Meet a STEM Mentor Pair: “Little” Gavin and “Big” Paul

June 11, 2010

Big Paul and Little Gavin with their completed greenhouse!

The STEM Blog will regularly be profiling pairs from the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative collaborative between The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (RACCEMS) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

This program matches adults with a career, education, or interest in science, technology, education, or math (STEM)  with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from the Rochester area.  STEM Mentor pairs – also called “Bigs” and “Littles” –  meet once a month or every other month to engage in a STEM related activity or outing.  All STEM Mentors first go through the thorough background check and training process to become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

“Big” Paul and “Little” Gavin shared a STEM activity they enjoyed doing together recently – building a miniature greenhouse. 

The idea behind their activity came from the STEM Mentor Volunteer Guide – which is full of optional science experiments and activities for the duos to complete together.  Big Paul chose the greenhouse activity, “Because it seemed like it was easy enough that I knew we could accomplish it, but hard enough that it wasn’t a cake walk.” 

Little Gavin and the greenhouse he built with his STEM Mentor Big Paul.

To start the project Big Paul and Little Gavin went shopping around the house and in a store for the following supplies:  an old shoebox, potting soil, seeds, wire clothes hangers, plastic wrap, plastic cups, and tape.   

A few weeks after completing the greenhouse - flowers are starting to grow!

 It took approximately two hours to complete the entire greenhouse project.  However, the impact of the greenhouse has gone well beyond a fun afternoon. 

Big Paul and Little Gavin have enjoyed watching their seeds grow and were excited to share some before and after photos.  “I learned where plants come from and that you can plant a seed and it will become a flower,” Little Gavin said.  Big Paul learned that plastic wrap can help keep moisture in a closed container.
Their greenhouse project has also given the pair an idea for a future STEM outing – visiting a real greenhouse.

Both Big Paul and Little Gavin recommend their STEM Mentor activity to others.  “It really isn’t too difficult to make,” said Big Paul, “but it’s still enough that you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment afterwards.”  Little Gavin agreed: “It was fun making it and cool putting together the house.” 

Here are some links with different ideas to build your own mini greenhouse: 

Article by Caurie Miner Putnam – Coordinator of the STEM Mentor Program. For more information on the program email Caurie at