Guest Blog Post by Lara Hernandez, Math and Science Educator, St. Francis de Asis School
Congratulations to San Francisco de Asís Catholic School 6th grade student Robert Zavala. Robert earned a 3rd place Bronze medal at the Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair. Robert qualified to compete at the state level by winning first place at his school competition with his project “How much Pure Aluminum is in the Average Soda Can?” Robert constructed a homemade foundry and reached temperatures of over 1200 degrees F to melt 30 aluminum cans. He separated the pure aluminum from the “dross” or non-aluminum material and determined how much aluminum is in the average soda can.
At the State Fair Robert competed in the 5th and 6th grade Engineering category with 47 other students from across Arizona. Robert was interviewed by four judges during a three and a half hour exhibition at the Phoenix Convention Center to earn his bronze medal.
In total, over 900 students and 700 projects were registered for the state fair. Only
students who place first at their school fair may compete at the Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair. Congratulations to Robert!
Guest Blog Post by Tad Theimer, NAU Professor of Biology
Flagstaff is a city of science. We are literally surrounded by science. Up on Mars Hill there lies Lowell Observatory, to the north the Museum of Northern Arizona, the offices of the USGS, to the east and west the laboratories of GORE, to the south Northern Arizona University, the Rocky Mountain Research Station, TGen, the Naval Observatory, to mention but a few.
So I stand here as a scientist in a city of scientists. How many of you out there are scientists? How many the family or friends of a scientist?
It’s been said that you know you are a scientist when you wake up on a Saturday morning and think, “I could walk the dog, I could read the paper, I could go for a run, but what I really want to do is analyze that new data set, or sneak off to the lab for one more quick experiment.” And all your friends and families of scientists have seen that, you’ve seen them sneak out the door late at night or early in the morning. So we here all know that inside the breast of every scientist beats a heart as passionate, as driven, as that of any artist, musician or poet. Scientists do what they do because they can’t help themselves. They are driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, by an insatiable hunger to understand the world. That relentlessness, that dogged curiosity, is something folks who haven’t been around scientists may not realize, and as a result they may underestimate the power that stands here today. Because that same passion, that same resolution, that scientists bring to doing science, scientists will also bring to defending science. And that is why we stood here last year, and why we stand here today and why we will be here next year, and the year after that, and the year after that!
So we here in Flagstaff understand what science is, why it is important, and that we must help others understand the important role science plays in our lives. The speakers who went before me articulated that very well. But there is another point about science that we have to make folks understand. Scientists follow data to whatever truth they may lead, regardless of the implications that truth may have. And so scientists sometimes discover inconvenient truths, truths that make us have to question the way behave toward this earth, toward each other. Truths that are inconvenient because they come with costs. The cost of making sacrifices today so that our children and grandchildren can have a decent world to live in tomorrow. This is an important role scientists play, and
I have been trying to think of a simple analogy to help folks understand that important role of science, so let me try this out on you:
Let’s imagine that my inconvenient truth is that I only have $10 in my bank account. But because of this magical piece of plastic called a credit card, I can buy a car, I can buy fancy food and delicious drinks. And some of my friends will support me in ignoring my inconvenient truth because they like to ride in my car and drink my drinks and eat my food. But one or two of my friends will take me aside and say “Tad, what are you doing? You’re acting crazy! You only have ten bucks! If you keep this up you’re heading for financial ruin!” Now we all know which one of those friends is the most valuable. It’s the one with the courage to stand up and tell me the truth even though I didn’t want to hear it. And that’s what scientists do! They are the friends who stand up and tell us the truth even when we don’t want to hear it!!
We are passing through dark days for science. Honesty, reliability, consistency, responsible conduct. These are the cornerstones of science. These are also the foundations of a civil society. Yet every day these ideas are mocked, denigrated, cast aside! We live in a time when integrity has been replaced with irresponsibility, where falsehoods hold the same credence as facts. It is no wonder that we sometimes feel dazed, in a world turned upside down.
These are dark days, but we have seen darker. When I am most in despair for this world, I am reminded of Galileo, that great scientist who dared to follow his data to an inconvenient truth, that radical idea that the earth was not the center of the universe, fixed and immovable, but instead moved around the sun in its orbit. Today that seems like a ridiculously harmless fact, that the earth goes around the sun, but at the time, it was a very inconvenient truth, for it flew in the face of religious dogma. So at the age of 70, Galileo was dragged from his home, thrown in prison and eventually brought before the Inquisition in Rome, forced to kneel and to recant his life’s work, to state that the Earth was immobile and did not move in its orbit. But the story is told that as Galileo walked out of that room, he whispered under his breath, “and yet, it moves!” And so might we say to those who deny climate change today, “and yet, it changes!”
You can ignore the truth for a while. You can walk away from the Paris climate accords, you can tell your administrators to strike out all references to human-caused climate change. You can confuse the electorate by saying climate change is still debated, that there is no consensus. You can ignore the National Academy of Sciences and 17 other scientific societies that have stated that human-caused climate change is real and needs to be addressed. You can ignore all that and build yourself a beautiful house of cards. But eventually that house of cards will fall. Scientists know this. Scientists understand the meaning of that old Buddhist saying: “There are three things in this world that cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth”!
Make no mistake, the walls of ignorance are strong, especially when reinforced by girders of greed and self-interest. But history has shown us that that stone of ignorance will yield to the cold, hard steel of science-based fact. It is for us today to follow in the footsteps of all those scientists and believers in science that went before us, to pick up those hammers of steel and bring them down on that rock of ignorance, knowing all the while that those walls will not fall to one blow, or to a thousand, but the point is to keep on hammering, to keep those hammers ringing. So I say, make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but also make ring so that they can be heard down in the statehouse in Phoenix. Make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but also make them ring so that they echo in the halls of congress back in Washington. Make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but most importantly, make those hammers ring so that they rattle the very walls of the White House! Make those hammers ring!
Guest Blog Post by Nick Siskonen, AmeriCorps STEM VISTA, CAVIAT
Every student enrolled in our CAVIAT programs has the opportunity to participate in a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). These organizations provide scholarships, competitions, leadership opportunities and so much more that enriches the life and learning of our students.
Some of our students are traveling to the Arizona state competition hosted by the CTSO, HOSA - Future Health Professionals. HOSA is an international organization focused on developing character and technical skill competencies for members, to uplift current and future people in the health professions.
Our students are there to compete in a variety of subject matters. Madison Stump, of the Medical Professions program, is competing in the Behavioral Health event. Cylie John, also in the Medical Professions program, is taking the Medical Law and Ethics test. Dakota Palmer, of the Veterinary Assistant program, is doing the Veterinary Science skills test. Zachary Ashland and Elizabeth Strones, from the Bioscience program, are both taking part in the Medical Innovation event, and their classmate Antonia Green is taking the Biomedical Laboratory Sciences test.
To qualify for this week's state competition, students took an online test which covered a wide variety of topics from their program's curriculum. Only top scoring students are allowed to attend the state competition and earn the chance to move on to the international competition at the International Leadership Conference, which takes place at the end of June.
The state competition this year is taking place in Tucson, from April 2nd through April 4th. Let's cheer them all on to victory!
And not to be left out of the fun, this week our Fashion Design and Merchandising program is headed off to Los Angeles! They're going to visit the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and the LA fashion district. They've been fundraising for this trip all year, and all the hard work has finally paid off.
My name is Brian Travers and I am the STEM Education VISTA at Killip Elementary School. Killip is known for its STEM programming and I will have the opportunity to support the school, its faculty, and students throughout my year of service by building STEM based curriculum.
I am originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and spent much of my childhood in the greater New England area enjoying outdoor sports and activities such as camping, skiing, ice skating and even picking fresh blueberries! However, ice hockey is my true passion and I hope to find time to engage Flagstaff youth in the joys of the sport.
For most of the last 14 years I have worked as an accountant for a variety of big firms. I also worked at the Children’s Hospital in Boston for a year. This work really inspired me and I co-authored an article published in the Journal of Epilepsy.
Coming from a family of teachers, I realized I wanted to change my path in life and engage in humanitarian based pursuits. After examining options, I found the perfect fit with AmeriCorps VISTA, and packed my bags and moved from my most recent home in Florida to become part of the Flagstaff community. After my VISTA term I hope to return to graduate school and further expand my contributions to the community.
Guest Blog Post by Erin O'Keefe, STEM VISTA Open Space Aide, City of Flagstaff - Originally published in the City of Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter
On Saturday, March 10th, 2018, Open Space staff completed the first session of the 2018 Indigenous Youth STEM Academy. This year, we are partnering primarily with the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory which consists of 9th-12th grade Native American students from various tribes. We had 9 students participate in our first session. The STEM focus area of this session was astronomy and included a site visit to Lowell Observatory. Our program began with a hike from Kinlani Dorm to Lowell Observatory via Observatory Mesa trail system. This gave us an opportunity to explain the significance of the relationships between Flagstaff Open Space and our neighboring properties.
Participants were given a private one hour tour of the Lowell campus followed by a 30 minute guest presentation from astronomer and researcher, Dr. Deidre Hunter, who is also co-founder of the Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach Program. This program connects astronomers from Lowell to schools on the Hopi and Navajo reservations to partner in culturally-relevant astronomy-based curriculum. Dr. Hunter tailored her presentation to our specific group with a focus on the importance of minorities in STEM. She discussed her educational background and career path, gave information on her research, and described the Navajo-Hopi Outreach Program and how the program came about. The program session concluded with lunch provided for the students, transportation from Lowell back to the dorm provided by the Boys and Girls Club, and a gift card drawing for all participants. Students filled out questionnaires that aimed to gauge their interest in STEM careers, their interest in college, their favorite and least favorite parts of the program session, and why they think it is important for Native Americans to be in STEM careers fields.
Our next session will be a two part session taking place on March 26th and 31st with a STEM focus of Art and Graphic Design. Our guest presenter, Corey Begay, is a local Navajo STEM professional and artist who is the Lead Artist and Graphic Designer at the multicultural publishing company, Salinas Bookshelf, Inc. He will present to students on Monday night at Kinlani Dorm about his career path in STEM followed by a hands-on art activity. Part two of this session will take place on Saturday, March 31st which will consist of a visit to Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The students will be taken on an interpretive tour of the Preserve where we will focus on the importance of our interpretive signs to show the possibilities of turning interests in art and graphic design into a professional career. Corey Begay will be present during this tour to share his knowledge and experience about turning a passion for art into a career.
Thank you to Marcus Yazzie, Recreation Coordinator, and Vicki Anderson, STEM VISTA at Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory, for their assistance with this event! If you would like to sign up for the Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter, click here!
Guest Blog Post by Val Callaway, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for the Flagstaff STEM Education Project
It is AmeriCorps week! Time to celebrate all things AmeriCorps! From its thousands of host sites to all its amazing members “Getting Things Done!”, AmeriCorps works to build stronger communities, alleviate poverty, respond to disasters, and create healthy futures.
Since its inception in the 1960s, VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) has been working on the alleviation of poverty in the U.S. After joining the overarching AmeriCorps program in the 90s, VISTA has continued to grow and develop a rich history and culture of service, caring, dedication, and community.
Here in the greater Flagstaff community, there are currently 14 VISTAs serving at various locations. These VISTAs commit to a year of fulltime service at their host site where they focus on building capacity to increase the overall academic performance and well-being of under-served youth populations. These VISTAs are highly skilled and extremely talented. Working on different projects, tied together with a common goal (STEM VISTA Education Project), these VISTAs have increased opportunities for youth to engage in STEM activities and have paved new paths to STEM inspired careers.
Flagstaff is STEM City! Let’s take a glimpse at what just a few of these amazing VISTAs having been doing around town!
VISTAs Sally and Julia currently are working with Grand Canyon Trust to complete grant applications and present conservation programs to local youth. Way to go! Grand Canyon Trust is a non-profit organization that advocates for the conservation of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau.
Next stop, the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory (FBD) where VISTA Vicki Anderson spends her day working on a variety of awesome projects! The FBD provides residential and educational services to the youth (9-12th grade) who stay there while attending Flagstaff High School. As the Educator and Curriculum Developer, Vicki recently worked with the youth at the dorm to plan and implement a “Second Chance” Valentine’s Day Dance that incorporated STEM concepts into the design and logistics. Currently Vicki is writing grants and coordinating with the local CAVIAT program to recruit and retain youth in their programs.
Let’s drop in on Mary Berta who represents VISTAs at CCESA (Coconino County Education Service Agency) writing grants and doing community outreach. The CCESA supports the local school district through professional and community development, school elections and financial services, as well as in the area of political advocacy. Recently Mary has been working on an EPA grant focused on environmental education. This grant would increase the CCESA’s professional development initiative. The F.A.R.M. (Food and Resource Management) grant targets 6-8th grade science teachers. This grant would create an opportunity for these teachers to participate in high-quality, standards- based professional development. Keep up the good work Mary!
While we have a bunch of great sites and awesome VISTAs to celebrate, our last stop for this post will be STEM City where Camille Alexander serves as the Evaluation Coordinator. STEM City’s vision is to collectively work to strengthen STEM literacy, promote STEM-related business, and sustain STEM initiatives. Camille enjoys her work creating a STEM inventory of local businesses, schools, and non-profits. Her mission will help evaluate the “state of STEM” in Flagstaff in order for community agencies to better be able to connect and serve youth effectively by creating increased access to resources for STEM education.
BIG SHOUT OUTS to all the VISTAs and their sites that we will continue to highlight in the upcoming months: Brian Travers at Killip Elementary (STEM Curriculum), Chelsea Silva at Friends of the Rio (Watershed Stewardship Coordinator), Erin O’Keefe at Flagstaff Open Space (Open Space Aide), Madison Ledgerwood at NAU Rethink Possible (Education Connect Specialist), Nick Siskonen at CAVIAT (Recruitment Specialist), Whitney Yarbrough at NAU CSTL (Database Coordinator), Charlie Humphrey at Grand Canyon Youth (Volunteer Coordinator/ Fundraising), and Sarah Michal at NAU CSI (Opioid Education and Abuse Prevention).
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 5th Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration was held on March 5th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the NAU Walkup Skydome. An estimated 5,000 people enjoyed the celebration of all things STEM in Flagstaff, Arizona.
There were 26 schools in attendance with creative interactive displays including the Kinsey Inquiry and Discover School's Infinity Machine, Flag High's Underwater Welding and Field Research to Dominica, FALA's Paper Rockets, STAR School's Water Reclamation Bus and much more!
Flagstaff STEM businesses, government agencies, higher education and non-profits came out in full force! There were six businesses, 14 government agencies (including city, county, state and federal), 22 NAU departments and clubs, 13 tables of STEM groups from CCC, 22 non-profits and several robotics clubs and teams represented! Wow!
Thank you to everyone who helped make the 5th Annual Celebration such a Flagstaff-style success!
Guest Blog Post by Larrea Cottingham, Climate Education VISTA, City of Flagstaff Sustainability Program
Climate action and climate education is perhaps more important than ever before, and Flagstaff is leading the leading the way. From the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to the Student Climate Action Challenge, students and other residents across our community are making their voices heard and taking action to create solutions and build resilience in the face of climate change.
As the Climate Education VISTA with the City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section, I have been working since August to engage students in climate action through the Student Climate Action Challenge. To aid students in developing ambitious and effective projects, I created the Student Climate Action Toolkit: a planning guide for taking climate action. This guide takes students though a step-by-step project development process, from choosing a project, to putting it into action. Each step includes an activity for students to complete, such as identifying how their school, community, or environment may be impacted by climate change, creating a SMART goal for their project, and gathering baseline data.
Susan Brown, the 7th grade science teacher at Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA) and 2018 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Science Education, decided to use the Toolkit as an in-class activity during her climate change unit. I was pleased to have the opportunity to work with Ms. Brown's students in class as they created solutions to climate change using the Toolkit. It is always so exciting seeing students in action, working on something they are really excited about. Working with the students in class was not only great fun, but it was incredibly valuable. I was able to take their feedback and make improvements on the Toolkit for students who may use it in the future. Thank you NPA 7th graders and Ms. Brown!
In addition to climate action at NPA, there are approximately 10 student Climate Action Teams participating in the Student Climate Action Challenge from schools across Flagstaff. Students participating in the Challenge range from 4th grade to high school, and are working on a variety of projects, including creating school gardens, decreasing school waste by improving recycling and composting, and peer-education. We very are excited to learn more about these student projects at the Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit this spring!
Students are setting a great example for us all to take climate action, too! You can start by providing your input for the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, so we can create a plan the best represents the values and priorities of our community. We held the first of several open house events on January 24th; if you missed it or want to learn more about the Climate Plan, take a look at the video. For more opportunities to get involved, visit www.flagstaff.az.gov/climateplan.
My name is Sarah Michal, and I am a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Civic Service Institute at NAU. I will be working on developing resources and training regarding the opioid epidemic and alternatives to pain management. I will also be creating additional training modules for Senior Corps In-Services and assisting with volunteer recruitment and resources. I am looking forward to traveling to counties throughout Arizona to facilitate trainings.
I grew up in Minnesota and moved to the Phoenix area for my undergraduate degree. I missed real trees and four seasons so about three months ago I moved to my favorite town in Arizona, Flagstaff. I earned my Bachelors in Human Communications and I enjoy working with people. I decided to join AmeriCorps VISTA because I want to help make a difference in the lives of people. I am interested in mental health and addiction issues.
In my free time I love spending time outdoors hiking and camping. I will be leading monthly hikes starting in March for a community of girls and women who hike. I am also doing the 52 Hike Challenge and I am on hike 9 out of 52 this year. I am also interested in photography and I enjoy documenting my hikes and adventures via photographs.