Science Class Visits Park, Studies Saguaros

By Getsemani Cazares

On Monday, Feb. 19, Pueblo teacher Ms. Elizabeth Raizk escorted her juniors and seniors in her advanced placement environment science class on a field trip to nearby Saguaro National Park (West) to study our desert’s indigenous cacti.

On this trip, approximately 15 miles west of Pueblo High School, students studied different sizes of saguaros—as well as to measure their heights and temperatures. Students even studied bird holes in these saguaros.

Raizk said, “There were four groups of six students, and each group’s job was to study a different plot, each with five saguaros.”

Students were required to hike to find their “assigned” saguaros, so they used a GPS and a photo log, which were helpful resources to these students.

Raizk said, “My students and I were outside for two hours, so after all of the hiking, we spent some time at the Visitors Center to eat lunch.”

Senior Maria Servellon attended the field trip, and she expressed that this event ended up being a “blessing”.

“[Before the trip] I was totally stressed—about grades, tests and deadlines,” Servellon said, “so this field trip was definitely an outlet for me.”

She added, “At first, however, I thought this would be just an average hiking trip through a land of cactus. However, my peers and I had an opportunity to conduct annual saguaro surveys and observed how certain cacti grow over time and how they measure environmental impacts. I learned that saguaros are great indicators of weather patterns and water patterns.”

Senior Marco Madrigal also attended the field trip.

“I very much enjoyed the experiences about this field trip—especially how to measure saguaros and learn that the desert is an integral part of where we live,” Madrigal said. “We definitely learn a lot more when we actually get to experience learning instead of reading about saguaros out of textbooks. I’ll never forget everything I learned on this field trip.”

Saguaro National Park (West) boasts many visitors, Raizk said, but not many native students, which Raizk think is “a shame” because the Park is the “grand symbol” of the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaros should be respected by all, Raizk said, and they are especially culturally important to the Tohono O’odham Nation. These Native Americans harvest ripe saguaro fruit in the spring to make wines, jams, and jellies. Saguaro wine is ritually consumed during Nawait I’i, a Tohono O’odham rain ceremony.

Few people know that saguaros are the largest of all cactus species in the United States and can grow to more than 40 feet tall and can weigh more than a ton! Saguaros can also live to be between 100 and 200 years old. Some saguaros can grow as many as 25 “arms”; some grow none.

On March 1, 1933, in the last days of his presidency, Herbert Hoover signed a proclamation that established the Saguaro National Monument, which was considered a victory for both botanists and boosters in Arizona who had worked for years to protect this species. Most importantly, in 1961, at the urging of the people of Tucson and Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, President John F. Kennedy added 25 square miles of splendid cactus lands in the Tucson Mountains to the Monument.

Finally, after setting aside vast areas as wilderness, Congress elevated Saguaro to “National Park” status in 1994.

Raizk said, “The desert is a piece of all of us.”

Warriors Become Spelunkers Kartchner Field Trip

By Candy Rodriguez and Alyssa Soza

Twenty-seven Warriors were treated to another world as they ventured on a field trip to Kartchner Caverns with teachers/sponsors Ms. Elaine Straub and Dr. Lolita Levine on Friday, Feb. 16.

This “other world” is just 50 miles southeast of Tucson, near Benson—a perpetual 68 degrees year-round no matter how hot or cold it might be outside of the cave. Students gasped as they marveled at nature’s wonders.

Senior Jorge Becerril, one of the lucky students who attended this field trip, said, “When you really comprehend how old each stalactite and stalagmite is, you really can appreciate Kartchner Caverns—or any cave system. In my entire lifetime, a stalactite or stalagmite might grow less than a foot! The delicate ecosystem in which we all inhabit is truly amazing and overwhelming.”

He added, “The light show presentation in the cave near the end of the tour was definitely the best of the trip. I’m glad that Dr. Levine and Ms. Straub chose this trip for us. I returned to Tucson with a lot more respect for nature and its natural beauty.”

A lot of people don’t know that Kartchner Caverns are relatively “new” when it comes to tourism. Actually, the cave was discovered by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts in 1974, who found a narrow crack in the bottom of a sinkhole. The story is, they followed this warm, moist air toward what ended up being more than two miles or perfect cave passageways, with the help of Erick Campbell, an Arizona biologist.

They kept the cave secret for 14 years because they wanted to keep the cave pristine. After gaining the cooperation of the Kartchner family and working with them for more than a decade, they decided that the best way to achieve the goal of protecting the cave was to approach Arizona State Parks.

In 1988, the landowners sold the area to the state for development as a park and show cavern. Kartchner Caverns opened to the public in 1999 and has become one of Tucson’s best road trip destinations—just 50 miles southeast of town. The caves aren’t just for Southern Arizonans; people from all over the country and world have visited the mighty “The Big Room”, the most impressive area of the cave. Nearly 250,000 visitors frequent Kartchner Caverns, and spelunkers (cave experts and explorers) have rated these Caves in the World’s Top 10 Best.

Sponsor and teacher Ms. Elaine Straub said, “This field trip was for the science club to learn about living caves, the ecosystem of this unusual environment—as well as how the natural rock formations are created. Since both Dr. Levine and I are biology-oriented teachers, this close natural wonder is a great opportunity for our students to experience a science topic that we don’t have as much expertise in and do not include in our lessons.”

She added, “The highlight of the trip was observing the beautiful formations and learning about them through the analytical references the guides used to help us remember what each formation was.”

Senior Julia Sullivan also attended this trip; she was astounded by what she saw.
“I love what Earth has created for us,” Sullivan said. “So much of it is undiscovered. I’m glad that Kartchner Caves’ secret is out of the bag for all of us to enjoy—and to actually experience it. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the caves, but that was a good thing because it keeps the spectator in the moment. When we have cameras, we’re too busy looking through a lens and not seeing the real picture.”

Senior Riana Lara, one of the 27 students who participated on this field trip, said, “The trip was pretty exciting! I learned that the limestone mixed with water drips makes straw-like rock formations. The whole process is awesome and amazing.”

Mr. Nicolas Pitts: ‘Pueblo Is the Place To Be’

by Bryan Bueno

Mr. Nicolas Pitts

Mr. Nicolas Pitts is one of the many new staff hired here at Pueblo High School this year, and he said that he is definitely ready to teach!

As a new biology teacher, Pitts feels as if he can make a huge impact on the Pueblo freshmen in his classroom.

“I think biology is the foundation of biotech, which is the future of technology,” he said. “I really want them to make that connection.”

After graduating from Tucson High Magnet School in 2009 and then from the University of Arizona, Pitt traveled to Columbia (South America); he lived there from the ages of 23 through 25.

Pitts said he applied for teaching position at Pueblo because “it’s close to home and his culture” and because he wanted to help build Pueblo’s rich community.

“I feel good very comfortable at Pueblo so far,” Pitts said.

Besides his love of many sports (including riding his bike), Pitts said that he loves to practice speaking Spanish. Pitts said that he also likes “reggaeton” music and claims that Farruko is his favorite artist in this music genre.

At 26 years old, Pitts said that he has a lot planned for his first year at Pueblo, despite not knowing for sure how much longer he wants to remain in Tucson.

“If I stay in Tucson, Pueblo is the place where I want to be,” he said.

Is There A Doctor In The House? Welcome Dr. Engel!

By Daniela Moreno

Dr. Brian Engel

Dr. Brian Engel, Pueblo’s new chemistry teacher, expressed that he is happy to be a part of the Warrior community this year. Although he is new to Pueblo, he has been teaching for a total of 11 years now and still really enjoys it.

“I was good at explaining [my subject] and working with students,” said Engel.

He was a family doctor at the Banner South Campus for roughly a year prior to becoming a teacher but says that between the two, he prefers being a teacher.

He said, “I didn’t really like it [being a doctor]. It wasn’t what I expected. I wasn’t able to spend that much time with the patients and it was a lot of paperwork.”

Halfway through the semester, Engel said that he likes his new school.

“I like the people, teachers, administration, and students, they’ve been really helpful and understanding,” said Engel.

Science Wing Reopened For ‘Business’

by Iram Arce

Science Wing

Last school year, chemistry teacher Ms. Melissa Espindola was one of the unfortunate dozen or so teachers to be adversely affected by one of the most devastating vandalism cases in TUSD history; however, she now thrives in a bigger classroom with more materials at her disposal.

Espindola can now be found happily teaching honors chemistry students in Room 166 instead of the library conference room.

“I’m so glad that I got this room full of lab stations and plenty of space for my students to move around,” she said. “It is so much better than that little crammed room where I was not allowed to do any experiments.”

Espindola, along with other science teachers, would not have made it without the support from fellow colleagues and peers.

Ms. Elaine Straub, Pueblo’s forensic science teacher, said, “I cannot describe how delighted I am to be back in my room after it was utterly trashed.”

Last December and January, more than a dozen classrooms were severely vandalized—either through fire or water damage. Most science teachers were relocated for the remainder of the school year—an entire semester.

“Even though there is still some odd ends [that need to be addressed] such as not having my equipment replaced, other science teachers are still affected by the vandalism,” she said.

Teachers such as Espindola and new addition to the Pueblo family, Dr. Brian Engel, do not have water installed in their classrooms, although they remain hopeful that this situation is very temporary.

Despite being ecstatic to be back in her classroom, Espindola is dumbfounded by the thought that the window security barriers have not been installed yet, a project that she said should have been completed by now.

“It will be an embarrassment if my class were to be vandalized again because of this [lack of security barriers],” she said. “It’s like they are waiting for a vandalism to happen again; I don’t know why this issue is not a priority.”

Despite the inconveniences of teachers and students—as well as the sacrifices both groups had to endure—the Pueblo spirit remains fervid and fortified.

Ms. Melissa Espindola: ‘Teaching Is Tiring, But Rewarding’


By Lauren Ahern

As the 2016-17 school year begins, Pueblo gives warm welcomes to the many new teachers and staff who are ready to become a part of the Warrior family.

On the list of official new teachers is Ms. Melissa Espindola, who graduated from the University of Arizona last May and is now a full-time chemistry teacher here at Pueblo.

Last year, Espindola was a student-teacher for the entire year with veteran science teacher Ms.Wilma Amaro, which was part of her master’s degree program fulfillment.

Ms. Espindola (center) teaches a lesson on mixtures by making ice cream

“Pueblo gave me so much, so I stayed here to give back,” said Espindola.

Already in this school year, Espindola said that she has enjoyed getting to know her students and their interests.

Espindola said that she finds chemistry interesting because she feels that, “the world should know it in a molecular level.”

She paused and added, “I am happy to be at Pueblo! Although my job is very tiring, it’s simultaneously very rewarding.”