Connecting the Spheres
Guest Blog Post by Lisa Winters, Flagstaff STEM Education Program VISTA Member with Grand Canyon Trust
With wide eyes, note-filled worksheets, and an urge to move and explore, 5th graders from Killip Elementary School shout out their observations on a sunny, Tuesday morning at Upper Lake Mary. “We’re part of the Biosphere!” they proudly state.
For the third year in a row, Killip Elementary School held a field trip revolving around the earth’s spheres: the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Over sixty 5th graders from the classes of Ms. Butterfield, Ms. Hernandez, and Ms. Blahut moved through four stations to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the ecosystem around them at Lake Mary. Local experts led each of the sphere discussions.
Lee Born (above), NAU professor and KNAU's staff meteorologist, represented the atmosphere with a lively conversation of atmospheric conditions, natural disasters, and how floods and hurricanes create changes that impact other spheres.
Felix Parham (left), a geologist from the City of Flagstaff, was the geosphere expert. Students thought critically about not just the ground we stand on, but all of the material that forms the foundation of our earth, how it’s shaped, and what we extract from it.
Also from the City of Flagstaff and a proud Killip Cougars alumni, Rae Byars (center) led the hydrosphere conversation. Students learned about the water cycle, and then connected the processes with the other spheres, as well as who and what needs water.
Lisa Winters from Grand Canyon Trust, with Naturalist Chris Keefe, pulled things together by discussing the biosphere, and how all living organisms rely on the other spheres. Students identified animals and their habitats around Lake Mary. They then made connections between their own interactions as members of the biosphere with their needs from other spheres.
Students reflected on the discussions they had at each station. And they will continue the learning back in the classroom where they will research a natural disaster and how the connections between spheres may change. They will conclude the unit by formally presenting their research posters.
This is what STEM education at Killip looks like, thanks to the dedication of the educators and the contributions of the "STEM professionals" from our community!
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