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!
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.
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.
Guest Blog Post by Karin Wadsack and Todd Traen, with an update from Jenna Samora
On Friday, April 28th, nearly 100 middle and high school students competed in the first Arizona KidWind Challenge wind turbine design competition. 20 teams of students came from Sinagua Middle School, Mount Elden Middle School, STAR School, Winslow High, Coconino High, and Northland Preparatory Academy. The teams brought a wind turbine they had designed and built ahead of time to test in a wind tunnel, determining whose turbine made the most electricity over a 30-second test period. The teams also competed based on their turbine design, technical presentation, technical design knowledge, and general wind energy knowledge. The teams each met with a group of judges from the wind industry, giving a presentation about their project and answering specific design and knowledge questions.
The teams also competed in “instant challenges,” building sail cars, windmills for weight lifting, and playing wind energy Jeopardy. Throughout the day, students got to interact with other students from different schools and grade levels, and explain their own projects to peers, teachers, coaches, and visiting guests.Turbines at the competition included vertical and horizontal axis turbines, systems with and without gears, and some turbines for which the students had wound their own generators.
Frequently heard: “This is AWESOME!” “Check out that design!” “I’m having SO MUCH fun!” “Next year we’re going to do _____!”
The Wind for Schools project staff of eight was supported by an additional eight amazing volunteers from the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals and the Climate Science and Solutions professional master’s program at NAU. The Expert Judges also volunteered their day to the event. The Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff generously donated its facilities for the day.
Update from Jenna Samora on the MITe Team's trip to Nationals: The Mustang Gust Runners ended up taking 1st in the Vertical Axis Insta-Challenge, but did not score high on the original wind turbine design. After the first competition in Flagstaff, the students 3D-printed their own gears and created their own generator. However, they were unable to get the energy output that they hoped for, so they went back to using the KidWind generator. Even through their turbine was not the best design, the boys still learned a lot and had a great time!
Thank you to our dedicated judges!
Ross Taylor, Wind Subject Matter Expert
Ken Kotalik, Primus Wind Power
Jim Corning, Prometheus Renewables
Daniel Snyder, Westwind Solar Inc
Darrin Russell, Wind Subject Matter Expert
Guest Blog post by Christine Sapio, CocoNuts Coach and CHS Educator
On December 3, 2016 the Coconino High School “CocoNuts” FIRST Robotics Competition Team hosted 400+ FIRST Robotics students at the 9th Annual High Altitude Robotics Extravaganza. The Extravaganza featured two FIRST events happening simultaneously at Coconino High School: The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament and the Northern Arizona FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament. Thirty-six teams will compete in the two events.
The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament featured 26 teams from Flagstaff, Kingman, Cottonwood, Heber, Holbrook, Phoenix, Camp Verde, Glendale, Cibecue and Sedona. The teams competed in this year’s challenge ANIMAL ALLIES for a chance to advance to the Arizona FIRST Lego League Championship January 14-15, 2017 at Arizona State University.
The ANIMAL ALLIES Challenge calls for teams of 9 to 14 year-old children worldwide to research and present their original ideas that explore the interactions between humans and animals. Teams will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a series of wisdom-gathering missions which include: pushing a lever to open a door to learning, moving an idea outside of the box, loading a model with knowledge and skill loops, and more. The cornerstones of the experience are the FLL Core Values, which emphasize contributions of others, friendly competition, learning, and community involvement.
The Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament featured 10 teams from Flagstaff, Laveen, Winslow, Buckeye, Gilbert, Heber, St. Michaels, Eager, and Joseph City. The teams are competed in this year’s challenge VELOCITY VORTEX. The teams were competing for a chance to advance to the Arizona/New Mexico Championship February 25, 2017 at Northern Arizona University.
The 2016-2017 Game: VELOCITY VORTEXSM presented by Qualcomm® is played on a 3.7m × 3.7m (12 ft. × 12 ft.) square field with approximately 0.3m (1 ft.) high walls and a soft foam mat floor. The field is divided diagonally into a “red” and a “blue” side corresponding to the two alliances. In the center of the field are two goals on a rotatable stand called the Center Vortex. Two ramps, each with a goal, called the Corner Vortex, are placed in opposite sides of the field. The Center Vortex Goals and Corner Vortexes are alliance specific. There are also four alliance neutral Beacons, two placed on each front wall next to the Corner Vortex. There are floor markings as well as Vision Targets placed on the field walls as reference points for robot navigation.
The top teams in the tournament were: FIRST Lego League Champion’s Award: FALA Llamabots, Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Inspire Award: Navajo Code Writers, St. Michael’s Indian School, St. Michael’s FIRST Tech Challenge Winning Alliance: Mogollon Rim Jaegers (Mogollon High School in Heber) and elkSPLOSION (Round Valley High School in Eager)
Nine FIRST Lego League teams and three FIRST Tech Challenge Teams advanced to their respective Championship Tournaments.
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.
Guest blog by Carrie Jenkins and Rick Treadway, 7th grade science teachers at Sinagua Middle School
On April 11, 2016 a group of 48 Sinagua Middle School 7th graders headed into Oak Creek Canyon for an afternoon of water testing at Slide Rock State Park. After eating lunch at the park, we walked to the Apple Barn where we watched a short documentary about Oak Creek called “Loved to Death: The Story of Oak Creek.” The video documented the 2014 Oak Creek Ambassador Program in which concerned citizens with the support of local university students from U of A, NAU, ASU, and the Friends of Oak Creek, removed large quantities of trash brought into the park and along the creek.
Oak Creek is claimed to be the 3rd purest water in the world at its source. However, the trash left behind by the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year directly impacts the water quality of Oak Creek and leads to increased levels of e. coli causing adverse effects to the local ecosystem. Under the direction of U of A microbiologists in a mobile laboratory the students tested E.coli bacteria levels, water flow rates, pH, turbidity, nitrates and dissolved oxygen. Students learned proper water sampling protocol, testing procedures and levels that indicate healthy conditions for organisms within the aquatic ecosystem. Most importantly, we learned that we can each be an ambassador for Oak Creek.
Thank you to the SFAz+8 Pathways grant through Coconino Community College for funding the bus for this fieldtrip!