Originally Published: September 1, 2018 4:22 p.m.
Dr. Alice Christie, an educator and proponent of a well-rounded, learned citizenry, had a vision to create a place where people of all ages, but especially children, could achieve competitive economic excellence on the world stage by employing a STEM/STEAM approach to learning.
This philosophy combines elements of science, technology, engineering, art and math. Christie holds a master’s degree in Reading Education from Boston University and a doctorate in Language and Literacy and Educational Technology from Arizona State.
Once Christie had her 501(c)3 approval in place in November 2017, she began searching for resources to establish sustainability. Having begun this new chapter, she avidly began reading the business sections in both the Arizona Daily Sun and the Arizona Republic. It was there she discovered the SCORE articles. She then went online and signed up for a SCORE counselor. Fred Meek, the lead counselor in Flagstaff for Northern Arizona SCORE, contacted Christie and the journey began.
After the initial face-to-face meeting in early 2018 where Meek and Christie discussed her background and vision, they carried on a great amount of communication via email. Christie explained that Tynkertopia is a natural culmination of her experiences teaching science, reading and writing for over 51 years. Meek explained why it was essential, moving forward, to develop a comprehensive business plan. Christie enrolled in an online course for developing the business plan and followed several SCORE.org online videos.
“After jumping in with both feet,” said Christie, “I started learning to make this venture successful. My mentor, Fred Meek, was a great listener who quickly interpreted my naive questions. Having been a career educator with little experience in business, I gained a good understanding of the business practices important to opening and running a non-profit. Thanks to SCORE and Fred for invaluable help.”
Once she located a site for Tynkertopia, Meek reviewed the property lease and gave Christie pointers and suggestions on aspects that needed to be addressed. He also reviewed her website and offered suggestions on the presentation.
After working with Meek, Christie rented a 1,300-square-foot space in March with areas dedicated to creativity and inquiry. One room contains such things as bottle caps, ribbons, and cardboard plus many other items that can inspire imagination. Another room houses woodworking tools as well as plastic and wooden tools made for young children. Still another space offers a library and a large screen for presentations. Among the donated materials are iPads and computers that can be used for a variety of creative outlets.
Currently Christie, who terms Tynkertopia, “a labor of love,” is working with Meek to determine what software would work best for tracking donations and finances. Christie is also planning on applying for available grants and is grateful for the number of donations that have already come in from the community through Facebook campaigns.
One of the future fundraisers will be educational professional development seminars for teachers and others. Christie has given these seminars in the past, and with Tynkertopia she has a platform to educate with hands-on demonstrations. She is also working with Meek to develop field trips and other special events that can produce revenue.
Christie emphasized that STEM, although it began as a political term to grow the U.S. economy, is indeed a culture, not an isolated class. She explained that by adding an “A” to STEM it becomes STEAM, which incorporates art, a broad term that includes language arts, physical art, scientific art and creative art. “STEAM will be the focus,” stated Christie, “for all future learning at Tynkertopia.”
If you have an idea to start your own nonprofit or business and to be matched with your own SCORE mentor call 928-778-7438, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.northernarizona.score.org. If you wish to contact Christie, email her at email@example.com or call her at 928-326-3400.
Ginni Trask Comstock is a SCORE Communications contractor.