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Thunderbirds Charities partnership with McDowell Sonoran Conservancy brings science education opportunities to the classroom and in the Sonoran Desert


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  • Jill Partridge/ McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Junior Citizen Program Brings Nature To Life Through Hands-on Interactive Education Activities. Photo Courtesy McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

Thanks to the generous financial support of Thunderbirds Charities, hundreds of students from Title 1 schools in metro Phoenix will benefit from science-based field trips to explore the Sonoran Desert and learn STEM-based life science concepts.

A new partnership between the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and Arizona State University Ecology Explorers will provide innovative multi-grade science education opportunities – in the Sonoran Desert and in the classroom.

STEM careers are vital for innovation and improved quality of life, and they offer a promising pathway out of poverty. Under-served populations are poorly represented in STEM occupations. A key factor in improving these communities’ access to STEM is experiential learning.

“Despite living in the desert, many children in under-served areas rarely leave urban neighborhoods to experience the spectacular natural Sonoran Desert,” says Helen Rowe, Ph.D., Field Institute Director at McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. “This reality can make it challenging to understand life sciences concepts taught in 4th and 5th grades. Outdoor environmental education can close this gap and improve academic performance. We are delighted to offer this opportunity in partnership with ASU and The Thunderbirds.”

“McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Junior Citizen program brings nature to life through hands-on interactive education activities, and we are excited to support such a great neighborhood program,” said Andy Markham, president of Thunderbirds Charities.

Students will explore the wonder of the desert while learning basic science concepts and approaches through an interactive program in the Preserve and mini ecology lessons with hands-on activities. Conservancy volunteers will team up with the award winning Ecology Explorers program to deliver classroom lessons that tie closely with the information learned on the field trip and meet next-generation science standards.

“Students in the Phoenix area are surrounded by a rich, successful ecosystem,” says Lisa Herrmann, K-12 outreach specialist for ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project and its Ecology Explorer program. “Understanding the way people and the urban environment are knit into this system will deepen students’ appreciation of this special place, empowering them as future decision-makers.”

“We are grateful to Thunderbirds Charities for enabling this incredible opportunity for Arizona students,” says Justin Owen, executive director at McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

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 Shout out to @Thunderbirds Charities for a generous grant to support STEM education and desert exploration with McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and ASU Ecology Explorers #makingadifference

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About McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a non-profit organization that champions the sustainability of the largest urban preserve in North America. More than 30,500 protected acres, known as Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, are enjoyed by 750,000 hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian riders each year. As stewards, we connect the community to the Preserve through education, research, advocacy, partnerships and respectful access. Learn more at: www.mcdowellsonoran.org.

About Arizona State University Ecology Explorers

Arizona State University scientists who are associated with the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Research (CAP LTER) project have been studying urban ecology since 1998. Through Ecology Explorers, we encourage students and teachers to study the impact of urbanization on our ecosystem and contribute to a better understanding of our desert city. Learn more at: www.sustainability.asu.edu/ecologyexplorers/

About Thunderbirds Charities

Thunderbirds Charities is a non-profit organization formed in 1986 to distribute monies raised through the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament. The Thunderbirds Charities Board consists of 15 board members from varying professional backgrounds. The mission of Thunderbirds Charities is to assist children and families, help people in need and improve the quality of life in our communities. The organization’s giving is directed toward organizations based or with a significant presence in Arizona. The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 with the mission of promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports. The Thunderbirds consist of 55 “active” members and more than 250 “life” members. Learn more about the Thunderbirds or the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open at: www.wmphoenixopen.com. For more information on the Thunderbirds Charities, visit: www.thunderbirdscharities.org

For more information, please contact Jill Partridge, Director of Marketing & Engagement, at jill@mcdowellsonoran.org or  Justin Owen, Executive Director, at justin@mcdowellsonoran.org.