A former teacher’s aspirations are coming true at the GJmakerspace, a program within The Business Incubator, 2591 Legacy Way.

The Incubator welcomed the GeoMaker Institute, a STEM education program, to its campus last week, according to a news release. GeoMaker is being led by Heidi Ragsdale who was a science teacher at West Middle School. The program will use funding Ragsdale received from the National Geographic Society to teach STEM problem-solving skills to students and teachers.

“Hosting the GeoMaker Institute at the GJmakerspace is an honor,” GJmakerspace Director Joe Elliott said in the news release. “The program has our support through use of our tool sets in developing and designing geotechnology innovations and solutions.”

This work is a life mission for Ragsdale, a member of the National Geographic Teacher Advisory Council. She had to retire from teaching after being diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to refocus herself and wanted to help build the future.

Ragsdale’s plan is to use the first half of grant funding to teach geographic information systems to three cohorts: two consisting of teachers from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, and one consisting of students. They will create maps of water systems in the West and identify problems. The second half of the grant money will be applied to crafting solutions to those problems.

The cohorts will reveal their work sometime over the week of Earth Day 2021, which is April 16-22, 2021.

“Kids are the future leaders of our planet, and making sure they’re motivated problem solvers starts with the teachers and making sure they’re prepared,” Ragsdale said. “Because then it will have a residual effect on the students and improve our future. That’s what education is all about.”

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