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.
The Navajo Nation, Marshall Elementary and STAR School are all in need of Science Fair Judges!
From the Navajo Nation: Red Rock State Park, Gallup, NM
The Navajo Nation Science Fair is at Red Rock State Park in Gallup, NM on February 27, 28 and March 1st. Judging is from 9 am to 12 pm each day. They are also looking for presentations or demonstrations for the same time period so that the teachers, parents, and bus drivers are engaged with something STEM-related out of the judging area while the students are getting their posters critiqued.
Please contact Allan Blacksheep at email@example.com for more information and/or to volunteer!
From Marshall: 850 N Bonito St, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Dear STEM Volunteers,
Would you like to be a part of history? This is your opportunity to be a judge at Flagstaff’s longest running science fair! Please consider being a judge for Marshall Magnet Elementary School's 31st Annual Science Fair on Monday, February 26th.
There are two ways to be involved:
1. You can judge projects in the Marshall gym, using a provided rubric, for
the length of time YOU have available, anytime between 9:30am and 5:00pm on Monday,
2. You can interview 5th grade students about their science projects in the
Marshall Science Lab from 9:00 - 11:00am on Monday, February 26th.
Your time is valuable and we greatly appreciate your consideration in
judging. Please forward this message to anyone you feel would make an
excellent judge. We cannot do this without you!
Thank you, Janelle Reasor, Art & Science Integration Specialist
From STAR School: 145 Leupp Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004; (928) 415-4157
Contact: STEM VISTA Member firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.
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!
Dr. Darlene Lee, an anatomical and clinical pathologist with Northern Arizona Healthcare, led a tour of Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at Flagstaff Medical Center to the high school iCREATE students. The iCREATE class is unique in the pronounced role of community members to the success of the class. Dr. Lee gave a tour last year, highlighted here, and it was one of the most memorable tours for the class. She made this one even more hands-on with additional partners from FMC.
Garn Bailey, Pathology Assistant, once again thoroughly engaged the students with a variety of human organs that he prepares for the pathologist to more critically analyze as needed. He dissected a gall bladder to show the gall stones, as well as a kidney that showed a cancerous area. He also went through the entire process of preparing thin sections from larger tissues and organs for analysis.
The surgeons in the hospital rely on the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory to rapidly prepare and assess samples while some patients are in surgery; to make sure they have removed all cancerous cells, or to determine the specific pathogen. When that occurs, tissues are quickly put on ice and are then sliced thinly in a cryostat, which keeps the tissues frozen. They are then rapidly stained and assessed by the pathologist. This entire process can occur in 20 minutes so the surgeon is able to receive the information during surgery to improve the patient's outcome.
The students then looked at blood samples with Dr. Lee. They were able to identify components of blood including white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes). Platelets are tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. She also showed them the image of the cancerous kidney tissue from the kidney Garn had shown them earlier.
Students observed the hospital's blood supply with Jordan Ippolito, a Medical Lab Scientist at FMC. She told the students that the shelf life of platelets is only 5 days, while frozen plasma is good for a year. Red blood cells are only functionally sound for 40 days because their ability to carry oxygen (their primary role) is impaired after that. The importance of donating blood cannot be overstated!
Two students volunteered to have their blood drawn so they could determine what blood type they are. Phlebotomist Troy Schafer cracked jokes with the students to put them at ease.
Jordan then had the remaining students look at blood sample directly through the microscope so they could put their earlier practice to use.
The final activity was to discuss what having blood types A,B, AB, or O really means, and then to complete the analysis of the blood types using the antigens that can cause blood to clot, depending on what the blood type is.
Thank you again for the fascinating and educational tour of the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at FMC! Special thanks to Dr. Darlene Lee, Garn Bailey, Jordan Ippolito and Troy Schafer! You are living up to your mission and goal; you definitely wowed us!
Guest Blog Post by Dawn Pfeffer, STEM VISTA at Killip STEM Academy
Girls Teaching Girls is a mentorship program between NAU students and young girls in Flagstaff at select locations. Girls Teaching Girls provide lessons and hands-on activities to promote leadership, community activism, empowerment, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) related skills with the goal of fostering female leaders of the future.
We kicked off the first week of the after school program at Killip Elementary with four girls participating on day one and ended the week with eight Killip students! The NAU girls seemed just as excited as the Killip girls to see this program get started. The first week included drawing pictures, talking about important problems they see and starting to ask the question "how can we fix these problems?"
Project Questions posed by NAU students that the Killip students selected from are listed below:
1. How can we become sustainable citizens?
2. How can we create a positive change through art?
3. How do we destroy stereotypes and stigmas?
4. Why is it important that we are all diverse and different?
5. How can we maintain a happy brain?
6. How can we get adults to better understand kids? What does it mean to be bilingual?
This problem based learning mentorship is just getting started and we here at Killip cannot wait to see what these Girls accomplish!
Note: Girls Teaching Girls is also mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club in Flagstaff so stay tuned for more updates!
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.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator