In October, our GEM Environmental team had the opportunity to give back to the community and work towards bettering the environment through a Park Clean-Up at Granite Creek! Early in the morning of October 9th, our team met up with Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Director of the Prescott Recreation Services, to clean up litter around Prescott’s Granite Creek Park for our October Service Project.
Upon our arrival, Kelly gave us the tools we needed and maps of the surrounding areas. We split up into groups of two to conquer the trails around Granite Creek Park that led into other parts of the community. Armed with one trash bag holder, two metal trash grabbers, and a desire to improve our communal environment, we set off. Many people that we encountered on the trails asked who we were working with and why we were picking up trash, and we had the chance to share information about GEM and what we do!
As with all of our service projects, every GEM team member was thrilled to work towards improving our community and creating exposure for our organization. Ellen Snyder, a GEM AmeriCorps State Member, stated, “I really enjoyed exploring Prescott and beautifying the area with the whole team. It was amazing to see how much litter we picked up and how great the areas looked afterward.” As always, the GEM team had a fun time working together and making a difference in our community.
The Community Nature Center, or CNC, has been around since the early 1970s. In the past, it has been used as a nature retreat for bird watchers, native vegetation enthusiasts, and other interest groups. That was until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the CNC’s potential was expanded to include more education-based initiatives. GEM Environmental had started its GEM for STEM programming in 2019 and found that their skills could be of use to provide the CNC with STEM curriculum to students in an outdoor and experiential learning environment. Since then, GEM Environmental has helped teach students STEM lessons and has created conducive learning spaces for students and educators at the CNC. One part of the CNC that has received a lot of attention is the area surrounding the pond.
Since early February 2021, GEM Environmental has been working closely with the CNC and Prescott Recreation Services to renovate the pond area through multiple projects. Previous to the renovations, the pond area was highly eroded from foot traffic and water flow in addition to lacking a clear path to the pond itself. The lack of clear paths alongside the erosive layout of the area was exacerbated by the pond being of high interest for many visitors which increases foot traffic. For their first project, GEM planned diligently with Barnabas Kane from Consilium Design and Ellen Bashor from the CNC to recreate the pond area. In the planning, the project partners thought thoroughly about how to create an educational space that allows for large groups to occupy the area, while not eroding the vegetation as well. Keeping all that in mind, Barnabas drew up a blueprint of what he thought would be the most effective then they all planned a date to execute the proposal.
On February 24th, GEM Environmental alongside Chris Hosking from Recreation Services, two members from the “Over the Hill Gang”, and Ellen Bashor renovated the pond area in multiple ways. First, using an excavator, two swales were dug on the southern portion of the pond area to encourage water to flow into the pond. Also, the excavator was used to dig three terraces into the hill on the northside to create an amphitheater. While this was taking place, another path was made to allow access to the pond. As a part of the new path, stones were added in the portion that crossed the swales so water could flow while keeping the path dry.
GEM was motivated to contribute to this project given our close relationship with the CNC and the number of educational opportunities that this project created. Now that there is a path to the pond and an amphitheater, larger numbers of people can enjoy the area and can access the pond without erosion. Henry Dhalberg, a volunteer with the CNC, has said how pleased he is with the renovations that have been made.
This is only one project of the many that are still to be done at the CNC pond area, and GEM will continue to be motivated to contribute to the overall well-being of the CNC and creating conducive learning spaces for all visitors at the pond area.
Taylor Hicks Elementary School in Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) has a goal to teach students about nutritious foods and allow them to try fresh, earth-grown food. Approximately seven years ago, Cari Cole, a teacher at Taylor Hicks, worked with Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) to create a school gardening program in the classroom as well as a garden club. Cari Cole has been Taylor Hick’s Garden Champion since the creation of this program. Sarah Reveile, coordinator of the Farm to School Program, said “Our Farm to School Program is grateful to have such a devoted and passionate Garden Champion.”
The garden started as just a couple of raised beds on the north side of campus near the soccer field. In recent years, due to the new PUSD Farm to School AmeriCorps VISTAs, the school garden has grown into a full-sized garden. Volunteers from YCCHS helped create 10 raised garden beds, an outdoor classroom was assembled, and a drip irrigation system was put into place.
GEM Environmental has also been a major contributor to making Taylor Hick’s garden prosper. In 2019, Paul Reznik, the Farm to School AmeriCorps VISTA at the time, reached out to GEM asking for help building a fence around the garden. Animals had been creeping in during the afternoon hours to munch on all of the tasty treats the garden has to offer, and Paul was hoping to find a peaceful method to stop them. Eric Welsh, the Executive Director of GEM, was happy to help!
Eric led a team of volunteers who worked to install the fence around the garden. The project resulted in a fence which is over 6-feet tall and protects the garden well from animals, vandals, and fly-away sports balls.
Then in 2021, GEM reached out to the current Garden Champion VISTA, Sara Reveile, to ask if the GEM team could help her with an event for our February 2021 service project. She enthusiastically agreed and immediately knew which project needed the most support! While the fence helped keep animals such as deer out, it was not able to stop the gophers from digging under the fence and getting into the garden. Therefore, Sara asked our team to dig a 2-foot-deep trench around the garden so that chicken wire could be placed under the ground.
In regards to the event, Sarah commented “Due to the pandemic, PUSD has limited volunteer activities on school campuses in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our volunteer event with GEM Environmental was the first event we've been able to have in many months. We felt confident that the exposure risk would be low given that we were all working outside in the garden, physically distant, and with masks on. Since this is the first volunteer event our Farm to School Program has had in many months, we were enormously grateful to have a full crew of people help us complete a large project such as this.”
GEM was happy to contribute to this project because the garden has been used for a variety of educational purposes. School gardens can be used to teach almost any subject, from science to art. This diversity and opportunity within education is exactly what Cari Cole strives for. The school garden helps Mrs. Cole's students apply seemingly abstract concepts in the classroom to tangible examples in the garden. On average, 35 students get to try each 'batch' of garden goods. Mrs. Cole's 1st-grade class and her garden club get to enjoy the fruit of their labor while enjoying the fruits and vegetables that are grown in the school garden.
The GEM team was happy to be able to help protect the labor of Mrs. Cole’s 1st-grade class! With the newly expanded GEM team, 8 GEM members helped with this service event. This project was inspiring and unique because it allowed our organization to be part of a sustainable solution to a problem that has given the garden so much trouble, especially since students interact with the Taylor Hicks Garden in many different ways.
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!
On Saturday, April 17th, the GEM Environmental staff took part in the 14th annual Granite Creek Cleanup organized by Prescott Creeks. During this event, Creeks all over the Prescott area were being cleaned by over five hundred community members. GEM was proud to be a part of such a wide spread event that brought so many community members together in a meaningful way.
Arriving at 7 AM, GEM’s team helped get the event set up. From placing sponsorship banners to helping set up tables with all of the materials people needed for the event, the ten GEM members on-site helped make this event a success. When people started lining up to collect their materials, GEM staff helped direct traffic, hand out materials in a safe contact-free way, and answered community member questions. Over the course of the day, GEM members interacted with over 80 group leaders collecting materials for the cleanup.
Brandon White, Program Manager of GEM Environmental, states, “GEM is growing so quickly that it can be difficult to have all the members of the team get together. This was a great event to have our new members from GEM Corps interact with both our AmeriCorps members and the behind-the-scenes staff that keeps GEM running.” Madison Link, the Program Coordinator of GEM Environmental, echoes those statements by saying, “It was great to see everyone from the different sections of GEM come together to help with this event. It is even cooler that this event is so prominent in Prescott and does so much good for the community itself!”
After the event, all volunteers were able to eat the delicious food provided by Nick’s Feed Your Face and Two Mamas’ Gourmet Pizzas! Nick has always been so gracious with helping provide food for GEM events and other community initiatives. He and his amazing subs are a true staple for the community!
While this event helped make great progress in our community, we are looking forward to more cleanup opportunities around Prescott and are excited for the 2022 Granite Greek Cleanup!
Welcome to our 1st edition of Annette's Adventures! This monthly blog follows our field scientist Annette Sunda as she explores the vast lands of New Mexico while working our AML monitoring program! Hope you enjoy!
Hello, and welcome to my new blog and my new job! My name is Annette Sunda and I recently started working with GEM Environmental, monitoring closed mines on Abandoned Mine Land (AML) in the Land of Enchantment. As enchanting as New Mexico is, it should be called the Land of Adventure. The adventures have not stopped since I moved here, in fact, I think they have doubled since I started AML monitoring and I want to take you along for the adventure!
My introduction to AML monitoring starts in the Cerrillos Hills Mining District, which is roughly 20 minutes south of Santa Fe, on Highway 14 aka “The Turquoise Trail”. Follow the signs to Los Cerrillos and take a pit stop in the village to enjoy the shops and mining museum. Once you are done checking out the town, head on over to the state park, this is where the adventure begins!
My first day on the job was a bit of an unknown for me. I had my GPS device Trimble, called the “Yuma2” (it looks more like a tablet than a GPS device), I also had my trusty field shirt, a knit cap, and gloves to keep my fingers warm. I loaded my vest with lunch and snacks, put sunscreen on my face, grabbed my two-liter camelback, and off I went to see what I could find.
The Yuma2 tells me the location of all closed (remediated) mines in the area, and it is my job to make sure that I can locate and verify that they are still in good, remediated condition. So I started up the trail and quickly decided that trail was too easy to walk so I jumped down and started hiking, down the slope and up the next hill to the first green dot on the screen. Then off again, up the hill to two more dots, back down, and again up and over the next hill to some more remediated mine features. My entire first day was a series of spirals, narrowing in on the mine features and climbing up and down the steep hillsides in the blowing wind and shining sun. It was a long day, but very glorious. I managed to reach nine mine features that day, all were far off the beaten path and in good condition. When I was finally too tired to think, I headed back to the car. Exhausted, tired, and looking for the quickest way back, I found what looked like a cow trail, and I thought to myself, “cows go home, and so do I”! So I followed the
trail and quickly realized it was not a cow trail, “that’s a shod hoof, this is a horse trail” I probably yelled that out loud. Five minutes later I was back at the main trail and two minutes after that I was back at my car.
Day two and day three were much more of the same, except I stuck to the trails and was able to get to more mine features. The cool thing about Cerrillos Hills State Park is that the main trails wander throughout the hills and take you to a lot of the mine features. Most of the mines on the state park trails have interpretive signs and I would encourage all of you to check out the trails and see how industrious the local miners were.
During my third day at Cerrillos Hills I stuck to the west side of the main access road and saw some very cool mine closures, the coolest mines were right next to the trails and still had the original wooden headframes in the mine shafts. One remediated mine shaft has a bridge that crosses over the opening and has a great view of the very deep hole. By the end of this day, I had seen all the remediated shafts that I could reach from state park trails, so I reached out to the local property owners and received permission to access mine features on their land. The property owner told me that there were some really old mines on his property and that I
would enjoy seeing all the closures. He was not wrong. As it turned out the very next day my meetings were canceled so I loaded my gear and headed back to Cerrillos Hills....
I went through the private property gate and on to my first stop. Mina Del Tiro, the oldest recorded mine in North America! A large shaft, roughly 20 feet square with a concrete “collar” around the top and “mesh” stretched across the opening. My fourth day was a cold, windy, rainy day; I compromised by monitoring mines that could be easily accessed with my car. I wandered around the roads on his property to see what points I could reach.
In addition to Mina Del Tiro, I also found my first “Bat Coppola” a large metal structure on top of a closed mine shaft that is designed to allow bats to easily enter and exit the shaft. The last shaft of my day was possibly the coolest thing I have seen so far, a stub shaft with a vein of turquoise in the sidewall. With the weather turning to rain just after marking the turquoise shaft, I hopped back into my car and headed home.
Seeing the oldest recorded metal mine is cool and not easy to do unless you have the right
connections but seeing turquoise in bedrock staring me in the face was definitely a lifetime goal achieved. Thank you GEM for the great adventures! I look forward to sharing more adventures with you throughout the summer field season.
Make sure to check back monthly for more of Annette's Adventures! And be sure to follow us on Facebook!
Jessica Certain has been passionate about rocks and the outdoors since she was young and grew up going rock collecting, camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. She continues to participate and enjoy these activities today and loves to do these things with family and friends when she can. This is where her interest in STEM fields began, and after taking a break from education following high school, she threw herself into studying and learning about these subjects. She is currently finishing up her Associate of Science at Yavapai College in Prescott and will soon move to Ohio to study at Miami University and earn her Bachelor of Science in Geology. Jessica hopes that throughout her career, her work will preserve natural resources and the environment, be aware of and prepare for natural disasters, and help promote environmental and STEM education.
Jessica currently works with GEM Environmental as a STEM Education Specialist and helps assemble and prepare lesson plans for Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) students. Through GEM’s partnership with the Community Nature Center (CNC), they have been able to provide much-needed COVID-19 relief for PUSD by hosting STEM programming for students while schools are in hybrid and online learning. In the future GEM will support these students by providing after-school programs and field trips, and Jessica is excited to be able to participate in this as well. She believes science is needed in order to learn about the world we live in and is essential in finding ways to continue taking care of our planet.
When Jessica develops these lesson plans, she often thinks about how excited the students are when they get to dig in the dirt or assemble pictures of dinosaur bones. Jessica recognizes the importance of introducing STEM curriculum at an early age and hopes that as these students move on to higher levels of education, the concepts explored with GEM during their STEM Days at the CNC will provide a strong foundation for their continued learning. She loves how passionate people in scientific fields are, and enjoys discussing different aspects of the sciences with her peers.
On a normal day, you can find Jessica absorbed in her studies, spending time outside, reading a book, playing with her dog, or enjoying time with her husband and family. Please reach out to Jessica if you have any questions about geology, lesson planning, or GEM Environmental! You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Snyder grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and when not reading, she was outdoors experiencing nature. Growing up, her science teachers in middle and high school made biology, chemistry, and physics fun and interesting. This made Ellen a curious student, always looking for more to learn. One fond memory she has is of her eighth-grade science teacher who always said, “Never say ‘eww’ when in my class, I only want to hear ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh.’”
Her parents emphasized gardening, recycling, and believed she and her brother should be outdoors as much as possible. Being a bookworm, her mom would tell Ellen to read outside to get some sunshine. Ellen was also often outdoors playing with her brother and attending classes about geology and local animals at the nature center in town. She also was a Girl Scout through high school, which introduced her to camping and hiking. Living in a suburban area these experiences out in the wilderness helped her connect even more to the Earth. As she got older, she began to better understand the impact humans have on the natural world and that it is our responsibility to care for the land, water, plants, animals, microorganisms, and all other inhabitants of the Earth.
Ellen finds that people within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are so passionate, intelligent, and creative; they’re always willing to talk about their field of expertise and give advice. This was especially true within Ellen’s educational and professional experiences. She had professors, coworkers, and classmates that gave her a new perspective on conservation, agriculture, and sustainability. After high school, she attended the local community college, Harper College, and received an Associate of Arts. Ellen then attended Monmouth College, a small liberal arts school on the western edge of Illinois, to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science.
She always knew she wanted to pursue a degree in biology, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year of college after an ecology course with an inspirational professor that Ellen realized environmental science was the direction in which she was meant to go. While attending college Ellen was a member of the environmental club, President of a student-run organic educational garden, conducted rare fern research as a senior, and assisted in prescribed burns near campus.
Ellen also worked several restoration-based jobs during her summers while attending college, including assisting with a ten-year biodiversity project to restore native plant species to former farmland and removing non-native plant species from forest preserves. She credits these summer experiences to really giving her an edge when applying for opportunities after graduation.
Ellen’s other job experience includes: being the only female crew leader at a landscaping company, a medical laboratory technician, agricultural soil analyst, and medical cannabis cultivator. One of the most difficult things Ellen had to realize after graduation was that life plans can change, whether that is because of moving to a new state or a pandemic, but the best way to move forward is to keep trying new things. Finding AmeriCorps and becoming a team member within GEM Environmental has given Ellen a new perspective on what she wants to do with her time. This term with AmeriCorps has also emphasized the importance of education for younger students and has given Ellen confidence in teaching. She finds the students she works with to be inquisitive and she especially enjoys the wonderful conversations she has with them about the natural world.
Ellen has brought to GEM her knowledge of biological and ecological concepts to help create lesson plans for the K-6th grade students at the Community Nature Center (CNC). The lessons at the CNC focus on providing nature-based education to students during COVID-19 who do not have access to technology nor a safe place to learn when school is not in session. She also assists with projects concerning native plant species and worked with Madison Link to create a presentation to assist teachers in educating their students about invasive plants in Arizona for the Summer Institute hosted by the Center for Nature and Place through Prescott College.
Ellen believes accessibility to STEM fields, no matter someone’s socioeconomic or geographic background, is essential. STEM fields make up such a large portion of the world around us, whether it’s nature where you have a picnic, the tablet you watch movies on, the medical equipment that saves lives, or the calculations that sent a rover to look for ancient life on Mars, all these fields of study are so important.
When Ellen isn’t helping with GEM’s programs she enjoys exploring and hiking in the Prescott area, reading science fiction novels, baking interesting dessert recipes, spending time with her husband, dog, and cat, and learning how to garden in the high desert!
If you have any questions for Ellen, she can be reached at email@example.com. She would be happy to talk about GEM’s programs, what it’s like to pursue a career in science, or how great plants are!
Sitting in the stern of the 61-foot yawl sailing through Puget Sound, Emily had a brief conversation with a science teacher that helped to steer her path as an educator. Emily was a marine educator for a sailing-based science and leadership development program for students in Washington State, and loved connecting students with their watershed through experiential education. She had been working as an educator for field-based science programs for several years and realized that being a teacher would allow her to develop meaningful relationships with students and build field-based science experiences into the curriculum throughout the year.
Looking back at her science education, Emily was always drawn to the natural world and loved her biology classes but felt that pursuing higher-level science was only for the analytically minded. Near the end of her studies of art history and museum education in college, she explored how artists were using temporary installations and earthworks sculptures in ways that fused the worlds of science and art. Now as a teacher, she reflects on how her childhood preconception about what a scientist looks like or what it means to be “good at science” did not reveal the truly interdisciplinary nature of the field. She works to dispel these misconceptions in her classroom and to let her students know that the world needs creative and critical thinkers from all backgrounds who feel empowered to use the scientific process in innovative ways.
Emily is continually impressed with how GEM has adapted to support STEM education for K-12 students in the community, while still setting aside resources and time to remove financial barriers for students in higher education through the generous scholarship program. Emily is honored to be a part of the GEM team as the Director of Scholarships and is excited to see where the future takes them.
Madison Link grew up in Georgia and knew from a young age how important the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are. Madison’s mom and dad are major role models for her. They both were huge advocates for the importance of education, and both have careers in the STEM fields. Madison’s mom, Tina Link, is a high school biology teacher and would often stop on nature walks to point out moss and pinecones. Tina’s excitement for the most basic things in nature instilled Madison’s appreciation and scientific curiosity for the world around her. Madison’s dad, Michael Link, is a data researcher and has a very analytical frame of mind. His business skills such as looking at a problem logically, helped Madison learn from an early age how to create plans, keep track of patterns, and more. Madison’s parents made a huge impact in her life, thus she was not surprised when STEM fields of study interested her as she entered college.
Madison attended college at Georgia College & State University. She loved both psychology and mathematics and started studying them within her first semester. Her teachers were very supportive and she was often found talking to them after class about specific research stories, lecture information, and other academic material. Additionally, Madison invested herself in further academic opportunities such as an independent study on Lagrange’s Theorem and entering a lab on Harm Reduction Methods for Substance Abuse. She was always hungry to learn more about both mathematics and psychology, that passion led to her being elected as ‘Most Outstanding Senior Award’ in the psychology field.
Madison graduated Summa Cum Laude in the Spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Mathematics. Afterward, she knew she wanted to serve the country while also exploring a new place. With that in mind, AmeriCorps was the perfect next step for her!
In July of 2019, Madison moved to Prescott, Arizona to be GEM Environmental’s first VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America). Madison started as their Program Coordinator and instantly began to enact programs that engaged more underrepresented students in STEM fields. While Madison was in college, she was one of only five girls that took advanced mathematics classes, as a result, she felt it was important to showcase that women can excel in STEM fields.
In school, Madison often felt that women and other minorities in STEM fields were pressured to exceed expectations. Consequently, if these groups fell short of their goals, they were frequently mocked or looked down upon. To change that narrative, Madison started the STEM School Day initiatives. With this initiative, Madison went into schools and hosted engaging STEM Days with diverse students. For each STEM Day, she ensured that the students were simultaneously having fun and expanding their understanding of STEM. These events consisted of activities such as making paper bats fly, creating cars out of toilet paper rolls, and deploying a popsicle stick catapult! Madison’s methodology is that by keeping the mood positive and fun, more students will enjoy the STEM fields instead of feeling like they are too difficult to pursue.
However, Madison’s focus expanded beyond younger students. She also worked with college-age students by helping to grow the GEM for STEM Lecture Series. Throughout this series, Madison collaborated with professors at Yavapai College and invited STEM professionals as guest speakers to college classes. The guest speakers would discuss their profession: how they got started in it, the connections they made, and more. The role of these guest speakers was to show students the various careers they could have in STEM fields and to provide students professional connections. Many students have benefitted from this series, two even changed their field of study after hearing a guest lecturer speak.
In July of 2020, when Madison’s term finished, she transitioned from being a VISTA with GEM to being a staff member. She continues to work as the Program Coordinator, but she now focuses on building lesson plans for the Community Nature Center (CNC) which acts as a COVID-19 Education Relief Center. Students between grades K-6th who do not have access to technology, WiFi, or a safe learning space can come to the CNC to participate in place-based learning activities and receive help with their online schooling. Madison and others on the GEM team work to provide STEM lessons for the CNC and assist with the program at least twice a week. Madison feels very grateful that she can support the community during the pandemic, while also furthering GEM’s mission to help underrepresented students enter STEM fields.
During her year and a half with GEM, Madison has also been instrumental in collecting data for all of the on-going and new programs. She does this by creating surveys for the students GEM serves and analyzing the data from those survey responses. This data has since been used to initiate changes to the programs and ensure they are impacting as many students as possible, while also ensuring the programs remain fun and informative.
Outside of GEM, Madison has loved exploring all that Arizona has to offer. She is often traveling to new areas and exploring new hiking trails. She has also loved learning to rock climb in the Prescott Dells and is excited to rock climb in Sedona one day. During the week, Madison is often found cooking fun dishes with friends, including tandoori chicken, pad thai, and more.
If you have any questions for Madison, please feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be happy to discuss GEM’s programs, her position at GEM, or anything else!