Science Fair Mentoring Project seeks volunteers for 6th year

By Catherine Haslag

It all started with an observation that there are students in Austin who need help participating in the science fair. Five years later, over 1,100 students have participated in the Science Fair Mentoring Project while an additional 365 students have received support from the program while completing a science fair project.

Last year, 77 percent of the students who participated in the Austin Public Schools science fairs did so with the support of the Science Fair Mentoring Project. Preparations are underway for our sixth year of working with third and fourth grade students.

This year, this program is on track to assist approximately 230 students at Southgate, Banfield, and Neveln Elementary Schools in completing science fair projects.  Students are guided through lessons about the scientific method, how to write a hypothesis, and how to collect data.  With a partner, students then choose a project to complete at school. They are provided all the supplies needed at no cost to their families in an effort to remove educational, socio-economic, and language barriers that can prevent a child from participating in the science fair.

Catherine Haslag

Many parents cringe at the words “science fair,” but it is an important educational opportunity that encourages students to be curious, ask questions, and then seek the answers themselves. It allows students to engage in science in a hands-on manner, which leads to an increased level of self-confidence.

Additionally, participating in the science fair helps students develop their written and oral communication and teaches them valuable problem-solving skills through application of the scientific method.

To assist students with completing their projects, volunteers from the community are needed to mentor them.  These mentors build positive relationships with the students while guiding them through the scientific method, their experimental procedure, and creating a board and practicing their presentations for the science fair.

Mentors do not need to be “science-minded, ” they just need to have an interest in working with the students and the desire to help the youth in our community.

Mentors can volunteer at the convenience of their own schedules.  Prior to volunteering, mentors will need to complete a free background check through Austin Public Schools and watch a short online video orientation that discusses the program and information to help mentors best use their time working with the students.

If you would like to get involved with this program as a mentor or a general volunteer, please contact Catherine Haslag at ScienceFairMentorMN@gmail.com.

Additional information about this program, including information for parents and mentors, is provided online at www.sciencefairmentor.org.

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