Dr. Bret Pasch, Assistant Professor in the biology department at NAU, is partnering with one of Jillian Worssam’s 8th grade science classes at Sinagua Middle School through the “Scientists in the Classroom” program founded by Jillian.
Bret specializes in recording and analyzing mouse vocalizations and has brought his digital sound recorder into Jillian’s classroom so the students can learn first-hand about singing mice. These grasshopper mice have a relatively loud voice so other mice can hear them over the vast distances in the desert where they live.
Bret shared audio recordings of the mice, and then slowed them down so the sound was more apparent to those of us with ears that don’t hear at high frequencies any more! He also showed the students how they can measure both the frequency and duration of the sounds on the sonogram.
The students are making hypotheses about whether the male or the female mice will vocalize more frequently, and which will have a higher pitch, higher amplitude (loudness), and longer duration of the sounds. Bret will leave the mice (male on one side of the room and female on the other) for the next few months along with the digital recorders so students can capture their vocalizations. The mice are nocturnal and vocalize more at night, so the students will be able to access their sounds when they return to school each day.
Bret fed the mice while eager students looked on. He fed them their natural diet of bark scorpions, which are one of most venomous scorpions in Arizona. These mice have a mutation in their pain receptors so they don’t feel the sting as much as another species of mice would. They also like Pinacate bugs that lift their hind ends and spray as a defense strategy. The mice have a behavior where they stick the bugs abdomens in the ground so they don’t get sprayed and then they eat the heads first!
Thank you to Bret for participating in the Scientists in the Classroom program and also for elucidating information on singing mice through a Science on Tap presentation to the community! Flagstaff really appreciates your scientific outreach to both our schools and our community!
Note: You can also see and hear the mice at Bonnie Stevens’ Brain Food story on Bret Pasch here!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Kinney Construction Services (KCS) is the most recent business to join the Scientists in the Classroom program, founded by Jillian Worssam, at Sinagua Middle School. KCS is working with one of Gretchen Downey's 8th grade MITe (Middle School Institute of Technology and Engineering) classes, and leading them through the process of commercial construction on an undeveloped site.
The first lesson focused on the many different people and careers involved in the construction business, including many engineering roles. KCS introduced an authentic case study that the students will follow through the year, as they continues their monthly outreach with the class. In the spring the students will likely visit the site on a culminating field trip. These highly-engaged students received stress ball construction helmets for answering questions on different jobs from initially surveying a site, designing the layout of the buildings for a site, and discussing how to make the project as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible.
KCS is committed to sustainable construction and was the commercial general contractor on NAU's International Pavillion. NAU, KCS and RSP Architects won the prestigious President's Award for Special Achievement, "Best of Show", as well as the coveted Crescordia Award at Arizona Forward's Environmental Excellence Awards. This new building produces as much energy as it uses onsite and is on track to be Arizona's first “Net Zero” energy higher-education facility. It was recognized as a "Building of the Future" and as one of the greenest buildings in the nation. And it is now used to teach a new generation of future citizens! You can see a short video and read more about the building and award in this article by AZ Central, and in the KCS Press Release.
KCS is also connecting their expertise in building for the future with the students involvement in the Future City program. The 8th grade MITe students are competing in this design-and-build competition for the 3rd year.
Thank you to KCS for joining the Scientists in the Classroom program!
The Scientists in the Classroom program has over twenty business, agency, and non-profit partners that meet monthly with students in a class they are partnered with at Sinagua Middle School. If you are interested in learning more about this program designed to engage students in real-world STEM applications, please contact the STEM Coordinator.
By Dave Engelthaler, Associate Professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the Chair of the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance. This column was adapted from the keynote speech, given by the author, at Science Foundation Arizona's "Giving a Voice to STEM" Conference at NAU on September 30, 2016.
I have often referred to Flagstaff as the Shining City on Arizona’s Hill. It is no accident that I borrow this phrase from the famous, precisely American, ideal of a “Shining City on a Hill”. The early pilgrims imagined that they could create such a community for themselves after escaping the historical norms of European controls on destiny.
Three hundred years later John F. Kennedy reminded of this founding ideal, stating that the world was watching our shining city and that we must live up to our promise; shortly there after, we embarked on one of the greatest journeys of all time and put a man’s foot on the moon (Flagstaff had something to do with that, more on that below).
Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan again reminded us of this American City on a Hill ideal; and while we may not often remember Reagan as a champion of science, he was convinced during his tenure to not only not cut the budget of the National Science Foundation, but rather double it, before he left office. But, as under Kennedy and Reagan and other presidents in before and after, no matter what our economic and cultural condition, we have always led the way in advancing humanity through the sciences.
It is this ideal that convinces me that in Flagstaff, we are a Shining STEM City on Arizona’s Hill.
In August of 2012, a group of Flagstaff Leaders, Businessmen, Educators, Scientists, and Concerned Citizens gathered in the woods on the base of the San Francisco Peaks. This group coalesced around the idea that Flagstaff is a STEM-rich City and that we as a community, businesses and schools, elected leaders and CEOs, teachers and families, needed to collectively band together to bring this rich surrounding to bear on the education of our children and enrich our communities.
There, up on our Hillside, we all mutually pledged our time, talent and resources towards making the STEM City ideals happen. In short – our goal was to have the most STEM literate graduates living and working in a thriving STEM-based economy.
We also had a unofficial motto for the day: “Dare Mighty Things”, which we borrowed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who had, just the preceding night, coordinated the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars (and again, Flagstaff had something to do with this mission). And we both stole that from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Far better it is to dare mighty things” speech.
Historian, Fredrick Jackson Turner, just a few years before TR’s famous speech, gave us his “Frontier Thesis”, and proclaiming that with the end of the American Frontier, so might be the end the American spirit. While Jackson aptly, and controversially, linked Americanism and American spirit to the discovery and exploration of the American Frontier, I feel that he missed the mark in not understanding the new frontiers that we would identify and explore.
Our increased understanding and use of science and engineering opened up brand new frontiers, beyond land and sea.
One such Frontier, The Space Frontier, was no longer a pastoral landscape to watch from afar. Our STEM City has been at the forefront of the exploration of this new frontier, from the discovery of Pluto, to the training of Apollo astronauts in our backyard, to the camera control of the Mars Rover from our USGS facility, and now finally to the deep space explorations through our Discovery Channel telescope, providing insight into the beginnings of our universe and images of a frontier previously unseen.
Likewise, Flagstaff is home to TGen and the new Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at NAU, where some of the brightest minds are exploring another previously unseen universe – the microbiome. Every day, scientists in Flagstaff are embarking on the incredible journey into the human microbiome – the unseen ecosystem of bacteria and viruses and fungi that live on and in the human body. We are trying to understand how these microbes live, compete, collaborate and otherwise interact during our healthy and disease states. We, ourselves, our bodies, are the new frontier – and again that frontier exploration is here in our STEM City.
And we could go on about the new frontiers ventured by W.L.Gore engineers and SenesTech scientists and MNA paleontologists and Park Service geologists. The frontier is here in our STEM City and some of the greatest pioneers are the trainers of our next generation– the teachers and education professionals of our great public, charter and private schools. Most are ready, willing and able to interact with all of these resources; and some, like former STEM City Teacher of the Year Jillian Worssam, just kick down the door and say: “Let’s do this thing!”
Our STEM City is Worssam’s wildly successful Scientists in the Classroom. It is the Flagstaff Festival of Science (the longest running one in the country). We are the Coconuts; we are the Annual STEMMY'S Awards Ceremony; the STEM Art Competition; and the Super Bowl of STEM in the Dome event (where upwards of 8% of Flagstaff turns out!); we are the Space Station Science Experiment and the High Altitude Balloon Launches; and the superstar Killip Kindergarten Chess team that likes to challenge our Mayor. We are seventh-grade girls wearing lab coats inside a world-class research lab and we are a group of high schoolers rafting down our majestic Canyon to learn our geologic past. We are the Chamber Coding Camps. We are grad students teaching and learning in the K-12 classroom. We are parents, students and teachers on a hill having a star party. We are, in a phrase, America’s First STEM Community.
Arizona, and the rest of the country, is watching our shining STEM City
and we must live up to our promise.
Guest Post by Lisa Winters
Arizona Game and Fish Department Fish Biologist Lisa Winters and NAU Centennial Forest Manager Cheryl Miller teamed up to bring native fish into the classroom at Haven Montessori School on Tuesday, March 22nd. Critically endangered bonytail chub, desert pupfish, and razorback sucker, among other species were toted into the elementary classrooms of Kristine Downard and Elisa McKnight via a big green wagon. Children discussed the threats posed to our Arizona native fishes, and then explored the unique adaptations of each fish and made predictions as to their preferred habitat. The highlight was the chance to hold a large, nonnative bluegill; though a bit “slimy”, its sharp spines were a notably different protection than what native fish possess.
Arizona Game and Fish also currently participates in the Scientists in the Classroom program, with aquariums set up in both Kathryn Wertz’s 6th grade and Jillian Worssam’s 8th grade classrooms at Sinagua Middle School. Always an attention-grabber to have live fish, the goal of Native Fish in the Classroom is to encourage appreciation of native Arizona fishes and introduce students to wildlife careers through data collection and critical observation, while further preparing students to become stewards of local watersheds and make informed decisions on caring for the environment. Hopefully the memories will last a lifetime!
Thank you to Lisa Winters for her blog post and photos, and to Arizona Game and Fish and NAU's Centennial Forest for all you do to help STEM education in Flagstaff!
Superbowl of STEM
The 3rd Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration kicked off the week on Monday, March 7th at the NAU Skydome with almost every school, STEM business, government agency, and non-profit in Flagstaff! You can relive the excitement with Flg4TV's 2 minute video here!
High-Altitude Balloon Launch
On Wednesday, March 9th, Teacher Kaci Heins and 100 NPA 6th graders sent their payload to over 106,000 feet on a high-altitude balloon from the Flagstaff Airport. Community Leader Bruce Sidlinger and his Aeronautics Engineering class from Flag High, Airport Director Barney Helmick, the Coconino Amateur Radio Club, the Civil Air Patrol, and many other community partners were there to assist. You can see images and hear the story from KNAU's science and technology field reporter Melissa Sevigny here.
Women Executives in STEM Panel
NAU hosted the panel on Thursday, March 10th. All of the women had connections to NAU and facilitator Elizabeth Glass recommended that the many students in attendance use their alumni network as they search career opportunities.
AZ North Regional
The Skydome was brimming again on Friday and Saturday with the CocoNuts and 52 other teams, for NAU's inaugural FIRST Robotics Arizona North Regional contest, which pitted robots against each other to try to take down a castle. You can read Corina Vanek's article on the event here. Microchip sponsored pit tours by volunteers from many of the teams, as well as a VIP luncheon that was well-attended by Flagstaff's government, business, and education leaders. FIRST, which stands for --- , is a non-profit founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. It encourages students to pursue STEM and also develops skills in teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, and gracious professionalism.
Congratulations to everyone on helping make STEM Week 2016 the best ever in Flagstaff STEM City!
Jillian Worssam, the first STEM City Teacher of the Year, and professional science educator at Sinagua Middle School, had a big day on Friday, October 23rd, with her "Scientists in the Classroom" program. Initiated by Jillian several years ago, this program now includes 19 community STEM partners (link here for a list of all classroom STEM partners) that are paired with Jillian's and other science educators classes at Sinagua Middle School. On Friday, TGen North, Nestlé Purina, Mountain Heart and Lowell Observatory each had representatives visiting one of Jillian's 8th grade classes.
Scientists in the Classroom consists of two separate initiatives. The monthly classroom mentor program, and a one-on-one scientist-with-student mentoring program for Honors Classes. You can read more about both at the program website and in this Arizona Daily Sun article by Corina Vanek here.
Ande Burke, the Marketing Director for Mountain Heart, has the distinction of being the very first classroom mentor for the Scientists in the Classroom program!
The one-on-one program where a scientist is paired with Honors student includes Jeff Hall, the Director of Lowell Observatory, who visited Jillian's class to present the latest in space to the entire class. Rory Hack, his mentee, will become the classroom expert on Dr. Hall's research. Scientists in this program are not all local; there are 60 partners total, and some are from as far away as Russia and Scandinavia, New Zealand, and the Antarctic bases! Scientists and students share two e-mails per month as students learn more about the scientist and their research and produce podcasts, videos, papers and more.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator