Science fair mentoring program preparing for a second year
Published 11:02 am Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Students at Neveln Elementary School are gearing up for the science fair this year and looking for some extra help from the community.
Neveln students will work with mentors for the science fair, formally known as the STEAM Expo, for the second time this year. The science fair is in February and will have mentors work with students about 12 times from November through February through the Science Fair Mentors Program.
“We have the kickoff on Nov. 12,” said Catherine Haslag, Riverland Community College chemistry teacher and mentor program coordinator.
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Haslag began judging the local science fair in 2011 when she noted that some children were at a disadvantage because they had less available adult help at home than other students. Last fall she initiated the Science Fair Mentors Program, offering help to third- and fourth-grade students at Sumner Elementary School and Neveln. About 290 students participated in the kickoff last year, and 102 students had entries in the science fair as a result of the program.
This year, the program will only take place at Neveln since there were no available teachers to help with the program at Sumner.
Haslag was excited that many students who were third-graders last year would get the chance to work with mentors again this year as fourth-graders.
“The students loved it last year,” Haslag said. “They were excited. We had kids skipping in the hallways making up songs about how cool science was.”
Last year’s mentors noted that there were benefits to the students far beyond science. The students built confidence, improved their communication skills, and developed positive relationships with adults in the community.
“They all had a great time and really enjoyed it,” Haslag said. “They’re excited to do it again this year.”
This year’s program will be offered to all interested fourth-graders at Neveln. The program provides all necessary supplies to the participating students. Availability of mentors is the limiting factor as to how many students can be accommodated, and Haslag said organizers are always looking for more mentors. Any interested adult can be a mentor, and no special scientific skills are needed. The mentoring is done with clear directions and is done in a group session with the support of other mentors. Mentors will need to complete an orientation either online at their convenience or in person at the orientation at I.J. Holton Intermediate School at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 or Nov. 2. Mentors will also need to complete a free background check through Austin Public Schools.
“Just say, ‘Hey I’m interested,’ and we can help them get started on the process,” Haslag said.
This year the program starts with a kickoff at Riverland on Nov. 12 for all fourth-graders at Neveln School. Riverland Community College faculty will introduce the students to the scientific method through group experiments. The first mentoring session, taking place the following week, will include meeting real scientists from the community.
“This has honestly one of the most rewarding things I have ever been involved in,” Haslag said.
Haslag is excited about the program and hopes to get more students involved and learning about science.
“I just want them to leave excited about learning and science, and inspired to try new things,” she said.
“But ultimately I would really love all of them to go into science,” she added with a laugh.
For more information or to get involved in this program email the project at ScienceFairMentorMN@gmail.com or find information on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sciencefairmentormn.