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News from the Education Foundation

Posted: October 1, 2012

5 Mid-Schools Taking Part in STEM Project at Sandia Mountain Natural History Center

Students at Van Buren, Jimmy Carter, Truman, Madison and Desert Ridge middle schools will participate in two field experiences to collect ecological data.


The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center will be the site of a pilot program enhancing STEM for five middle schools this fall.

The project -- which addresses increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering and math related fields -- is specifically focusing on life and physical science content knowledge and standards. 

Students at Van Buren, Jimmy Carter, Truman, Madison, and Desert Ridge middle schools will participate in two field experiences at the SMNHC to collect ecological data with their teachers, APS and SMNHC personnel, and volunteer specialists like Dr. Jerry Dragoo from UNM’s Department of Biology who is a recognized expert on skunks. 

Dr. Jerry Dragoo and student

Participating teachers received training and support while developing the project-based learning unit this summer. After the field experience at SMHNC, students will utilize and analyze their collected data and communicate to a public audience how they solved a problem, what they learned, and what skills they used. Topics include water quality, air quality, pollution, weather, and wildlife tracks and signs.

The field experience is complemented by both pre and post activities in the classroom. Fifteen teachers and over 1,000 students are included in this pilot project funded under the title “Using Environmental Field Data Collection Experiences in Project-Based Learning Units.” 

The project can be exported to other classrooms and schools since the project-based units align nicely with the Common Core State Standards.

The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center is a collaborative effort between Albuquerque Public Schools and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The museum offers many educational outreach programs to APS students and the SMNHC is a hands-on centerpiece of that effort. Science content books were presented to students as a donation to the Van Buren Middle School science library on Thursday, Sept. 27, by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The NMMNHS facilitated the donation.   

In addition to the APS Education Foundation Horizon Campaign Award, other supporters include Sandia National Laboratories and the Albert I. Pierce Foundation.

Vince Case, APS environmental education resource teacher at the SMNHC, said: “It’s exciting to witness students and their teachers as they grapple with real-world scientific questions in the field supported by professional scientists. This donation of books from AAAS will help students in their classroom research and gaining access to information that guides their critical thinking in developing solutions to the problems they strive to solve. We are extremely grateful to all contributing donors and collaborators in this pilot project!”


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