Cow Eyes and Coding: How Two Rural Classrooms Celebrated Science

For eight weeks, 3rd-6th grade classrooms in two Rural school districts participated in Science Happens Here, a scavenger hunt card game with a Grand Prize opportunity to conduct experiments with professional scientists.

The Arizona Rural Development Council partners with the Arizona SciTech Institute to provide an avenue for the local businesses community to collaborate with the school system. Science Happens Here bridges the gap between formal and informal learning environments by showcasing the breadth of science-related activities happening outside the classroom on a daily basis.

Science Happens Here is made possible by the continued support of Freeport McMoRan, Arizona Public Service (APS), the Arizona Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN), Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, Cottonwood Economic Development Council, and Councilwoman Tosca Henry.


For a second semester in a row, students at Cottonwood Community School were awarded the Science Happens Here grand prize for collecting the most playing cards! Mrs. Parker’s 5th grade class chose to learn about the functions of the eyeball and science behind sight through the Arizona Science Center’s “Awesome Anatomy" dissection program. Scientist Erin lead the courageous group through the hands-on dissection; teaching the students about lab safety, the differences between human and animal anatomy, and why the gooey black part of the eyeball smells so funky.


Mr. Branch’s 4th grade class at Safford’s Lafe Nelson School chose an experiment that was more our speed: Introduction to Coding with Ozobots. It was exciting to see how in this technological age, our 4th graders are growing up with an understanding of the functions used to create their favorite video games, websites, and electronic activities. Scientist Holly led the charge in guiding the students through activities using pocket-sized coding robots. Students explored how specific colors and patterns acted as commands to dictate the robot’s path. In no time, the students were creating elaborate paths and functions to make their robots travel (and dance) across the page.



This semester, we also awarded individual students who collected the most Science Happens Here playing cards in the Safford Unified School District. Long-time Local First Arizona member and community advocate, Sheryl Goodman, donated three Taylor Freeze gift cards for the dedicated students. Congratulations to Lillie, Carson, and Anna - enjoy your ice cream treats!


“Science Happens Here is Sneaky Science at its best,” said Jeremy Babendure, Executive Director of the Arizona SciTech Institute. “It not only showcases to the public how science happens all around us but also empowers business and community leaders to become communicators of science.”

To play, students and their families are asked to collect Science Happens Here trading cards from local businesses in the community. Each card explains a Scientific, Engineering, Technological, or Mathematical (STEM) process used within that independent business. The collectable cards then allow students to unlock household experiments on the Science Happens Here website (, earning them a point for their classroom.

At the end of the semester, the classroom with the most points receives a special visit from the Arizona Science Center’s “Mobile Unit” - which brings professional science experiences directly to the rural classrooms.

“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.”

We’ll be back in the Fall!

Thanks to our community sponsors, Science Happens Here is an ongoing and expanding program. We will be launching in two new communities in the Fall, as well as revamping the program for the greater Cottonwood and Safford communities. So stay tuned!

Learn more about Science Happens Here and where to collect the cards at

Does your independent business wish to participate in the next round of Science Happens Here? Contact Lauren Haggerty, Rural Programs Manager for the Arizona Rural Development Council for more information: