent the week working in teams to test different materials against the dangers in space, including space dust, cold temperatures, and potential impacts from flying objects. Using the results from their tests, students chose the materials provided to ensure safety for the astronauts. They also had to make sure their astronauts could complete tasks after exposure to these dangers. Preliminary tests led to ingenious designs by these clever engineers!
Students persevered through tough challenges when the materials didn’t function as planned, but we worked together to develop solutions, improve designs and complete testing. At the end of the week, the students were able to showcase their designs and demonstrate the tests to future engineering students at Killip. Way to go engineers!
The Engineering Space Gloves curriculum is being developed through a collaborative project with NAU's Center for Science Teaching and Learning, the Flagstaff USGS Astrogeology Center, the Museum of Science Boston, and other collaborators including STEM City. The PLANETS (Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science) project is creating space-themed educational resources for out-of-school-time programs.
The 5-year grant is supported by NASA under cooperative agreement NNX16AC53A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
My name is Madison Ledgerwood. I am currently a STEM VISTA at NAU's Rethink Possible. I was raised and shaped in the Southwest which nurtured my love for the land, and of all species. I relocated to indigenous land, Flagstaff, in 2010. This is where earned my degree in Environmental Studies, engaged with the community around the intersection of social and environmental issues in the Action Research Teams (ARTs), and began to uncover my own power and potential. Before long, I realized I wanted to more deeply understand what diverse experiences and understandings led individuals to begin fostering a thriving and harmonious world and what it took for them to devote themselves to such engagement and maintain their well-being. I researched this and earned my MA in Sustainable Communities. I also created Community and University Public Inquiry, an interdisciplinary community-based research program, while in graduate school.
Now, I yearn for a world in which people do not feel powerless but utterly capable; a world in which people dream of more sustainable, thriving futures and find their unique way to contribute to creating such a world. When I tune into the earth, the plants, the rocks, the wind at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, I know that hope is found in more of us finding our niche, in more of us finding the unique work we have to offer and that is needed now on the planet. I am committed to mentoring others who are searching for their skills, power and potential. I aim to spread light by blooming emerging seeds into empowered leaders. My STEM VISTA position cultivates my dream by providing me the opportunity to design curriculum, connect to volunteers in diverse fields, and expand the reach of a program that engages students around the “big questions” of college, such as what they want to major in and contribute to the world.
My name is Julia Sullivan, and I am currently working as the AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Engagement Coordinator at Grand Canyon Trust. I grew up in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts before moving to Washington, DC to attend American University, where I earned degrees in Environmental Studies and International Development. I also spent much of my time as a college student training and competing as a member of American University’s cross country/track team. I graduated in 2014 and, after a stint working on international policy with The Nature Conservancy and coaching high school cross country in my hometown, decided to join the Peace Corps. During my two years as a Community Environmental Conservation Volunteer in Panama, I lived in a rural coffee-farming area and worked closely with community members to bring a number of conservation projects to fruition. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with teachers at the community school to facilitate sexual health workshops, leadership trainings, and camping trips with local youth.
Now back in the States, I’m thrilled to have made the move to Flagstaff and to be working in a position that combines my two great passions – environmental conservation and working with youth. This year, I look forward to connecting diverse young people to the natural splendor of the Colorado Plateau, inspiring them towards environmental stewardship and advocacy, and creating opportunities for them to step into leadership roles in the field of conservation.
My name is Sally Henkel and this year I’m working with the Grand Canyon Trust as their Citizen Science Volunteer Coordinator. I will be working towards engaging underrepresented youth in citizen science and making conservation more accessible. I just recently found my way down to Arizona from Missoula, Montana. While Montana has been home for several years, I fell in love with the Colorado plateau on an impromptu river trip a few years back.
I graduated with a BA in forensic anthropology and mountain studies. I have since moved all around working as an international trip leader, a field instructor in Yellowstone, a wildlife biologist, a teacher, a beer slinger, and adventure snack extraordinaire. Upon moving to Montana roughly five years ago, I began to discover the depth of my love for conservation and ecology. I’m passionate about connecting people to the landscape, wolverine conservation, and teaching ecological knowledge as a means to understand systems. When I’m not in the office, I can usually be found running around the woods, telling corny jokes or seeking winter- usually they all happen at once!
My name is Camille Alexander, and I am a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA member at STEM City. I am serving as their Evaluation Coordinator for this year, and my job is creating an inventory of STEM assets in Flagstaff and evaluating these programs for the purpose of bridging the gap between STEM leaders and institutions that traditionally serve students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. I am really excited for this year of service in a wonderful, tight-knit community.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but Phoenix has been home for most of my life. I graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, and served as an AmeriCorps member through the American Conservation Experience. My goal is to attend graduate school in the near future and have a career in environmental education. I am most interested in teaching young children the importance of environmental stewardship so they will have a greater appreciation of our natural world as an adult. Everything that I learn through my year of service will put me in the right direction.
I look forward to working with you all!
My name is Larrea Cottingham and I am the Climate and Energy VISTA at the City of Flagstaff through the Flagstaff STEM Education Project. In my role, I am working to expand the Sustainability Section’s outreach around climate and energy, both in schools and the community. I am currently working to develop a climate leadership academy for local high school students that will give students an opportunity to become more climate literate, and engage in place-based climate action and outreach at home, school and in their community. I am excited to work with community members and local organizations to create ambitious educational opportunities around climate and the environment for everyone in the Flagstaff community.
I moved to Flagstaff in 2014 to attend Northern Arizona University where I received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Arts in Teaching Science. Throughout college I played violin and viola in the NAU Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, and I still often play for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. I am passionate about ecological conservation and outdoor education, and I am inspired to create a career that combines my love of exploring wild places and desire to protect them. I love to spend as much time outside as possible, so I have worked in wildlife biology and as an instructor at the Colorado Outward Bound School. I am always eager to plan the next big adventure, but in the meantime, I can be found exploring the mountains, rivers, and canyons.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator