CBC Celebrates Native American Heritage Month with presentations at the Tohono O'odham Nation

Nov. 30, 2023
Omar Acuna and Dr. Archuleta at Baboquivari High School

Omar Acuna, Chemistry Teacher at Baboquivari High School introduces Professor Tara Archuleta to his high school chemistry class.

Olivia Mendoza

Omar Acuna, Biochemistry class of 2022, reached out to the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Outreach Coordinator Olivia Mendoza to facilitate chemistry demonstrations and a Q&A about college in STEM to his chemistry classes at the Baboquivari High School located in Topawa, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

On Monday, November 27, a presentation was given by Dr. Tara Archuleta that was a "See-Think-Wonder Learning Activity." This activity was used to stimulate curiosity and inquiry through careful observations. Students were shown a short clip of an interpretation of motor proteins; they then wrote down their observations and analysis of the clip. Dr. Archuleta had the students share their observations, thoughts, and questions.

After Dr. Archuleta's presentation, CBC graduate students and members of the Program to Advance Women Scientists (PAWS), Megan Laham, Andrea Hamilton, and Clara Frost, gave a presentation titled, "Understanding Energetics Using Elephant Toothpaste." The high schoolers got into groups of 4 and completed hands-on reactions using materials that can be found at home. First, they mixed baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar in flasks and saw the reaction expand out of the flask. Next, they combined yeast and hydrogen peroxide for the traditional elephant toothpaste reaction. Students observed temperature changes to understand the differences between exothermic and endothermic reactions.

After the demonstrations, PAWS members shared their research and education experiences as well as why they chose to pursue a career path in STEM. The high school students were curious about college and future careers in science. There were quite a few questions such as: What kinds of jobs can you get with Chemistry? How is it being away from your family? What is the hardest challenge of college? What kinds of jobs involve hands-on lab work? Do you need a lot of math to go into science? How did you decide to come to Arizona for school?

It was a great outreach experience for CBC, and the High Schoolers learned a little more about chemistry and biochemistry. Omar Acuna is currently teaching chemistry and biology at Baboquivari High School; he was recognized at the University of Arizona for his Native American Heritage. You can read and view a news clip about Omar’s aspirations on KGUN9.