2017 Viola Award Nominee for Excellence in Science Education
Cassandra Roberts has been teaching for Willow Bend since 2009 and joined the full-time staff in 2011. Cassandra has taught elementary school in New Zealand and Japan and holds a B.Bus in Management and M.A. in Experiential Education. She is Willow Bend Environmental Education Center’s Education Director and lead science teacher.
Roberts’ involvement in the Flagstaff science community is multifaceted. She reaches over 7,000 students a year through her work with Flagstaff schools (including public, charter, and private), non-profit organizations and City, County, State and Federal entities. She also provides free support and training for teachers, and offers hands-on science experiences for students.
Her role includes developing curriculum, planning events, leading teacher workshops, and providing diverse environmental science focused programs to multiple schools and grade levels. Willow Bend is Flagstaff and Coconino County’s only year-round environmental education center providing science and place based outdoor environmental education programs and field trips to schools and the public.
Cassandra often takes a hands-on approach, leading science programs both in the classroom and out. She will travel to schools to head up diverse programs such as “wildlife habitats”, “fire ecology”, and “groundwater in Arizona.” However, she also works outside of the classroom, taking students on field trips to a multitude of locations. In partnership with the Flagstaff Area National Monuments, she takes 4th graders from multiple schools, including Thomas, Knoles, and Marshall, to Walnut Canyon and provides follow up in-class programs that cover the area’s geology, wildlife, and human history. She also leads the Alpine Academy 6th grade expeditions along the Rio de Flag, where students learn about our impact on local watersheds. Cassandra also coordinates science programs for the Boys and Girls Club of Flagstaff and leads Willow Bend’s Science Saturday events on the weekends.
Most recently, Cassandra helped organize a community wide BioBlitz at Frances Short Pond during the Festival of Science. Hundreds of students from multiple schools including Marshall, Flagstaff Junior Academy, and MEMS, as well as community members, collected important scientific data and conducted water quality testing in a 24 hour time period. Cassandra also designed and led a teacher workshop introducing teachers to the City’s Open Space sites, providing them with information, kits, and curriculum to lead successful field trips. Working with the City of Flagstaff Open Space staff, Cassandra recently developed curriculum for tours and field trips to Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. These programs, available to schools and groups across Flagstaff, will introduce local students and community members of all ages to the natural and human history of the Preserve and empower individuals to become active participants in caring for this special place. Last but not least, Cassandra is now working on organizing one of Willow Bend’s signature events, the Annual Bald Eagle Celebration. The event, held in partnership with AZ Game and Fish and Liberty Wildlife, draws hundreds of participants each year and allows for a unique up-close and in-person interaction with live bald eagles.
Cassandra’s hard work in the science community does not stop with hands-on teaching experiences. She also does a lot of work behind the scenes, serving on multiple committees and organizing events. She has worked with the Project WET Water Festival, Arizona Association of Environmental Education, and Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience partners.
While dedicated to the positive learning experiences of others, Cassandra is also dedicated to her own personal and professional development. She attends yearly conferences, workshops, and professional development seminars. These include the Children and Nature Network and Association for Experiential Education conferences, Arizona Environmental Education Certification program, and most recently, a five-day intensive workshop on interpretive education resulting in a Certification in Interpretive Guiding from the National Association of Interpretation.