Category Archives: community outreach

Tech bus delivers training

Take a standard 40-foot, 84-passenger yellow school bus and make it into a rolling technology center.

Scottsdale Unified School District unveiled its eCoach yesterday at Mohave Middle School. They brought out the Saguaro High School Jazz Band, provided refreshments, put up a tent to shade attendees and conducted quick tours through the bus, which is equipped with a Smartboard, document camera, audio, Wi-Fi, extra air conditioners and enough room for 11 people and an instructor.

The eCoach was crowded with students, district staff and members of the media during yesterday's unveiling ceremony.

Tom Clark, the district’s chief technology officer, said it wasn’t too expensive to create because the district already had the bus, district employees made the furniture, partners donated various parts and services to make it a reality and they’ll have a district bus driver cruise around to where the teachers are. All in all, Clark said, it cost “a few thousand.”

The district also intends to use the bus for community outreach to teach parents about the technology their kids are using in school and to provide online access to kids who might not have a computer or an Internet connection at home.

The benefit for teachers is that they will be able to schedule the eCoach to come to their school when they need training rather than having to drive to another school or the district office.

One area of staff development Clark mentioned was the increasing use of iPads in the classroom and apps to enhance the teaching and learning process. The eCoach will make it easier for teachers to get up to speed on the newest apps.

Scan code on the side of the eCoach.

There are 31 schools in the Scottsdale district and about 1,700 teachers, so it looks like the eCoach driver will be on the road non-stop for much of the school year.

For more information, visit


Got trees?

An outreach program titled “Canopy for the Next Century” is engaging Arizona students in planting trees to raise environmental awareness.

The program provides matching funds for schools to plants trees, host a visiting arborist, memorialize their tree planting with a plaque and develop leadership skills in environmental stewardship.

“Canopy for the Next Century” is presented by the Arizona Centennial Commission & 2012 Foundation in conjunction with the Arizona Community Tree Council — with the support of a $10,000 grant from Salt River Project.

Schools have two options when applying for a grant. They can raise $250 and receive $250 in matching funds to plant two trees, or raise $125 and receive $125 in matching funds to plant a single tree.

Trees will be chosen from a pre-selected tree list, and participating schools receive age-appropriate educational lessons on the proper care and planting of trees. Participating schools must have irrigation and maintenance available on site.

Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Students, teachers and parents can nominate their school through an application process available online at

Lynn Trimble

Image: Arizona State Library

Town Hall focuses on needs of East Valley children from birth to 5

Parents, caregivers, civic leaders and other community members in the East Valley are invited to join a discussion about education and healthcare services for children from birth to age 5.

The Central & Southeast Maricopa Regional Partnership Council’s Community Town Hall will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow (Sept. 27) at the Southeast Regional Library, 775 N. Greenfield Rd. in Gilbert. The event is free, and open to parents in the East Valley communities of Chandler, Tempe, Guadalupe, Ahwatukee, Queen Creek, Gilbert and Mesa.

Early education and healthcare providers in the area will host booths with information about services offered. Workshops on early literacy, health and family support will be facilitated in English and Spanish.

For more information, contact

To learn more about First Things First, Arizona’s statewide initiative on early education and health, visit

Neely Traditional Academy’s hand-made dolls bring comfort and joy

Comfort dolls created by the lunch-time knitting club.

Two days a week,  Neely Traditional Academy teacher Brenda Koerselman gives up her lunch hour to teach knitting to eight to 12 students.

“This is part of my community outreach,” she says. “We relax as we knit and create many useful items to share with those less fortunate.”

Cindy Jarvis with some of the Ugandan orphans who received comfort dolls.

That outreach went global in April, when Koerselman’s friend Cindy Jarvis went on a trip to Africa in April with Hope 4 Kids International. The knitting club sent 12 dolls with her to be distributed at a Ugandan orphanage.

Each of the comfort dolls was specially crafted, and the knitters put a lot of time and care into personalizing their dolls. As the dolls were distributed, Jarvis took photos of each child who received a doll. When Jarvis returned home, Koerselman printed a copy of the photo for each knitter, showing their comfort doll in the hands of its new owner.

Neely Traditional Academy is located at 321 West Juniper Ave. in Gilbert.

Young refugees see the sights in ELL summer school

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, laughter and fun are the same.

I was reminded of this within the first few minutes of the arrival  of Phoenix Union High School District’s English Language Learners summer school students at the Arizona Science Center. I watched as they pointed and laughed together at a giant telescope on the ceiling over the entrance, with a large eye staring back and shifting about. You wouldn’t guess that most of these kids didn’t know one another, or that many of them weren’t even able to speak to one another. They all had the same expressions of wonder and amusement.

Phoenix Union High School District ELL students played in the stream table in the "Forces of Nature" exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.


The students of Phoenix Union’s ELL summer school are refugees from all over the world, many of them displaced from their home countries, some as recently as a few weeks ago. The students speak more than 20 different languages ranging from Farsi to Swahili to Nepali. All have lived in the U.S. for less than one year, and all are at various levels of proficiency in English, from “pre-emergent” to literate.

The students have been exposed to activities like bead working, making ice cream in a bag, songs, math and other concepts in the classroom, according to Carl Hayden High School ESL department chair Karen Grimwood.

rope maze

Phoenix Union High School District teacher Debbie Kunes, left, explains how the rope maze works to Masoka, from Mozambique, in the MAZES exhibit.

In addition to time spent in the classroom, the 4-week summer school has taken the young students on field trips to see the sights around Phoenix, journeying to a bowling alley, an IMAX movie, the Musical Instrument Museum, the library, Shamrock Farms, the zoo, a candy factory and the State Capitol, to name a few.

At the Science Center, the kids romped upstairs to the third floor, where the MAZES exhibition awaited them. They immediately scattered across the large space, exploring the various maze games in the exhibit.

Zarsanga from Afghanistan enjoyed having a fort of foam blocks built around her in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

I loved watching how the kids got creative, taking games and activities that were designed to be played one way, and playing them in completely different ways of their own invention. Foam beams meant to be arranged in a maze on the floor became the walls of a fort. Other students competed to see who could balance the beams on their noses the longest.

Yadav from Nepal balances a foam block on his nose in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

As I observed the students at play, I realized that the exhibit allowed them to explore new concepts without the use of language. They could feel textures, see colors and shapes, follow paths and build structures, all without saying a word. Some of the kids spoke to one another in English, others had made new friends who spoke their native tongues and others weren’t communicating with words at all. Whatever the case, everyone was having fun.

I guess goofing around is a universal language.

marble mazes

A group of students in the ELL class played with the confounding marble labyrinths in the MAZES exhibit at the Arizona Science Center.

When it came time to leave, a boy from Burundi named Edgar, whom I had met playing a rotating maze board and marble game, turned and smiled at me, using one of the phrases he’s come to know well, “Have a good day!”

Story by Sadie Smeck, photos by Daniel Friedman

SRP funds new math, science programs

Salt River Project has donated a total of $124,000 to implement special programs that support math and science education in 29 Arizona schools.

Recipients of Learning Grants by SRP are schools representing elementary through high grades all across the state. Grant funding will enable robotics and engineering courses and clubs, water testing and analysis, ecological conservation programs, gardening projects and more.

Below are just a few examples of the incredible programs being developed at a few of the recipient schools.

Photo courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary.

Avondale. St. Thomas Aquinas will implement a program in which students will learn about the role water has played in Arizona’s history, work with water-saving devices and show their parents and fellow students what they’ve learned at a Water Conservation Awareness/Science Night.

Photo courtesy of Verde Valley Montessori.

Cottonwood. Verde Valley Montessori will now have a garden space at the Cottonwood Community Garden. Through the Life Cycle of a Garden Project, students will test soil, chart plant growth, prepare a meal from their crops and donate surplus of the harvest to a local food bank.

Fountain Hills  

Fountain Hills High School engineering students will construct and equip a solar-powered, fully robotic and automated astronomy observatory on the roof of the school’s science building with live Internet video feed. The district’s teachers will have access to the system to use as a teaching tool in their own classroom, and astronomy classes at Fountain Hills High School will also use data and images from the observatory for their own research projects.


Gilbert Elementary will combine social studies and science to create a year-long theme that will incorporate the study of water throughout Arizona’s history. Students will use GPS devices for geocaching treasure hunts, study Theodore Roosevelt Dam, visit the Desert Botanical Garden and more, ending with a “Water Night” for parents and community members.


The Cesar Chavez High School robotics team students will compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge (beginning level robotics engineering), FIRST Lego League (intermediate level robotics with an emphasis on climate connections), and FIRST Robotics Competition (an expert level engineering competition involving improving the functionality of a robot system). They will also mentor elementary school students interested in learning about engineering.


Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona math and biology students will gather ecological and hydrological samples from the Nina Mason Pulliam Audubon Rio Salado restoration area in Phoenix. They will compare their data to 2008 data to determine changes in the habitat and hydrology, and will present their findings.


Mountainside Middle School sixth graders will lead a campaign for an energy-free day – “Lights Out Day” – to raise awareness about renewable technologies and saving energy. They will participate in several data analysis activities to determine the cost and energy savings for one day of no-energy use.


Desert Vista High School’s Engineering Academy students will participate in the Shell Eco-Marathon and design hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. They will design and build three test vehicles with the goal of acquiring the highest miles per gallon, comparing different designs, constraints, and materials.

Find the complete list of recipients here. SRP annually gives more than $1.3 million in  contributions to educational programs and partnerships that provide teacher training, mentoring and hands-on learning. For more information, visit

Staycations that benefit parent-teacher organizations and nonprofits

How often do your PTO’s fundraisers include a luxurious stay at one of Arizona’s premier resorts?

The answer: As often as you want.

For the second year in a row, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is offering its “Sleepover for a Better Tomorrow” fundraising program to local Parent Teacher Organizations and nonprofits.

Groups can enroll in the program to receive 10 percent of whatever funds are spent by family and friends at the Princess, including accommodations, room service, dining and spa services. Through December 31, 2011, the resort is offering an additional 20 percent off of the best available rooms to encourage participation in the program.

After enrolling in the program, participating organizations can advertise the fundraising offer to friends, family, schoolmates and neighbors through emails designed by Fairmont, fliers, letters or any other means they wish. There is no restriction on the number of guests allowed to each organization.

The Princess has promised to handle all transfers of funds, without any obligation by participating organizations or paperwork for them to complete.

Who says you have to leave town to enjoy an incredible summer getaway? If you aren’t able to skip town this summer to beat the summer heat, a staycation at a beautiful desert oasis like the Princess might be just the thing for you and your family (with or without the kids).

And where else can you relax, recharge and support local schools and organizations at the same time?

For more information about the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’s “Sleepover for a Better Tomorrow” program, visit or contact Catherine Spear at 480-585-2695 or about enrolling. — Sadie Smeck