NAU program expands science education opportunities to Flagstaff families

NAU’s Adventures in Biodiversity Program will provide summer camp scholarships and free family-centered science events to Flagstaff’s underserved children and families thanks to recent grants from the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff and W.L. Gore & Associates.

The program was developed by NAU’s Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research in partnership with the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. It grew out of existing efforts, including the NAU Summer Bug Camp, which offers campers the opportunity to learn about insect natural history, behavior and ecology through a series of projects and activities.

“Science-based camps and events can change children’s lives and put them on the path to a career in science,” said Lindsie McCabe, an NAU doctoral candidate and the program’s manager. “I know because the summer bug camp I attended at age 8 is the reason I am working toward my Ph.D. and studying the role of bees as pollinators.”

The Adventures in Biodiversity Program emphasizes populations that traditionally have been underrepresented in the sciences, including Hispanics, Native Americans and girls. This program will use bugs, fungus and other topics that engage children as the “gateway” to science literacy and potentially a STEM career. Currently, only 16 percent of American high school students are interested in STEM careers.

Grant presented
Moran Henn (left), executive director of the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, and Lindsie McCabe, Adventures in Biodiversity Program manager, accept a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation of Arizona and W.L. Gore & Associates.

Children 6 to 12 years of age will receive scholarships to attend NAU’s Summer Bug Camp through the program, which will also provide families with a Biodiversity Passport that gives them free access to Family Science Day events at Willow Bend for the year. The program will bring the Traveling Arthropod Show and live insects—hissing cockroaches, tarantulas and centipedes—to area classrooms at no charge.

“An interest in science starts at a young age, and we have a unique opportunity to share the wonders of science with kids who might otherwise be excluded from science camps and educational activities because of cost,” said Neil Cobb, director of NAU’s Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research. “We are very proud of the program and deeply grateful to the Arizona Community Foundation and W.L. Gore for their support.”

Information about Summer Bug Camp scholarships and the Biodiversity Passport will be available on the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research website no later than January 1, 2017.

NAU Communications