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Seventh grader wins Asombro’s Desert Data Jam


Megan McDaniel from Picacho Middle School took home first place in the 11th annual Desert Data Jam hosted April 25-27 by the nonprofit Asombro Institute for Science Education (AISE) at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park (CDNP) east of Las Cruces.

For her winning project “How Fast Do Leaves Leaf Us?” Megan used crochet to represent leaf litter decomposition rates in Las Cruces, Alaska and Costa Rica, AISE said in a news release.

“Megan’s project was a perfect example of the creative communication skills and scientific understanding that students gain from the Desert Data Jam,” AISE Executive Director Stephanie Bestelmeyer said.

Kate Shankel and Delila Ruth from Sierra Middle School took second place for their project “Decomposition Mission,” AISE said. There was a tie for third place between Soraya Kamali and Nilasha Basnyat from J. Paul Taylor Academy for their project “Mammals in the Court” and Averey Liefeld and Tian Tian Gong Rong from Sierra for “It’s Snowing Dust.” 13 other projects received honorable mentions.

With 339 students participating, 54 projects made it to the final competition, AISE.

AISE partners with the USDA’s Jornada Experimental Range to host the jam, which “challenges seventh graders to find creative ways to present scientific data collected in our region to non-scientist audiences,” the nonprofit said.

The Data Jam was created in Las Cruces in 2012 and has since been replicated by other organizations in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Puerto Rico., AISE said

AISE is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing natural science literacy. AISE science educators provide “hands-on science education programs for more than 22,000 K-12 students annually in classrooms, schoolyards and at CDNP,” AISE said.

For more information, call 575-524-3334. Visit www.asombro.org.