Most people don’t think of environmental stewardship when debating STEM curriculum, but environmental science and conservation is a huge realm within the STEM community. Hoping to merge these two within the community the Verde Valley Rural Innovation Council (VVRIC) convened regional community environmental groups-Friends of the Verde River, Sedona Sustainability Alliance, and Verde Institute to develop a support plan to infuse hands-on STEM experiences. The VVRIC awarded Friends of the Verde River a $5,000 Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN) grant to support STEM activities at the 2019 Family Nature Festival. The one-day Family Nature Festival was held on Saturday, April 27th, 9am – 1pm at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in conjunction with the four-day Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival.
The Family Nature Fair was designed to engage youth in hands-on science-based activities. The event offered families and youth ages 5-18 an interactive STEM-based nature experience with activities focused on ecosystem engineers, plant-pollinator interactions, biomonitoring, coevolution, and problem solving related to the Verde River, the ecosystem it supports, and the animals that call it home. This event also included engaging volunteers from across the community to work with attendees.
What was the impact?
Over 300 people attended the fair mostly families with children ages 5-18. The Collaborative partners have now connected with 1,200+ people in the communities of Cottonwood (pop. 12,000), Clarkdale (pop. 4,200) and Sedona (pop. 10,000) about the environment and issues that affect the health of the Verde River.
The Arizona Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN) is funded by the National Science Foundation to oversee grant funding for informal STEM education projects in four rural Arizona communities: Cochise County, Graham and Greenlee County, the Verde Valley, and the Navapache/White Mountains region. RAIN acts as a resource for best practices in informal STEM program development and works to highlight effective STEM programs, employers and organizations across the state of Arizona. Interested in applying for a grant? Visit our website today and learn more about the opportunities in your community.