Fouth grade class at Lafe Nelson in Safford, Arizona was awarded the Science Happens Here Grand Prize and received a special visit from the Arizona Science Center's mobile unit, Science on Wheels.

May 16, 2019
Eastern Arizona Courier

For collecting the most playing cards in a scientific scavenger hunt game, Eric Branch's fourth grade class at Lafe Nelson earned a special visit Monday from the Arizona Science Center's mobile unit, Science on Wheels.

Guided by the Science Center's Holly Miron, Branch's students enjoyed an experiment in coding using ozobots (pocket-sized coding robots) — exploring how colors and patterns guided an ozobot across a page or a "track" at different speeds and creating paths and functions to direct the tiny robots.

"I'm very excited that they've had this experience, to get something outside of the classroom from another community," Branch said. "It's not every day that they get to do something this exciting. Usually we have to find it on the Internet, but this is hands-on and so it's been lots of experience for them to do this. They're loving it."

It was their reward for winning the Science Happens Here grand prize this semester, by collecting the most Science Happens Here cards from community businesses. Each card outlines a scientific, technological, engineering or mathematical (STEM) process used in the business and unlocks at-home experiments on the Science Happens Here website. Those experiments earn each student a point for their classroom, with the most points earning the grand prize. 

Branch's students thoroughly enjoyed the activity. In addition to working with the ozobots, they created a verbal "code" for Miron that directed her to leave the classroom step by step. Branch said some of the students were reluctant about coding at first, but not for long.

"The girls did not want to do the coding; it was more the boys that wanted to do it, because they're into the computer gaming," he said. "And it's actually the girls I see that are noticing the different colors and what they do, and they're the ones getting into it, enjoying it."

This semester, a local business also rewarded a trio of Safford students who collected the most cards individually. Taylor Freeze owner Sheryl Goodman, a longtime Local First Arizona member, donated three gift cards for the winners.

Science Happens Here, for students from 3rd through 8th grade, is presented by the Local First Arizona Foundation and Arizona SciTech Festival to help advance STEM education in rural Arizona. It was brought to Safford, and continues to inspire budding scientists, with the support of Freeport-McMoRan.

"It is inspiring to see so many kids participating in the Science Happens Here program," said Kimber Lanning, founding director of the Local First Arizona Foundation. "Our organization's mission is to support local communities and economies through collaborative partnerships, and Science Happens Here does just that by bringing families through the doors of local businesses, engaging kids in science and strengthening the unique sense of place of Arizona's rural communities."

To learn more about Science Happens Here and where to collect the cards, visit




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