Camp reveals STEM careers to CCSD middle, high school students

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Central Consolidated School District is offering the Indigenous STEM Camp to introduce its middle and high school students to such careers this month.

As part of the camp, they learned on June 19 how Navajo Agricultural Products Industry uses science, technology, engineering and mathematics to grow crops.

Hana Walter signed up for the camp, which began on June 3 and concludes on June 20, because she is interested in engineering.

"I'm trying to find my career choice. I know high school is going to fly by and I have to be able to pick a college then understand what career path I'm going to be choosing," the incoming ninth grader said.

The two-hour tour consisted of stops to the control room for NAPI's irrigation system, to greenhouses that are growing green chile and to a field of alfalfa.

Inside the company's laboratory complex, Agricultural Testing Research Laboratory Manager Dineh John talked about work done by five laboratory technicians.

Kaylanna Henry of Kirtland, right, spins the emoji wheel to find out what kind of free prize she will win while touring the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry just outside Farmington on Wednesday.

"All of them do have degrees. When you work at a place like this, you do have to have a college degree and laboratory experience," John said.

Rachel Brown, cultural specialist for the district, said this is the first summer for the camp and it was organized by the district's Cultural Heritage Center.

Twenty-seven students from Kirtland, Newcomb and Tsé Bit A'í middle schools and from Kirtland Central High School are participating in the camp.

The first week was devoted to presentations that ranged from Navajo astronomy and Navajo botany to computer science and geology.

They also learned about Arizona Public Service's Four Corners Power Plant, Raytheon and the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency.

Students at the Central Consolidated School District Indigenous STEM Camp watch growing facility workers harvest green chili peppers while touring the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry just outside Farmington on Wednesday.

The camp was designed to let the students know that STEM is bigger than what they experience with their phones and video games, Brown said.

Tristan Henderson will start in August the eighth grade at Tsé Bit A'í Middle School in Shiprock.

Henderson said he enjoys the camp because it has been showing the various careers that involve STEM.

Giovanni Reyes of Kirtland looks around waiting outside the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry store store just outside Farmington on Wednesday. The Central Consolidated School District Indigenous STEM Camp toured NAPI.

They also learned some aspects of Navajo culture. At NAPI, the students visited an area were sumac berries are grown.

Sumac berries are used to make chiichin, a traditional pudding, and the plant stems are gathered to make Navajo wedding baskets, NAPI employees told the group.

"I like learning about my culture," Henderson said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Agricultural Testing Research Laboratory manager Dineh John speaks to students with the Central Consolidated School District Indigenous STEM Camp at the lab during a tour of the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry just outside Farmington on Wednesday.