In honor of Women’s History Month, GEM Environmental created a story walk along Tom’s Trail in Acker Park to recognize the amazing achievements of five female minority STEM professionals. The stories spotlight Mary G. Ross, Maryam Mirzakhani, Mamie Phipps Clark, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Ellen Ochoa. Through the walk, you learn about their stories, the hardships they had to overcome, their vital contributions to STEM, and ways for you to get involved!
GEM’s mission is to create avenues for the advancement of students in STEM programs to industry careers by providing unique educational opportunities for continued personal growth. Madison Link, GEM’s Program Coordinator, believes that to continue towards advancement, we must also look back at those who have come before us, who have broken boundaries, and who have accomplished amazing achievements despite adversity. Rooted in these ideas and values, Madison was inspired to create GEM’s Acker Park project by the existing story walk at Granite Creek Park.
Granite Creek Park has an amazing story walk designed to teach elementary school students reading comprehension skills. Created by the Prescott Public Library, community members are able to enjoy an educational space in nature. The story walk simultaneously provides parents with tips on how to support their children in learning, while also using elementary reading level language so that children can practice their reading skills!
Madison thought this was a wonderful idea and decided a story walk would be an excellent way to showcase minority STEM professionals who impacted various STEM fields. Madison shared, “Story walks are great for the community! They help inspire people to be active outside and are a great way to learn along the way. It just makes sense that GEM would follow the Prescott Public Libraries lead as we are always looking to promote outdoor educational spaces.”
Working with Kelly Tolbert, Prescott Recreation Service’s Recreation Coordinator, they decided that a story walk aimed at the middle school reading level would be perfect. Then they worked together to find a great location, eventually deciding on Tom’s Trail in Acker Park.
Once the writing got underway, the entire team worked together to create vivid biographies for these five amazing women. Madison researched and identified the information while Annie Warner, Abby Ruby, and Brandon White helped edit the information into a comprehensive story. Annie Warner, AmeriCorps State Member and GEM’s media expert, stated “This project is unique and meaningful because it addresses community issues in a sustainable way. By sharing the accomplishments of minority women in STEM with community members, we can inspire many generations to come.”
All of the women GEM highlighted had extensive and meaningful narratives and achievements worth sharing, so it was difficult at times to comprehensively highlight it all in just a few short sentences. But with collaboration and teamwork, the GEM staff was able to do it!
While writing the pieces was extremely important, so was building the plaques that the stories rest on. Eric Welsh and his three children helped to create those plaques from scratch. Using their welding skills, Eric and his sons created frames for the plaques and ingenious tops that will allow the stories to be changed at a later date.
Once all the pieces were created and ready, the team began the installation process on March 31st, the last day of Women’s History Month! The team met at 10 AM to get started on digging holes for the posts, mixing cement, and centering the plaques just right. After three hours of hard work, the first parts of the plaques were installed. Abby Ruby, GEM Environmental AmeriCorps VISTA, said “I got to learn a lot about manual labor yesterday, which was awesome! Mixing and shoveling concrete, powering on an auger, and digging through clay isn’t how I thought I'd spend my Wednesday, but it was a great new way to make a difference in the community.”
Not only was it a good opportunity to learn about manual labor, but Annie Warner also got to stretch her project planning and design skills. She states, “During this project, I learned more about the logistics behind planning for community learning. I was able to gain a new perspective on the extensive work needed to complete a project like this including the graphic design elements, coordination with community partners, and physical installation components.”
GEM is passionate about initiating beautiful and educational changes within the community, especially when it supports our members in learning new skills. GEM is constantly and consistently focused on creating positive impacts in community spaces, building skills through experiential activities for our members, and designing sustainable projects that empower community learning. The Acker Park Story Walk incorporates all each of these three elements!
To see the fruits of our labor, please visit Tom’s Trail in Acker Park! You can get to it via the Summer Field street entrance. It’s a great way to get active while learning!