Lewiston High School students discover new aquatic invader

A Lewiston High School teacher and two of her former students recently became published authors in a peer-reviewed scientific journal based on their discovery while participating in a University of Idaho Extension citizens’ science program.

For the past seven years, UI Extension’s IDAH20 program has provided hands-on learning opportunities for Lewiston High School teacher Jamie Morton’s ecology and environmental science classes, which sample water and trap invertebrates in local watersheds. Morton shares their data to help UI Extension assess the health of Idaho’s waterways.

In October 2021, one of Morton’s IDAH20 field trips uncovered an important scientific finding that led state and federal water managers to take action.

While investigating a pair of municipal stormwater ponds near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, Morton’s class trapped a crustacean they later confirmed to be Idaho’s first known red swamp crayfish. If the aquatic invader multiplies in the surrounding environment, it could harm water quality and native species.

red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) poised for attack in the street

For their discovery, Morton and former students Elizabeth Connerley and Robert Bayless are among the listed authors of a paper published online this week in the journal “BioInvasions Records.” Their publication will also appear in the quarterly journal’s June print edition.

“It’s a genuine, honest discovery. And I hope it creates more buy-in with my classes as we go on, especially when it’s officially published,” Morton said. “We can make a contribution just being normal citizens. You don’t have to go to college and you don’t have to become a scientist in your day job to be interested and take care of your environment.”

Throughout the past decade, IDAH2O has taught basic water quality monitoring techniques to more than 600 citizen scientists from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Active participants receive pH test strips, kits for measuring dissolved oxygen in water and other basic supplies to record stream data, which they upload via a web app.

In addition to having volunteers collect data on stream health, Jim Ekins, UI Extension water educator and director of IDAH20, trains his volunteers to identify and report crayfish species for River Mile, which is a network of educators and students who study crayfish in the Pacific Northwest to better understand stream health.

Ekins also partners with like-minded organizations in Idaho, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon, training other trainers for IDAH20.

“We think citizen science may be a good way to find new invasions of invasive species. There are that many more eyeballs,” Ekins said. “Plus, we are teaching kids science, being observant and writing things down. Those are skills you need for any job.”

Typically, Morton’s classes trap and identify one of Idaho’s three native crayfish species. The red coloration and bumpy, pointy claws made the red swamp crayfish specimen relatively easy for the class to identify by comparing it with River Mile photographs. A crayfish expert confirmed their suspicions, which were reaffirmed through DNA testing.

A researcher measures the length of a Signal crayfish body and cephalothorax. Courtesy of Jamie Morton.

Two of Morton’s students — Connerley and Bayless — were captivated by the discovery and continued trapping crayfish outside of class in the following weeks. They trapped six more red swamp crayfish from the ponds, proving the original finding wasn’t an isolated occurrence. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has continued monitoring the ponds and the surrounding area.

“The best part was seeing the students who wanted to participate and were motivated to continue doing it because they wanted to,” Morton said.

RISE gets grant to support Latinx postsecondary education

photo of latinx
RISE has received a $150,000 grant to help encourage Latinx students to earn postsecondary credentials. File photo.

RISE, a local education nonprofit coordinating cross-sector partners to develop community solutions for students, has received a $150,000 grant, which will go toward programs to encourage Latinx students to earn postsecondary credentials.

StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to bring communities together around data to improve results for kids, provided the grant.

photo of jessica ruehrwein
Jessica Ruehrwein

RISE’s efforts are intended to help meet Idaho Project 60, a goal to have 60 percent of workers ages 25 to 34 years old hold a postsecondary credential by 2025.

Jessica Ruehrwein, executive director of the Boise-based nonprofit, noted that Idaho currently ranks last in the country in Latinx with postsecondary credentials.

The organization will be working with the Nampa School District, as well as the College of Western Idaho and Boise State University.

“I am thrilled that RISE was one of the five Strive communities that received the grant,” said Wendy Johnson, superintendent of the Kuna School District, who serves as a RISE vice chair. “We have been doing great things for kids in the Treasure Valley with amazing talent of volunteers and very little revenue. The grant will allow us to move our work forward even more intentionally, particularly in the area of college and career readiness, because we will be able to hire more staff to support our working groups, and just as important, be able to network with other Strive communities across the United States so we can share ideas with one another.”

RISE was formed in 2012 by the nine Treasure Valley school districts, as well as Bishop Kelly High School, higher education institutions and the business community, Ruehrwein said. It modeled itself after Strive, which is what made the grant so gratifying, she said.

The organization has also received funds from the United Way and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, as well as the districts and higher education institutions.

“To do this work effectively, we need to increase our capacity,” Ruehrwein said.

Eventually, RISE could receive as much as $200,000 annually for two years from Strive, which will help it leverage the resources of its community partners, she said.

Education must adapt, Google speaker says

photo of virtual reality devices
Attendees at the Idaho Virtual Reality Council meeting experimented with VR for education. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Education will need to change to provide the types of jobs that future employers will need, according to Google’s education policy expert.

Jaime Casap, chief education evangelist for Google, was brought in on May 23 by the Idaho Virtual Reality Council to speak to its membership, said Annie Morley, president of the group, which is intended to help the virtual reality/augmented reality development community in Idaho.

photo of jaime casap
Jaime Casap. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Schools need to prepare children for what Casap called the “digitalization economy,” which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, computers, and other technological components. “The language of this new economy is computer science,” he said, noting that Idaho already has 1,491 open computer science jobs today – three times the demand of other jobs. Idaho colleges graduate something over 300 people each year, and only 19 Idaho high schools offer college-level computer science classes, he said.

Some jobs common today, such as store clerks and transportation, are likely to change radically in the future due to technology, Casap said. For example, about 4.5 million people make their living today transporting people and merchandise, but within ten years, many of those jobs may be carried out by autonomous vehicles, he said. Similarly, retail jobs are likely to change as scanning technology becomes more automated. Instead of clerks, people working in grocery stores may be dietitians, cooks, and nutritionists wandering the aisles to help shoppers learn how to cook or make meal plans, he said.

photo of augmented reality
Augmented reality “pops up” an image on a smartphone app. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

“There are more people working in banks than when [automated teller machines] were introduced in the 1990s,” Casap said. “They’re just doing different jobs.”

Despite the recent development of new technology, employers say they still need workers with skills in problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking, said Casap, citing an Economist Group survey.

To help children prepare, schools must allow children to collaborate more, Casap said. If he turned in a report to his boss without talking to stakeholders, he’d be fired, he noted. “Why are we teaching our kids that collaboration is cheating, when that isn’t the way it works in the real world?”

Virtual and augmented reality can help by making students feel more involved, Casap said. A Google staffer has been on a tour of 49 Idaho schools over the past seven weeks demonstrating its free Google Expeditions technology, which lets teachers develop virtual and augmented reality lessons that run on a smartphone. About 17,000 Idaho schoolchildren had been able to see the technology during the tour, said Paul Zimmerman, technology innovator for the Blaine County School District, who helped facilitate the Google school tour.

For virtual reality, the smartphone clips to an inexpensive but sturdy viewer, which meeting attendees were also able to try out. “They’re tough! Kids use them!” Zimmerman said, as he encouraged attendees to toss the viewers back to him when they were done.

Technology allows children to learn on their own, Casap said, noting that he discovered that his 13-year-old son was using the internet to teach himself how to code. “I work at Google, and he didn’t ask me to teach him,” he said. The internet also helps bridge the inequality gap by giving even low-income children access to information, he added.

Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, Casap said. “It doesn’t make sense anymore,” he said. “Ask them what problem they want to solve. Jobs are being created every day to solve problems.” Then, ask them how they want to solve the problem, and what they think they need to learn to be able to solve that problem. Purpose, autonomy, and mastery drive people, he said.

Sun Valley private school builds a new middle school building

Community School in Sun Valley will have a new middle school building for the next school year. Rendition courtesy of Community School.
Community School in Sun Valley will have a new middle school building for the next school year. Rendition courtesy of Community School.

With the addition of 100 students since 2010, the private, college preparatory Community School in Sun Valley is more than doubling the size of the building that once housed its middle school.

The pre-kindergarten to 12th grade private school expects to finish construction in April on its Creative Arts and Middle School building. The 20,250-square-foot structure replaces the 9,700-square-foot Dumke Middle School that was built in the 1980s and demolished to make way for the new building.

“The day after graduation (June 1), we started the demolition process,” Head of School David Holmes said.

The new building will house the middle school on its second floor and have facilities for all grades on the ground floor. These will include a Makers Lab with the school’s first 3D printer and an expanded robotics lab, and rooms for fine arts and music.

Community School has set record attendance in recent years after bottoming out at 294 students in 2010-11. The school now has 395 students.

“We’ve probably had 35 to 40 families moving from Sun Valley from places like Santa Monica, Chicago and San Francisco,” Holmes said. “Many said they would not have moved here if this school was not here.”

The school has raised about $6.7 million of the $8.5 million needed for the middle school building as well as a greenhouse and outdoor amphitheater class space. Donors have included long-time Wood River Valley residents and the recent arrivals, Holmes said.

The main campus has six buildings.

New construction law on show in Twin Falls

Twin Falls School District is building two new elementary schools. This one will be on the northwest side of town. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District
Twin Falls School District is building two new elementary schools. This one will be on the northwest side of town. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District. Drawings courtesy of Twin Falls School District

Twin Falls School District is preparing to start on the largest surge of construction in the district’s history. And it’s selecting a contractor without putting the project out for low bid.

TFSD has a $73.86 million bond to work with. Officials will award a contract based on contractor qualifications rather than bids.

That is a primary provision of the new Construction Manager/General Contractor legislation enacted by the Idaho Legislature on July 1. More commonly known as Construction Manager at Risk, Idaho now is among 38 states that allow government entities to employ CM/GC or CMAR for public projects, according to the American Institute of Architects.

The other major provision is the owner and the contractor agree to a guaranteed maximum price at the outset. This eliminates the inherent cost overruns and delays in countless large construction projects using the traditional design-bid-build process, said Wayne Hammon, executive director of the Idaho Associated General Contractors.

The Twin Falls School District is one of 116 public school districts in Idaho that can make use of Senate Bill 1311. So can Idaho’s 44 counties and 200 incorporated cities and various other government entities.

TFSD and the city of Boise are the first two government entities to make use of the CM/GC provisions, Hammon said. The city of Boise recently signed a contract with Boise-based McAlvain Construction for a Dixie Drain phosphorus removal project in Nampa.

Brady Dickinson
Brady Dickinson

Twin Falls chose the CM/GC because it allowed the district to select a contractor based on quality rather than low bid.

“It gives us the most flexibility,” said Brady Dickinson, the school district’s director of operations. “The biggest thing in our world is making sure we’re on budget and on time. We’ve been entrusted with a lot of money.”

TFSD is building two new elementary schools and a new middle school. It will also remodel one high school and expand another high school over the next year or so.

The two yet-to-be-named elementary schools will go up in the northeast and northwest portions of town. Each will be for 650 students. Construction is expected to start in April 2015.

The northeast side of Twin Falls will also get a new elementary school.
The northeast side of Twin Falls will also get a new elementary school.

These will be the first elementary schools Twin Falls has built since 1994, with the population growing about 50 percent since then. To deal with growth, the district a few years ago moved ninth grade from middle school to high school, and sixth grade was transferred from elementary school to the middle school.

“That bought us some time,” Dickinson said.

Construction of the 1,000-student middle school will follow in fall 2015. Renovation of Twin Falls High School, built in 1953, will start this fall. Renovations include the addition of air conditioning, new roofs, and new windows, Dickinson said.

Canyon Ridge High School was opened in 2009 and already needs expansion, he said.

The school district is negotiating with three potential construction managers, one for the elementary schools, one for the middle school and one for the high schools.

Canyon Ridge High School just opened in 2009 and already needs expansion.
Canyon Ridge High School just opened in 2009 and already needs expansion.

“It started to be pretty apparent why this is such a growing success in so many different states,” said Ken Fisher, owner of Paradigm of Idaho, who is advising the district as an owner representative. “It provides owners with so many options based on quality and cost savings.”

The construction manager at risk concept, as implied in the term, means the project must be completed for the price agreed to at the outset. Cost overruns are borne by the contractor, not the taxpayer, Hammon said.

“One of the big advantages is because the construction manager is at risk. He has a stake in the project being a success,” Hammon said. “He has a powerful incentive to make sure it’s done on time and correctly the first time and done on budget. With that risk comes reward. Most contracts have incentives or rewards for coming in on time and on budget or early.”

CM/GC has a built-in mechanism to increase the odds of a project finishing on time. Traditionally, there is not a firm chain of command to make sure subcontractors have coordinated schedules. Under CM/GC, the construction manager has a built-in incentive to actively manage the entire schedule to ensure an on-time delivery of the project.

“Part of the biggest risk in doing work is scheduling. Subcontractor B cant’s do work until Subcontract A is done,” said Hammon, who drafted the CM/GC legislation and shepherded it through the Legislature. “By having one person do the scheduling, you speed up projects and the risk of delay.”

Traditionally, in the design-bid-build approach, the contractor does not come on board until the architectural construction drawings are completed. The builder has to deal with whatever the architect has come up with.

With CM/GC, the construction manager at risk is brought on earlier in the process to collaborate with the architect.

“We’re bringing in the CM/GC at the time of design development so they can assist in costing to make sure the design fits into the project,” Fisher said.

Architects are dubious about bringing constructions managers into the design process, but the American Institute of Architects remained neutral on the Idaho legislation, as more than 30 states already had similar programs in place.

“Generally speaking, architects see construction managers as encroaching on a traditional role of an architect,” said Ty Morrison, president-elect of AIA’s Idaho chapter. “That being said, we’ve had a general acceptance that some clients need a separate construction manager.”