Eleven high school students in the CAVIAT iCREATE bioscience class publicly presented their unique solutions to the authentic problem of tracking and reporting influenza-like illnesses in Coconino County. The presentations were held on March 7th at NAU's Center for Science Teaching and Learning. The students are in the second semester of this college-level course that earns credits from both Coconino Community College plus from Coconino High School or Flagstaff High School. The class meets after school for 2.5 hours each day from Monday to Thursday to learn the CTE (career and technical education) bioscience standards through an epidemiologic lens and with rich community involvement. Community partners include Coconino County Public Health Services District, North Country HealthCare, Northern Arizona Area Health Education Center, Northern Arizona Healthcare and TGen North. The students also gained assistance from Corryn Smith in using GIS technology for their reports.
Instructors Dr. Aaron Tabor and Robert (Bobby) Woodruff co-teach the class at NAU. Both have extensive experience in research and education. They also include additional community partners for in-class presentations and field trips. Students have toured the Science and Health Building at NAU, the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (ECOSS) laboratories, the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at Flagstaff Medical Center, and more!
The students study disease-causing agents as then use the tools necessary to determine what microbes cause the illnesses. The class includes biosafety skills, microbiology techniques, DNA extraction, separation and analysis. Students take an end-of-year test to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
Congratulations to all the students! And thank you to the community members that attended their presentations! NAU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Kain (Left), FUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Mary K Walton (Center), and FUSD Superintendent Mike Penca (Right), all came to hear the student presentations and ask them questions about their unique solutions to this authentic community problem.
Blog Post by Chelsea Silva, Executive Director, Friends of the Rio de Flag; STEM VISTA Member for Friends of the Rio and City of Flagstaff Sustainability
A Ribbon of Life for Flagstaff Students, Residents, and Visitors
Walking from City Hall north you will find yourself on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS), seemingly headed towards the San Francisco Peaks. As you pass the Public Library, you’ll notice Wheeler Park to your right and a grassy, depression with a footbridge crossing to your right, the Rio de Flag.
An ephemeral stream, you will not see water in this grassy channel unless a monsoon hits in the summer or snow melts and flows downstream in the winter.
Keep wandering half a mile up the FUTS along the Rio de Flag and you will quickly arrive at Frances Short Pond. Filled naturally and sometimes supported with additional reclaimed water, the “duck pond” is one of the most visited sites along the Rio due to the recreation and wildlife viewing opportunities it provides.
The pond and the Rio flowing downstream from it provide a unique setting for Flagstaff students to learn about their environment. The Rio also gives students a chance to give back to their river through restoration and citizen science.
It is my goal as an AmeriCorps STEM VISTA member to connect Flagstaff students with the Rio de Flag. That is why I started the Adopt-the-Rio de Flag Stewardship program in my first VISTA term in 2016-2017. This program allowed me to connect with local teachers to share resources and provide introductory lessons on the Rio de Flag.
In fall 2017, freshman and sophomore biology students at Flagstaff High School began participation in the program. First, the students engaged in a classroom Introduction to the Rio, exploring different aspects of the Rio in small groups.
The following month, students collected data on the Rio de Flag, which was done in partnership with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s citizen science program called Arizona Water Watch. All of the photos in this blog post are courteous of these students who worked hard to document their surroundings as part of the data collection protocol.
During the remainder of my position, I hope to expand these place-based learning opportunities to other Flagstaff students. To achieve this goal, I will host a teacher workshop in the spring that focuses on stewardship, citizen science, and the Rio de Flag. This will give teachers the tools they need to connect their students to the Rio de Flag as stewards of their local river.
In order for the Adopt-the-Rio program to continue into the future, I also conduct grant writing and partnership building as part of my AmeriCorps STEM VISTA position. These tasks require a watershed-wide focus and long-term visioning with guidance and support from local government, residents, businesses and nonprofits.
The Rio de Flag is Flagstaff’s river, and it is our collective duty to protect it for future generations. My AmeriCorps STEM VISTA position gives students the chance to take the lead in protecting and restoring the Rio through citizen science and stewardship.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Rio de Flag, we welcome you to watch our new short film, “Ribbon of Life.” Produced by one of our volunteers, Brittain Davis, this film is about those who visit and love the Rio de Flag.
Guest Blog Post by Larrea Cottingham, AmeriCorps VISTA, City Sustainabilty Section
To prepare Flagstaff for the changing climate, the City of Flagstaff is in the process of developing a community-wide Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (Climate Plan). City staff and the Climate Plan Steering Committee are prioritizing community engagement and input throughout the planning process to create a plan that fits Flagstaff and meets community needs. To support this process and increase climate action and preparedness in Flagstaff, AmeriCorps VISTA Larrea Cottingham has been developing youth and community engagement opportunities for climate action since she began her service with City’s Sustainability Program in August.
Larrea has created a new opportunity for students to get involved in climate action through the Student Climate Action Challenge. To participate, during the spring semester student groups of two or more must plan and begin implementing a project related to climate change in Flagstaff, northern Arizona, or the Colorado Plateau that serves their school, community, or the environment.
All student groups will present their work at the first ever Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit. Larrea is inviting City Staff, City Leadership, and the press to the Summit to see the important climate action work accomplished by Flagstaff students. Additionally, the City will award the top three student groups up to $1,000 to continue climate action next year.
To aid students in their climate action work, Larrea has also written the Student Climate Action Toolkit: a planning guide for taking climate action. This guide is designed to help students develop leadership and project management skills as they plan and implement climate action projects. In addition, Larrea has also made herself available to mentor student groups interested in participating in the Challenge. If you, or students you know are interested in forming an Action Team or environmental club, let Larrea know how she can help.
Visit the website to learn more and sign-up for the Student Climate Action Challenge, the Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit, and download the Toolkit. Please contact Larrea Cottingham at email@example.com or 928-213-2156 if you have any questions.
Students are not the only ones who get to participate in climate action this year! Larrea and City staff have organized several opportunities for all community members to get involed Flagstaff’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan:
Join your friends and neighbors at the first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan Community Open House:
Val Callaway is the STEM Education VISTA Leader, for the Flagstaff STEM Education Project. She completed a 2-year service-term in the National Civilian Community Corps in 2001 igniting her passion for working in the nonprofit and public service sector. Then, after nearly 10 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico doing everything from Wildland Firefighting to serving six years in the New Mexico Army National Guard, Val moved back home to Phoenix, Arizona to be close to family.
Val attended Grand Canyon University earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Educational Studies and a Master’s of Science in Leadership while working at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix.
Val has a background in program and curriculum development with youth of varying ages. She successfully designed and implemented several after school programs including an; Urban Arts Program, STEAM Education Program, and a BMX STEM program where teens learned the science of bikes while serving their local community by offering free bike maintenance to youth in the community.
When Val isn’t helping her partner with their three kids and five dogs, you can almost always find them camping, fishing or biking local trails. With her partner being an international level roller derby skater and their children attending a performing arts school, this active family is constantly finding new adventures.
STEM City and the NAU Civic Service Center are thrilled to have Val serving as our STEM VISTA Leader, and Val is looking forward to serving this upcoming year and being given the opportunity to support an amazing and talented group of VISTAS.
Guest Blog Post by Ben Koch, Senior Research Associate, NAU
Researchers at NAU’s Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (ECOSS) have partnered for the second year with one of Kathryn Wertz's 6th grade science classes at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff as part of the ‘Scientists in the Classroom’ program founded by Jillian Worssam, and assisted by STEM City. In November, ECOSS scientists worked with students to begin a 5-month-long decomposition experiment in the forest near the school. The students learned that decomposition is the process by which living things are broken down into simpler and simpler pieces, and that decomposers like invertebrates, bacteria, and fungi accomplish this feat by consuming dead organisms in order to get the energy they need to survive, grow, and reproduce. The students considered which kinds of dead organisms decompose quickly, and which kinds decompose more slowly, depending on their chemical composition (i.e., a deer skeleton will take longer to decompose than an earthworm because it is made of bone, not soft tissue).
The students are investigating these ideas with a field experiment in which they are comparing the decomposition rates of leaves from two different species of trees: Oak and Ponderosa Pine. The students deployed set amounts of each of these leaf species in mesh bags on the forest floor near their school, and they used bags with two different sizes of mesh: coarse (the black bags in the photos) and fine (the white bags in the photos). When placing the leaf-bags in the forest, the students made observations and predictions about which leaf type and which bag type will yield the fastest decomposition. In April, ECOSS scientists and the students will retrieve their leaf-litter experiment to measure the mass loss of the leaves in each bag. The students will then take a field trip to the ECOSS laboratories on the NAU campus, where, among other activities, they will be able to weigh their leaf-bags and create a graph of their experimental results.
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.
The 12 CAVIAT students in the iCREATE high school bioscience class at NAU are learning some basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills to help track patient health for their epidemiology projects. Corryn Smith patiently teaches the students the basics of GIS. Corryn has presented to the class twice this fall, and will certainly be helping them again as they prepare their group projects.
Corryn is an Instructor for the Geography, Planning, and Recreation department at NAU. She received her MS in Applied Geospatial Sciences with a Planning and Recreation Emphasis in May 2017. Her Master's thesis research looked at using geospatial technologies to locate travel networks (Forest Service roads and trails) in Flagstaff. Her interests include: geospatial technologies and recreation, geospatial technologies and sustainable land management, GIS in education, and Python Programming for Women and Minorities.
Thank you Corryn for your friendly and professional help!
NAU Seniors Kara McAlister, Isabella McCormick, Abby Rulison, Danna Durney, and Darlene Escobedo, organized a career fair for the students in the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory for their Social Work 423 Course taught by Dr. Anne Medill. They raised funds for pizza for the Flagstaff High School students who live at the dorm.
The five students worked together to invite different professionals to the Career Fair. A partial list includes: Rick Wright from the City of Flagstaff Wastewater Treatment; Jennifer Dunivn from Empire Beauty School; Jessica Garard and Matt Brydenthal from Re/Max Peak Properties; Efeleina Yazzie from Coconino County Adult Probation; Owner and Personal trainer Jesse Coddington from New Roots; Doug Hatch from Hatch Plumbing; Highland Fire Department firefighters Casey Wood, Chris Thomas and Earl Callendar; Mark Cox from the Boys and Girls Club; Hannah Ris, Matt Dyer, Norria Brice, Regina Eddie and Sophia Maceira from NAU Nursing; Danny Gutierrez and Howard Coldwell from the US Forest Service; Marina Xoc Vasquez from Applied Indigenous Studies; and Sonny Lomadofkie, a Native Initiatives Mentor. Thank you all!
Dr. Medill has student groups from both sections of this class form teams to create a meaningful project in the community. Thank you, Dr. Medill and students. And thank you to all the community members that gave their time and energy to this wonderful event! Also, thanks to STEM VISTA Member Vicki Anderson for her support of this project!
Guest Blog Post by Tessa Palazzolo, Mechanical Engineering at NAU
On November 13th, three schools competed in the second ever KidWind Challenge wind turbine design competition. Little Singer Community School, Coconino High School and Northland Preparatory Academy arrived with a total of 14 teams eager and ready to compete. The students were scored based on their wind turbine power output and their overall knowledge on wind energy, along with real life applications of the wind farm industry.
The event consisted of other ongoing challenges such as sail car designs, energy principle questions in jeopardy, and testing out the Human Powered Vehicle (HVP) designed by NAU’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The NAU ASME volunteers were also present at the competition to engage in questions related to college and the guidelines of becoming an engineer with the students. The overall experience of the KidWind Challenge provides a learning experience in hands-on creativity and allowing the students to be inspired with science, engineering and renewable energy.
The Little Singer 5th and 6th grade students were led by teacher Tom Tomas, and were doing an entire unit that incorporated literacy as well as engineering. Students are reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba (with Bryan Mealer) that shares the remarkable story of his youth in Malawi, Africa—a nation crippled by intense poverty - and how, with tenacity and imagination, he built a better life for himself, his family, and his village.
The students are also studying biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. You can see the biologic patterns in their blade designs above and below.
A big STEM City Thank you to Project Director Karin Wadsack, Lead Organizer Tessa Palazzolo and all the ASME students at NAU that came out to help! Also, thank you to the Boys and Girls Club of Flagstaff for hosting the KidWind Challenge again!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator