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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

This week we completed our STEM training, and I am thrilled to see our ideas in action. In particular I am looking forward to the final week’s curricula: Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). During this week the middle school STEM staff will be overseeing four different CSI activities. My partner and I volunteered to create the “Observation Room.” I was pleasantly surprised to find that this role also involved working with Beth, the STEM Coordinator, to decide the overall layout of the week’s activities. To anyone reading this that has ever done an “Escape Room”: creating such a room is even more exciting. To everyone else (shameless plug incoming): try an Escape Room! For our CSI week we first had to determine who would be the criminals that stole the cookies from the Staff Room (hint: I may or may not be involved). From there we backtracked (my orgo professor would be proud to see my retroactive synthesis skills in action) so we could leave four key clues at each of the CSI activities. This process was incredibly satisfying. Working creatively on a team to develop this plan and associated clues was both fun and intellectually stimulating. Throughout the process I felt like a kid myself, and I cherished the feeling. I cannot wait to implement this curriculum and see how it goes!

In my first blog post I mentioned that I would be exploring the OC community more in the upcoming weeks. A key part of this exploration thus far has been a recent presentation at our weekly reflection session. My partner and I were asked to present on the history of the area. I focused my efforts on the post-1850 (the year California became a state) era. I was fascinated by how difficult it is to study this region without exploring other parts of history such as immigration policy. The development of California and OC in particular is so intertwined with other local, national, and international issues. The most interesting thing I learned was about OC’s citrus industry (as its name suggests). Oranges, which grow in very selective climates, were not even popular in America until a national campaign in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This enabled OC to be portrayed as a semi-tropical paradise where anything could grow. Increased access via railroads facilitated more growth, and the citrus industry continued to shine throughout the early 20th century. Today, OC’s economy is dominated by tourism, manufacturing, and its service industry, but the county’s origins will always lie with its once-famous citrus industry.