Guest Blog Post by Lisa Winters, Research and Stewardship Volunteer Coordinator, Grand Canyon Trust
Did you know springs support more than 20% of the endangered species in the United States?
Despite being small areas compared to lakes or oceans, springs are really diverse! However, springs are also one of the most threatened ecosystems: the Springs Stewardship Institute reports that a lack of information and attention to springs has resulted in over 90% of springs lost in some areas.
Earlier this year, Kathryn Wertz’s 6th graders at Sinagua Middle School, Kesava’s 4-6th graders at Haven Montessori, and the Centennial Forest Outdoor Leadership Academy with Manager Cheryl Miller got the chance to contribute to springs research. Students traveled to different springs, defined as emerging groundwater, and measured water quality, water flow, identified plants and animals, and collected information on the source and extent of the spring. Afterwards, they discussed why springs might be threatened: human water use, livestock grazing, mining, or pollution are just some of the threats to our springs. “Use less water!” “Practice leave no trace principles!” and “stay on the trail!” rang out when prompted for suggestions on how we could become stewards of the springs.
These data collected help support a large forest restoration project in northern Arizona. The Four Forest Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort across 2.4 million acres, to bring natural fire regimes, plant and animal diversity, and healthy forests back to the area. The project focuses on thinning small diameter trees, small prescribed fires, and also protecting water in the forests.
Springs are critical water sources for the diversity of animals that call forests home, and also for a variety of plant life. When forests become overcrowded (a healthy acre of forest should have about 30 trees or less, whereas now we might see 300 trees/acre), all those trees send deep roots down to suck up the available water. By thinning some of the trees, we will hopefully raise the water table, and provide access to surface water for the other species. The trees that are left to grow also have more space, more nutrients, and an easier time staying strong and healthy. A win-win for everyone!
Not only did these students collect important information that will be useful for forest management, but they also proved to be capable and enthusiastic citizen scientists! We can’t wait to do it again! Thank you to Joseph Holway from the Spring Stewardship Institute, Cheryl Miller from Centennial Forest, and Grand Canyon Trust for helping make this project a success. Thank you also to Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Heritage Fund for providing financial support to help get students outside doing real life STEM!
Teachers can apply for field trip funding through the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Grant program. Link to the Heritage Grant site above and/or download the pdf here! The grant proposal is due by October 31, 2017.
NAU's Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity is hosting their 13th annual Bug Camp at Willow Bend this summer. The first camp was from June 19 to 23 and the next one is from July 17 to 21, but the camp already has a long waiting list. What makes Bug Camp so popular? Bugs of course! Plus some very cool camp counselors.
Campers learn about insect natural history, behavior, and biodiversity through a series of fun projects and activities. Campers collect insects, create their own insect collections, build their own bugs, and cook and eat insect cuisine. They also go out on a night adventure where they can lure moths, and other new insects in with lights.
Campers are from 6 - 10 years old and their are 7 counselors plus 2 junior counselors for 24 campers in teams with cool names like the Ladybug Ladies, Flying Tarantulas, and Lava Locusts. This year, they were able to offer 6 scholarships for students to attend the camp. Campers come from all over Arizona, plus Colorado, Nevada, and California!
Lindsie McCabe, a PhD candidate at NAU, has been leading the Bug Camp for the past four years. Her advisor, Neil Cobb, began the Camp 13 years ago and says it seems like yesterday. Neil came in for “Ask a Scientist" and tried to answer questions from the campers: "How many total hairs are there on all the flies in the world?" and "How many baby insects are being born right now?"
At the end of camp one of the campers ran up to Lindsie and hugged her legs and said
"I love this camp I never want to leave!".
Thank you to Neil Cobb and the Bug Camp counselors for photos, information, and quotes!
Guest Blog by Karin Wadsack, Project Director, Northern Arizona University
The Arizona Wind for Schools project partnered with the NAU’s Upward Bound programs and the Boys & Girls Club summer camp at Willow Bend in June to teach 48 young students about wind energy through hands-on engineering design activities.
Fourteen students in the Upward Bound Math/Science academy also worked with Wind for Schools to build windmills and learn basics about wind energy. In particular, while researching and analyzing various forms of renewable energy, students had the opportunity to move away from the theoretical and put their knowledge to work. Students were given a task, a collection of materials from which to build, and work time.
“It was a powerful experience seeing students working together, going through iterations in their design, and completing the assigned task,” said Jacob Lesandrini, instructional specialist for Upward Bound at NAU. “Students not only had to have the background knowledge in renewable energy, but they also had to understand how to tackle a problem and work in a team. It’s exactly the sort of work they can expect in college and beyond, and we were very excited they had this opportunity.“
Wind for Schools project director Karin Wadsack and mechanical engineering undergraduate student Tessa Palazzolo worked with the high school students over the course of several lessons and activities.
The Wind for Schools project is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Increasing the Number of Women in the STEM Workforce
A recent journal article in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) entitled “Women 1.5 Times More Likely to Leave STEM Pipeline after Calculus Compared to Men: Lack of Mathematical Confidence a Potential Culprit”, by J. Ellis, B. Fosdick, and C. Rasmussen, had some fascinating information and conclusions:
In this study, the proportions of students who cited reasons for not entering Calculus II were comparable across men and women, except for one: “I do not believe I understand the ideas of Calculus I well enough to take Calculus II.”
This lack of confidence was cited by 35% of women, and only 14% of men, all of whom originally intended on pursuing a STEM career. Women switching from STEM pathways are citing a lack of understanding of the material in Calculus I as a reason for not continuing their STEM studies significantly more often than men.
An article by K. Piatek-Jimenez, “On the Persistence and Attrition of Women in Mathematics”, states that: “Confidence in mathematical ability may also be a possible reason why women do not choose to pursue mathematics. Women frequently report lower self-confidence in mathematics than their equally talented male peers. This trend is true even amongst the most mathematically talented students.”
Lack of confidence plagues women in other fields as well. "The Confidence Gap", by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, cite a number of studies. Hewlett-Packard found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job; while men applied when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. Brenda Major, a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, started studying the problem of self-perception decades ago. “I would set up a test where I’d ask men and women how they thought they were going to do on a variety of tasks.” She found that the men consistently overestimated their abilities and subsequent performance, and that the women routinely underestimated both, while the actual performances did not differ in quality. “It is one of the most consistent findings you can have.”
Margie Warrell, in a recent Forbes article, “For Women To Rise We Must Close 'The Confidence Gap' wrote: “…wherever I’ve worked in the world, I’ve consistently that a fundamental lack of belief in our own value, worth and ability to achieve consistently tempers female ambition and holds women back." She cited an eight-year study by Wiebke Bleidorn that analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, from Norway to New Zealand, Kuwait to South Korea, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem”, and found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.
“Math for Girls, Math for Boys”, by A.K. Whitney in the Atlantic, stated that only one in ten contestants in the International Math Olympiad are female and many teams have no girls at all. Last year’s U.S. Team, which took gold for the first time in 21 years, was all male. Sherry Gong, who in 2007 was the second American girl in International Math Olympiad history to get the gold medal, recalled getting a pep talk during a competition from her coach. “I thought I was doing really badly, but ... she said girls tend to underestimate how well they are doing.”
What can we do to increase confidence and foster perseverance for all students to succeed in high-level mathematics and STEM studies?
Programs to increase confidence and persistence, as well as STEM skills, are growing in STEM City (aka Flagstaff). Highlighted programs include:
Girls on the Run (GOTR), celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has a primary goal of increasing self-confidence in young women. See this STEM City blog by Marney Babbitt on how you can participate.
Growth Mindset is being used by a number of teachers in Flagstaff including Elii Chapman, a math and science teacher at Flagstaff Junior Academy, and the runner up for the 2016 Coconino County Teacher of the Year. (Look up Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth to learn more.)
All-Girl Events/Competitions including all girls’ math or chess tournaments is another way to reduce the social issues that come with young women in competitive environments with young men. The Flagstaff Chess Club will hold its 3rd Annual All Girls Chess Tournament in January, hosted by a strongly supportive Lowell Observatory staff, and including a lunchtime talk by a female astronomer. The Cactus-Pine Girl Scouts have held all girls engineering events, coding workshops, and after-school STEM activities for local students.
With Math I Can is being promoted by FUSD math specialist Jane Gaun, and others. This is a pledge we can all take to not make negative comments about mathematics!
INTEL Math and other math education courses are offered to local math teachers through FUSD and the Coconino County Educational Services Agency (CCESA).
Cash for Calculators is an initiative of FUSD and the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to purchase graphing calculators for schools so students can use them during the year and be more prepared for the exams that require these calculators.
Engineering is Elementary (EiE) has design challenges that encourage girls and all students to increase persistence, creativity, confidence, and more. The award-winning curricula from the Museum of Science Boston (MOS) is widely available in Flagstaff. FUSD has two EiE kits at each grade level in all ten elementary schools. Thanks to funding from the Arizona Community Fund of Flagstaff (ACFF), the CCESA has all 20 kits available for K-5 teachers in any school to check out after they have taken the free workshop on using the curricula. STEM City, with funding from ACFF, the W.L. Gore Foundation and the Ernest and Evelyn Chilson Fund, have four out-of-school time kits available to Girl Scout troops, STEM clubs, etc. The nationally-recognized Center for Science Teaching and Learning at NAU is working with Flagstaff's U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Center and the MOS to create three new engineering units with an astrogeology theme and cutting-edge science.
Ready.Set.Code is a Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce initiative working to increase computer and app coding skills in students. Scott Hathcock and cohorts at the Chamber launched Ready.Set.Code with both “Hack the Class”, and the “Summer of Code” events, after least year’s initial coding camps at College America were such a success.
Robotics Camps and Clubs are both growing in Flagstaff. The County Parks and Recreation Department held two lego robotics camps in June and has room available for their two upcoming camps the first week of August. The CocoNuts robotics team leads summer camps for students and has an upcoming camp for adults interested in coaching robotics. The camp is only $20 and is coming July 26 and 27th if you are interested! The Girl Scouts recently hosted a Video Game Design Workshop for 50 girls at NAU. Killip Elementary has a K-2 coding club, FJA has a middle school coding club, and we know that the many schools with robotics teams use coding to get those robots moving!
STEM City has held two free Code.org workshops with master teacher Janice Mak, and also freely loans out instruction materials. STEM City also has engineering kits, bioscience kits, and more, to freely loan out to teachers and home-school parents.
Coconino Community College now offers two engineering courses as well as advanced math and physics, and has an Engineering Pathways grant to increase engineering in middle schools, high schools and at CCC.
Northern Arizona University has a higher percentage of women in science and engineering than most colleges and universities (data coming soon)!
Please contact STEM City if you have programs you would like highlighted in a blog post or in the STEM Community e-letter. And thank you for all you do to increase both skills and confidence in our youth!
Thank you to Melissa Sevigny of KNAU and the Arizona Science and Innovation Desk for the interview on this article and inspiring this post!
Guest Blog by Susan Holiday
The Arboretum's Eco Explorers Summer Camp is a series of camps that began on June 13th and continues until July 22st. There are weekly programs at three age levels: 4-5, 6-8, and 9-13. While camps cost between $160 (half day) to $250 (full day), the Arboretum was able to offer 30 full and/or partial scholarships through a generous contribution from the W.L. Gore Foundation.
The camps included the Creature Camp, where the Dr. Aaron Smith brought some of his invertebrates from the Arthropod Museum at N.A.U. Other activities included meeting a miniature horse, the butterfly house and plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities.
The camps also included Wild Things!, Our Changing World, Natures Keepers, Gross Science and the coming camp Nature’s Artists. If you missed the camps this year, there will be camps again next year. Hope to see you then! Information can be found at http://www.thearb.org/learn/summer-camps/
Lowell Observatory has been hosting astronomy camps for kids for the past four years. They began with the elementary age summer camps, and then added the year-round monthly pre-school camps three years ago. Lowell continued building their outreach program by adding middle school summer camps two years ago. The camps build on each other so students in increasing grade levels move from closer to more distant objects in space, and from simpler to more complex topics. As Samantha Flagg, Education Coordinator at Lowell said, "I love that moment when they really grasp that concept - that lightbulb moment."
The 1st and 2nd graders study the solar system and build models of the planets. 3rd and 4th graders study galaxies, and the 5th and 6th graders focus on life on other worlds. They worked in teams with different tasks (communication, landing, safety, etc.) and designed a mission to Europa. The Middle School camps are in the evening and the students becomes observational astronomers, learning how to use the telescopes and navigate the night sky. High School students can begin volunteering at Lowell Observatory when they are 16 years old.
LOCKS (Lowell Observatory Camps for Kids) solid instructional model pairs a certified teacher with a Lowell educator and often an intern as well. This means there is both teaching and astronomical expertise for each class, as well as a low student to adult ratio. Lowell also employs a registered nurse onsite to ensure child health and safety.
The preschool camps continue monthly on the third Saturday of the month. These activity-based, hands-on camps are for children ages 3 to 5. View the LOCKs Preschool flyer here. And many thanks to the teachers, instructors, and interns that let me join in the summer adventures at Lowell Observatory!