Guest Blog Post by Vicki Anderson, VISTA Member, STEM Educator and Curriculum Developer at Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory
Kinlani Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory has a Robotics/AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society)/STEM Club with 15 members so far! They are making robots with our Lego Robotics Coach-Mentor Larry Marek. They began using the NAU Cline Library MakerLab on September 14th with Bryan Johnson, the Tech Services Coordinator. Club members will learn TinkerCAD to use NAU’s 3D printer for their Engineering STEM Challenges prototypes.
On September 9th, nine high school students participated in an Indigenous Youth STEM Academy with the Flagstaff Open Space Program. This program aims to connect Indigenous youth with cultural and natural resources at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The Preserve provides a unique opportunity for learning about the connection between culture, community, and stewardship as it is home to Northern Sinagua petroglyphs and habitation sites, and represents a place of cultural importance for many surrounding tribal communities. Each session encompasses a full day of activities, including an interpretive tour of the Preserve, a lunch panel discussion with local STEM professionals and students, and a hands-on service-learning project. This program is organized by STEM VISTA Member Erin O'Keefe.
STEM Engineering Challenges competitions are also open to all students biweekly. All STEM activities are coordinated by AmeriCorps VISTA educator Vicki Anderson, and our motivated FBD staff. As you can see, we are “steaming” ahead in our STEM Education projects!
The students attended the Flagstaff Festival of Science “Engineering Solutions” kick off with keynote speaker Kyle Maynard on September 22nd at NAU’s Ardrey Auditorium. He was born without a complete set of arms and legs. With engineering solutions from Kahtoola, a Flagstaff company, and serious determination, he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt. Aconcagua in South America.
Get out for some of the 100 free events at the 28th Annual Flagstaff Festival of Science and you will see the Kinlani STEM students!
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: email@example.com
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.
NAU's Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity is hosting their 13th annual Bug Camp at Willow Bend this summer. The first camp was from June 19 to 23 and the next one is from July 17 to 21, but the camp already has a long waiting list. What makes Bug Camp so popular? Bugs of course! Plus some very cool camp counselors.
Campers learn about insect natural history, behavior, and biodiversity through a series of fun projects and activities. Campers collect insects, create their own insect collections, build their own bugs, and cook and eat insect cuisine. They also go out on a night adventure where they can lure moths, and other new insects in with lights.
Campers are from 6 - 10 years old and their are 7 counselors plus 2 junior counselors for 24 campers in teams with cool names like the Ladybug Ladies, Flying Tarantulas, and Lava Locusts. This year, they were able to offer 6 scholarships for students to attend the camp. Campers come from all over Arizona, plus Colorado, Nevada, and California!
Lindsie McCabe, a PhD candidate at NAU, has been leading the Bug Camp for the past four years. Her advisor, Neil Cobb, began the Camp 13 years ago and says it seems like yesterday. Neil came in for “Ask a Scientist" and tried to answer questions from the campers: "How many total hairs are there on all the flies in the world?" and "How many baby insects are being born right now?"
At the end of camp one of the campers ran up to Lindsie and hugged her legs and said
"I love this camp I never want to leave!".
Thank you to Neil Cobb and the Bug Camp counselors for photos, information, and quotes!
Kinney Construction Services (KCS) and Peak Engineering led a tour of the Fort Tuthill construction project for Gretchen Downey's 8th grade classes. KCS worked with one of the classes in the Middle School Institute of Technology and Engineering (MITe) at Sinagua Middle School through the Scientists in the Classroom program founded by Jillian Worssam for the entire 2016-2017 school year. (See previous blog post here.)
KCS management and employees attended Downey's class once each month and walked the engineering students through all the steps of a construction project in a logical progression through the year. Civil engineers Julie Leid and Michael Bechtel from Peak Engineering also presented at one class and assisted on the culminating field trip to Fort Tuthill.
This project entails extensive improvements to the four-acre Fort Tuthill fairgrounds with the goals of better showcasing the original historic buildings and reinvigorating the space to better suit events and performances on a year-round basis. The scope is based on a detailed Master Plan and includes repairing and replacing failing water and wastewater pipelines, adding trees and landscaping, and creating seating areas and more inviting pedestrian spaces.
KCS Marketing Specialist Katie Colombini made a quiz on the history of Fort Tuthill: See how well you do! Correct Answers are below the last photo. No Cheating!
1. Fort Tuthill is named after which of the following:
A. A permanent army post located in Arizona.
B. The Pima and Maricopa Indian tribes.
C. General Alexander M. Tuthill.
D. Teddy Roosevelt’s dog.
2. Which of the following statements regarding Fort Tuthill is false:
A. It was constructed in 1929.
B. It was considered one of the finest National Guard training facilities in the U.S.
C. It served as the annual field-training site for the 158th Infantry Regiment Arizona National Guard from 1929 to 1937, again in 1939, and for the last time in 1948.
D. It was once over run with really aggressive squirrels.
E. None of the above – all of the statements are true.
3. The 158th Infantry regiment traces its origin to:
A. The First Regiment of Arizona Volunteers organized in 1865.
B. The Pima and Maricopa Indian tribes
C. The First Arizona Infantry
D. Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.
4. General Tuthill’s military career began when he:
A. Enlisted in a cavalry troop of the California National Guard.
B. Organized and commanded, as a Captain, the 2nd Cavalry Troop
C. Was promoted to Colonel commanding the 1st Arizona Infantry
D. First started fighting with his brother as a child
5. The distinctive shoulder patch of the 158th Regimental Combat Team depicting the Bushmaster snake coiled around a jungle machete evolved from:
A. The team’s jungle warfare training experience in Panama in 1941.
B. The captain’s weird obsession with snakes and machetes.
C. The 158th being selected as Honor Guard for President Woodrow Wilson during the Paris Peace Conference.
D. The Regimental Band was also designated as the President's Honor Band.
E. None of the above.
6. The 158th served five and one-half years on active duty and was:
A. Continuously in a combat zone longer then any National Guard unit in all U.S. wars.
B. The first Army unit to be trained in jungle warfare establishing the first Jungle Warfare School.
C. The first Army unit to be sent overseas after Peal Harbor.
D. The organization that traveled further in their 5 ½ years of active duty than any Army unit in any war.
E. All of the above.
7. From 1929 to 1937, again in 1939, and for the last time in 1948 the regiment trained at its permanent field-training site located at which of the following sites:
A. Fort Tuthill outside Flagstaff Arizona.
B. Fort Sill in Oklahoma
C. Camp Barkley in Texas
D. All of the above because the regiment did not have a permanent training site.
8. All of the following statements about General Tuthill are true EXCEPT:
A. In civilian life he was a distinguished and innovative surgeon credited with pioneering the use of foreign material in bone surgery.
B. In the early 1900’s, while chief surgeon for the Detroit Mining Company Hospital in Morenci Arizona, he used silver plates and screws crafted by an Indian silversmith to secure the bones of a badly fractured leg. He later used a similar silver plate to close a large opening in a patient’s skull. This is believed to be the first recorded use of metal plates in a surgical procedure.
C. He was a member of Arizona’s Constitutional Convention,
D. On his return from WW I service, he established a private medical practice in Phoenix.
E. He retired in 1952 at the age of 81.
F. He served as State superintendent of Public Health from 1921 to 1923,
G. The General’s decorations and awards included the 1st Arizona Medal of Honor ever awarded and the United States Medal for Merit awarded by President Harry S. Truman.
H. None of the above – all of the statements are true.
9. Did you know?? All of the following statements are true EXCEPT:
A. Fort Tuthill Museum attendance has grown by 750% from the 2005 opening to 2016.
B. In 1934 machine gun mounted ferry boats manned by soldiers of the 158th Infantry
patrolled the Colorado River in a dispute with California over water rights.
C. 100% of Fort Tuthill Military Museum's funding is from donations.
D. Fort Tuthill has been visited by every living U.S. President.
Answers: 1.c, 2.e, 3.a, 4.a, 5.a, 6.e, 7.a., 8.h, 9.d
Thank you KCS and Peak Engineering for your contributions to the Scientists in the Classroom program! Thank you to Science Foundation Arizona for funding the transportation for this field trip through the SFAZ+8: Building Capacity for STEM Pathways in Rural Arizona grant from the National Science Foundation.
The dozen high school students in the iCREATE CTE Bioscience class toured two very different labs at NAU on Monday, April 24th. First, they ventured to the Geochronology Lab in the Science Lab Facility building where Lab Manager Katherine Whitacre described the process of amino acid racemization and how it is used to date small specimens including single microorganisms or bits of mollusk shells, egg shells, etc. Northern Arizona University has one of the few amino acid geochronology labs in the United States and has analyzed samples from all over the world for almost 20 years under the leadership of Lab Director and Regents Professor Darrell Kaufman. Below, graduate student Ethan Yackulic showed one of his sediment cores from Crater Lake in Colorado.
The lab has a large walk-in refrigerator with lake cores from all over the world, collected by NAU researchers and graduate students. The cores are kept cold so unwanted microorganisms don't grown on the surfaces. Ethan uses a Specim hyperspectral single core scanner designed for studying lake sediment core samples. By changing the range of wavelengths, he can detect locations of specific minerals or organic compounds, to help pinpoint where to collect his samples.
In the photos above: Katherine is dissolving mollusk shells with hydrochloric acid, an iCREATE student looks at shells under the microscope, and graduate student Kara Gibson uses a particle size analyzer on soil samples for her dissertation research.
Many of the research results from this lab focus on understanding paleoclimate change, which may then inform our understandings of, and models for, present climate change. You can learn more about this research here.
The next tour was to Nathan Nieto's lab in the Wettaw Biochemistry Building. Dr. Nieto has studied numerous animals in the past, but these days his lab is overwhelmed with ticks being mailed to him from all over the country. On an average day, the graduate students and undergraduate researchers in his lab will identify, grind, extract DNA and run real time PCR on 200-400 samples to determine whether the tick is host to pathogens such as Lyme disease and tick-borne relapsing fever. One week in May of 2016 he received over 2,000 ticks in the mail and it looks like he may exceed that this May. The tick study will identify what regions of the country have which species of ticks and what diseases they are carrying. This project will create a "heat map" of tick-borne diseases that can then be used by doctors and epidemiologists.
Photos above: Nate looks over where some of the many ticks are being mailed from, just a few of the mailboxes of ticks in his lab, and undergraduate Shienna Braga who is identifying the species of ticks at the microscope.
Photos above: Nate shows an iCREATE student the number of eggs one female tick laid, and graduate student Tanner Porter leads the lab tour for the students, including the refrigerator with thousands of samples from numerous animals including coyote tongues (possible reservoir for Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever), mice, squirrels, bats and more!
Nate's lab website explains what keeps him busy: "Our research focuses on the ecological maintenance and evolution of infectious diseases in wild animals and how this translates into transmission of disease to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. We use a mixture of microbiology, molecular biology, phylogenetics and population ecology to investigate empirical infectious disease dynamics in wild animal populations.
Thank you Katherine, Nate, and generous students for sharing your time and knowledge with the iCREATE bioscience class!
Guest Blog Post by Rose Houk
It’s pretty easy to just flush the toilet and forget where our human waste goes. For most of us, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”
But on a Saturday in April, nearly 50 interested residents toured Flagstaff’s Rio de Flag Water Reclamation plant to look a little deeper into where our wastewater goes once it leaves our homes and businesses.
It turns out the behind-the-scenes story is really interesting.
The Rio de Flag Water Reclamation Plant is a clean, attractive building standing just beyond Sam’s Club by a trail along the Rio. Inside are bright offices, maps on the walls, and a friendly city employee, Jim Huchel, who greeted us and led the tour.
Once we were all signed in, Jim gave us a firsthand look at the reclamation process from beginning to end. The plant, built in 1993, receives wastewater from the west side of Flagstaff. It first comes into the “primary clarifier,” what looks like a big black spaceship that just touched down. We peered inside to see a thick, dark, watery substance just sitting there.
Unseen were the natural bacteria that were beginning to biologically alter the wastes. Some of the material in the chamber stays suspended, while other parts sink. The suspended solids are skimmed off and sent down to the city’s other water reclamation plant at Wildcat Hill.
In the next step, the liquid enters a secondary chamber where it’s further clarified. It then flows indoors where it’s treated with ultraviolet light for a third step of purification.
Jim poured the water into a wineglass, and it looked good enough to drink. In fact, it’s graded as Class A+, but under Arizona regulations reclaimed water can’t yet be used as potable, or drinking, water.
Residents had lots of questions: Is the reclaimed water okay to put on plants? Is it safe to drink? Using reclaimed water for drinking will take getting over the “yuck” factor, said Erin Young, the city’s water conservation manager. She noted that Arizona is devising regulations that might make that a possibility.
The Rio de Flag plant can treat up to four million gallons of wastewater each day. In summer, nearly all the reclaimed water is spoken for –to irrigate fields, parks, and golf courses, some residences, and for industrial uses. In winter, the city sells excess reclaimed water to the Arizona Snowbowl for snowmaking. A certain percentage also goes back into the Rio. According to the city, reclaimed water accounts for about 20 percent of Flagstaff’s total water use.
Next time you see those purple pipes and signs indicating reclaimed water, it will have a whole new meaning.
A Big STEM City Thank You to Rose Houk for this post! And to Jim Huchel and Erin Young of the City of Flagstaff for this engaging and educational tour!
Ms. Wertz - Teacher Feature - December 2016
Kathryn is committed to the Scientists in the Classroom program at SMS, founded and run by 8th grade science educator Jillian Worssam. This program has two components - a one-on-one mentoring program for the 7th and 8th grade Honors Science students, and a classroom business-engagement program for all other science classes. This partnership program has expanded each year since Jillian began it four years ago, and is based on businesses, government agencies, and non-profits that are willing to share their STEM and work expertise with 6th - 8th grade students.
Kathryn presently has five STEM partners! This means she has to do some juggling with her classes to keep them all on track when she has different partners coming into each class on different days, but she claims it is well worth it for what her students gain from these STEM partners!
Judy Tincher with the Arizona Conservation Corps has been a partner with Kathryn for the past three years. Her team visited the classroom to introduce what the Arizona Conservation Corps is all about. Students got to participate in a "Safety Briefing" and were even introduced to some of the equipment worn and used by actual Corps members! Warner's Nursery has also been a Scientists in the Classroom Partner for the psat three years and is working with one of Kathryn's classes this year.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is a new partner this year. Meg Adakai, a STEM VISTA Member, and Phyllis Wolfskill (a former educator at SMS!) included an introduction to the museum and a lesson on careful observation and excavation of artifacts during their first visit to their partner class. The next month, Dr. Larry Stevens led the students in a discussion of ecological food pyramids and the students built a food pyramid with local species.
Lisa Winters is also a STEM VISTA Member, doing citizen science with Grand Canyon Trust, another new Scientists in the Classroom partner. Lisa is not new to the program though as she represented Arizona Game and Fish as a partner last year! Lisa also participates in the one-one-one mentorship program and she had her mentee, Brook Bellar, help her present on healthy watersheds to her new partner class.
The Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (EcoSS) at NAU is a new partner as well. ECOSS created an Education Outreach Committee and have presented at the Festival of Science as well as other venues, teaching studnerts about ecology and ecosystems. Dr. Ben Koch, and graduate students Alessandra Zuniga and Adam Siders led the students to a site where they could begin a decomposition study on a variety of natural materials.
Thank you Kathryn for your educational leadership, and thank you to all her STEM Partners working with Kathryn to increase student engagement and understanding about STEM concepts and careers!
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, Ted Komada, STEM Coordinator at Killip Elementary School, organized 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!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator