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Graduate Fellows 2010
Before beginning my PhD in Hydrology and Water Resources, I taught junior high science at a Title I school in Phoenix, Arizona as a Teach For America corps member. During the two years that I was teaching, I saw the disparity in educational opportunity that exists between low-income school districts and their wealthier counterparts. There are many systemic and social issues that contribute to this disparity. One factor contributing to this gap is the lack of exposure to applied math and science in low-income areas. For my NASA Space Grant Fellowship I am developing state standard aligned lesson plans that will expose high school students to science that is being conducted in Arizona. My hope is that this program will give students a vision for the type of work that they could be involved in if they pursue a career in the sciences and that the context of real research will provide meaning to classroom studies.
University of Arizona and NASA scientists are involved in many cutting edge projects that apply to the world around us. University of Arizona led projects such as the Biosphere 2, Critical Zone Observatory, the University of Arizona weighing lysimeter facility, and COSMOS all have components that relate directly to Arizona high school science standards. These projects are a great opportunity to put Arizona science standards into context for Arizona students while highlighting the work being done by University of Arizona and NASA scientists.
The lessons that I am developing each have interactive or lab based projects that follow a theme, such as evapotranspiration or soil moisture. They are also directly applicable to required high school science classes such as biology and physics. Lessons each include pre-lab reading assignments, lab modules, homework assignments, in-class videos featuring UA/NASA scientists, standards aligned teaching guides, and rubrics for grading assignments. All materials will be hosted on a Biosphere 2 website and will be accessible to teachers online. After students have worked their way through the in-class lessons and have acquired a basic set of knowledge, they will participate in a field trip to Biosphere 2. At Biosphere 2, students will be able to interact with ongoing work being conducted by UA scientists. Field trip activities will directly relate to the knowledge learned through classroom activities. These lessons will be used by Biosphere 2 as their permanent high school field trip program. The expected impact of this work extends far beyond the project development timeline, hopefully impacting many students.
Lesley Leary, co-sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences
I have always had an interest in science, but thinking of a proposal for the NASA Space Grant made me think of when I first truly became interested in becoming a scientist. It was when I was in 7th grade and we had a hands-on stream study where we were responsible for catching and recording the different wildlife in the stream. Now that the area of science I study has become narrower I thought it would be a great idea to expose young adults to atmospheric science and make available a lot of fun activities where a passion for science could grow.
Big Weather is a program that spans over a few months and includes modules on different atmospheric science concepts including: clouds, precipitation, winds, solar energy, and extreme weather events. Each of the modules will contain a number of hands-on experiments highlighting the concepts, a NASA satellite session, weather related arts and crafts, plus building gadgets for a personal at home weather station.
Big Weather works specifically with young adults through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. These at risk youths are typically from broken homes, have behavioral or learning problems, or a general lack of respect for authority. Through this program education is provided in a fun and non-threatening environment where bonds between youths and adults can flourish and an interest in a new hobby can grow.
The first module, Big Weather: Clouds, has already commenced with great success! Big Brother Big Sister of Tucson is so excited about the event their featuring it in their monthly newsletter and advertising future Big Weather events. The Littles had a great time with the experiments and activities, especially making their own cloud in a bottle to take home. One Little who had recently finished a weather segment in school even mention, "we learned more today about clouds than we did in school last week!" Comments from the Bigs ranged from, "I never knew that," to "this was very well organized, but it didn't feel like school."
Deanna Lewis, co-sponsored by the College of Physics
Somewhere in between my current occupation as a physician assistant and status as an executive MBA student at the Eller College of Management was an invitation to work as a temporary research assistant in the department of physics: I took it. I soon found myself immersed in the world of Photovoltaics (PV). The immersion was swift, intriguing and a new world full of potential. The local enthusiasm and passion that abounds in the field of Photovoltaics produces at least one gigawatt of energy! To date I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Alex Cronin in the Department of Physics, and have been introduced to the research and innovations that are taking place at: the AZ Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE), the Biosphere 2 Institute (B2I), the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) and the Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP). Within these collaborative partnerships I have found a niche in PV outreach and education. The program I've designed is called Science for Society.
Science for Society is a photovoltaic outreach and education field project designed to promote universal access to PV technology:
An interdisciplinary team composed of individuals from educational institutions, community organizations and industry businesses will facilitate an increase in public awareness for PV technologies, teach people how to best utilize PV technology and stimulate interest in the sciences through educational enrichment programs, fieldtrips, and experiential learning presentations/workshops. By leveraging the expertise of our strategic partnerships, the PV outreach and education field project will promote longevity and utility by creating a sustainable and replicable program through curriculum implementation, docent program development as well as establishing the TEP Solar Test yard as user-friendly site for students, homeowners, researchers, businesses and special interest groups.
The educational outreach component of this project is off to a running start. Over the summer I have been working with TUSD and the Inner Connection/Green Schools to implement a pilot PV curriculum for high school students. On August 19th, 2009, 14 students were enrolled in our Solar Technology class. The 9-week program is now offered at TUSD's Project M.O.R.E. located at 44o S. Park. The students are offered science credit for this introductory course and the district is currently in the process of assigning an official course code which will allow any of the TUSD high schools to offer the course. Our projections for year one is to offer the course in one school (done), year two-two schools, year three-four schools and year five-ten schools. We are also working on a phase-two which is a more advanced PV course geared towards installation. The goals of the curriculum implementation are to engage and educate high school aged students in the sciences utilizing a PV curriculum that prepares them to either enter the PV field directly and/or to pursue higher education in the sciences, facilitating a sustainable economy and viable workforce through renewable energy training and education. In October 2009 we will be meeting with a local solar energy company interested in underwriting the program for a three year period.
A collaborative field project with the U of A College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA), the Drachman Institute, and Imago Dei Middle School will enhance the TEP solar test yard in becoming a premier educational and solar test site. Improvement of the solar test yard site through regular maintenance, modifications and physical upgrades will allow the site to become more user friendly and facilitate an environment conducive to world-class research and learning thus increasing the utilization of the TEP Solar Test Yard via tours, workshops, demonstrations and hands-on activities. This integrative approach is designed to support the work of the U of A Department of Physics, AzRISE, B2I, and TEP. The students from CALA/Drachman Institute and the Imago Dei Middle School will embark on a joint venture to enhance the current layout and design of the TEP Solar Test yard. A "face-lift" of the TEP Solar Test yard with additional features will provide the public with an additional community solar resource center and increase the utility of the site. September 9th, 2009 was our official tour start date for solar test yard. The tours are offered weekly on Tuesdays from 9am -10am, RSVP is required.
This intergenerational field project will provide applied design concepts to enhance and increase the utility of the TEP Solar Test yard for students, researchers, homeowners and businesses. Further more it will support the initiatives of AzRISE, the U of A, TEP and B2I by increasing the status and visibility of the TEP solar test yard, elevating it to a more visible community solar resource test site with exceptional lab facilities for research and field projects, add a hands-on training facility for AzRISE's super courses, serve as regional and national training site for PV installation instruction as well as become the designated site for a PV Outreach and Education Docent Program through the U of A Department of Physics.
As coordinator for the PV Outreach and Education program my role is that of a facilitator: professional relationships between researchers, teachers, business owners and students are being developed to create and expand opportunities for professional development and intergenerational learning as well as promoting the utility and longevity of a solar technology infrastructure.
Fall 2010 Update
The past year has been an exceptional time for the growth and development of Science for Society. Having identified an additional opportunity for growth I am currently working with members of the community to develop an apprenticeship program for those interested in gaining valuable experience in PV installation as well as fostering the professional development for a qualified workforce in solar installation.
My outreach program aims to incorporate San Carlos Apache high school students participating in the Bylas and San Carlos summer youth program, sponsored by Mount Graham International Observatory, in my doctoral research on the process of natal dispersal and settlement in federally endangered Mt. Graham red squirrels. My goal is to provide important hands-on experiences with spatial technologies such as radio telemetry, map and compass, GPS, GIS, and remotely sensed imagery for students to help us understand what landscape features influences where juvenile red squirrels explore and eventually settle. In the field we will see different squirrel behaviors, forest types, and conditions, and in a GIS we will be able to examine home ranges and other spatial data such as roads, fires, and forest damage due to tree death, that may impact squirrel space use. I will use hands-on, inquiry-based approaches to field study in combination with visiting speakers from federal agencies and universities to instill excitement about ecological research and increase appreciation regarding the value of STEM-based education, particularly among students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.
Monica will be working with the US Environmental Protection Agency, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the towns of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona to determine the quality of vegetables grown in home gardens neighboring the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site (IKMHSS).
Monica has developed the Gardenroots project is in response to community concerns regarding the quality of produce from home gardens. She will be working with local vegetable gardeners to determine if their soils and vegetable gardens have been impacted by the mine tailing waste from the IKMHSS. Monica will carry out a citizen science program that will actively engage community members in the sampling collection process and in the design of project's outreach materials. Citizen Scientists of the Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona area will be:
Kristin Wisneski, co-sponsored by Arid Lands Research.
In 2007 I began working at the Office of Arid Lands Studies with the NASA Arizona Geospatial Extension program. Addressing the needs of nonformal education youth programs through Youth-Driven Community Asset Mapping has been the primary focus of our efforts in engaging youth with their communities and the environment. This experience has brought me into 4 different youth programs over the course of the past two years, all with different agendas and interests, to use geospatial tools for data collection, problem solving, decision-making and science-based knowledge and skills learning. For the NASA Space Grant Fellowship I am developing informal education materials to implement these skills and tools. Informal implies that the learning experience is not expert-led, but rather is voluntary and self-directed, and as it turns out over 70% of learning falls in this category. The materials will be developed and tested using participatory methods that engage the youth groups we currently work with through the Geospatial Extension program. Starting in January, the testing and refinement of the materials will continue through their use in the multi-disciplinary project called Stealth Health, led by five departments across the University of Arizona. Stealth Health aims to develop and test a novel approach integrating communication and location-based technologies with informal education for promotion of healthy behaviors aimed at decreasing the incidence of adolescent obesity. The intervention will take place in on-going after-school and weekend programs that use Youth-Driven Community Asset Mapping to empower and engage the youth. Lastly these informal education materials will be disseminated through an online portal calledMap@Syst on the eXtension.org website in hopes to impact a broader audience.