Meet a STEM Mentor Pair: Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon

May 5, 2011

Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon photo by Caurie Putnam

by Caurie Putnam, coordinator, STEM Mentor Program

From time to time The STEM Blog profiles pairs from the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative collaboration 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 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 Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon, age 9,  have been part of the STEM Mentor Program since its inception in Fall 2009.  The pair is extremely active in the program and enjoy doing STEM activities both with the group and together – often far exceeding the requirement of one STEM interaction a month.

For example, here are the STEM activities the pair did in March 2011: 1)  Created a paper mache solar system 2)  Attended a HO Model Train Display  3)  Played a computer game where Raajon was a “surgeon” operating on patient (30 minute limit) 4) Played chess 5)  Cooked a dinner – Raajon helped with the measuring

Jim and Raajon at the Corning Museum of Glass in December 2010

Over the course of their time in the program Raajon’s interest and enthusiasm towards STEM involved activities has flourished.   

Here is an example of his excitement as Jim recalls their visiting the Rochester Museum and Science Center this month for Opening Night of the Dinosaur exhibit:

Raajon was so excited he couldn’t eat his dinner beforehand, and couldn’t eat much of the snacks [at the museum] — but nevertheless he bounded and bounced back and forth through the exhibits for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Another great example was Raajon’s own quote as he was driving with Jim and his wife to the Corning Museum of Glass for a fun-filled day of science in December. Before they even arrived at the museum Raajon said:

This day has already been great!  Why, already we have seen seven [science] things:  hawks, road kill, three live deer, cows, horses, a salt mine [he remembered RMSC’s multi-media presentation on the American Salt Company] and a cheese factory! 

As the coordinator of the STEM Mentor program I’ve had the opportunity to witness many wonderful interactions between Jim and Raajon where Raajon’s eyes light up with excitement during a discovery. Jim is constantly encouraging Raajon to ask questions, dig deeper, and think like a scientist. Here is a wonderful example of that in Jim’s words:

Raajon likes to ride with the car window down, and noticed the intermittent “whoosh” sound when our car passes parked cars.  His two partial hypotheses: because there’s air between the cars, and because the street is wet which makes more noise.  I acknowledged that each had something to do with it, but challenged him to find a more complete explanation before July 4th.  He liked the challenge very much.  

Thank you to Jim and Raajon for adding so much to the STEM Mentor Program and allowing me to share their story!

If you are interested in learning more about the program please email Caurie Putnam, program coordinator, at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

Raajon engineering a tower at the RMSC provided photo

 

STEM Mentor Program Visits U of R’s Optics Program

December 31, 2010

Members of the STEM Mentor Program and the University of Rochester's Department of Optics

Recently, the University of Rochester’s doctoral program in Optics hosted members of the STEM Mentor Program. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) Mentor Program is an innovative partnership between  The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (The Center) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

STEM Bigs (who have an interest/education/or career in STEM fields) and Littles (whom are in grades 4-6) visited the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics in Goergen Hall for a highly interactive afternoon of optics fun. 

Doctoral students working with Professor Andrew Berger presented “Optics is Everywhere” – showing the Littles that, indeed, the field of optics is something they experience everyday. They also got to experiences aspects of optics they never had before, such as looking at their skin via a heat imaging camera.

A huge thank you to Dr. Berger and his students for sharing their passion with the STEM Mentor Program.  It was a wonderful opportunity for the Littles not only to learn about Optics, but to visit a university campus and to see a diverse group of scientists at work (and play!)

Enjoy these photos that capture the spirit of the day.

Littles from the STEM Mentor Program at their "Optics is Everywhere" presentation

 

Article and photos by Caurie Putnam – Coordinator of the STEM Mentor Program – cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

Robots and Roosters: STEM Mentor Program Visits Springdale Farm

June 30, 2010

Big Sister Taylor and her Little Sister Shalese at Springdale Farm

On June 19 the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative partnership between   The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (The Center) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (BBBS)   – visited Springdale Farm in Ogden, New York. 

Springdale Farm provided a wealth of STEM education and activities for the Bigs and Littles in the program, which matches fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from the Rochester area with adult mentors who have a background or passion in STEM  fields.

Owned by Monroe County and operated by Heritage Christian Services, the 200 acre farm is a working agricultural education facility open to the public. It boosts a petting zoo, greenhouse, duck pond, nature trails, picnic area and playground. 

The farm is also home to Riedman Robotic Milking Center –  a working dairy that utilizes a robotic milking machine to milk sixty cows.  Springdale Farm was the first public demonstration farm in the Northeast to install this cutting-edge technology.   

STEM Mentor participants took a tour of the Riedman Robotic Milking Center and got to see this amazing technology first hand.    

Tour of the robotic milking barn

The tour elicited many questions–by the Bigs and Littles alike.  “I have a question,” said Little Brother Raajon as he watched a cow being milked and a nearby tank filling with the cow’s white milk, “Where are the cows that produce the chocolate milk?” The Springdale Farm tour guide proceeded to answer the question with great detail for the entire group.   

Little Brother Colton in the petting farm area

 
 
Raajon’s Big Brother Jim loved how the tour evoked many questions and provided great answers. “There were good questions coming from the mentors and the mentees,” Jim said. “It was really exciting to see.”    
 
Big Brother Ensley also enjoyed the dairy barn tour. “I found the robotic dairy barn fascinating,” said Ensley – an engineer. “There was so much I did not know. I will certainly encourage friends to come.”    

 In addition to the dairy barn tour, STEM Mentor pairs enjoyed lunch, a roundtable discussion about informal science learning, and a scavenger hunt around the farm for science prizes like kites, volcano making kits, and owl pellets to dissect.   

“It was a cool day,” said Little Brother Shamar. “I liked everything, but I liked petting the animals the most.”  

 If you are interested in learning more about or joining the STEM Mentor Program please email the program coordinator, Caurie Putnam, at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu  

All STEM Mentors are Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers foremost and must first go through the thorough background check and training the organization provides.  

   

Fun at Springdale Farm

 

 


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: 

http://www.instructables.com/id/Mini-seedling-greenhouse/ 

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/science/lesson-plan/355.html 

http://www.sciencefairadventure.com/ProjectDetail.aspx?ProjectID=141 

Article by Caurie Miner Putnam – Coordinator of the STEM Mentor Program. For more information on the program email Caurie at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu


Teens Feelings about STEM – New Data from Lemelson-MIT

May 27, 2010

 

The 2010 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges American teens perceptions about invention and innovation, reveals some telling information about their feelings towards STEM subjects (science, technology, education and math). 

Of the teens surveyed for this year’s report: 

–  77 percent showed  interest in pursuing a STEM career

 – 85 percent wish they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something 

  – 66 percent identified field trips and other activities outside of the classroom as the best way they can learn about STEM subjects

– 75 percent chose hands-on individual projects and hands-on group projects as the types of classroom-based educational methods they enjoy most

– 43 percent said that role models in STEM fields would increase their interest in learning about these areas

One program at The Center for Excellence in Math and Science that incorporates several of the needs identified in the Lemelson-MIT survey is the STEM Mentor Program.  Our STEM Mentor Program is a collaborative initiative with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (BBBS) to increase interest, excitement, and exposure to informal STEM education and professionals.

 Mentors (or “Bigs”) in the program all have a background, career, or interest in the STEM fields.  The Bigs share their STEM excitement with Littles –  who have been identified by BBBS as having an interest in STEM subjects. 

 

“Littles” from the STEM Mentor Program have a hands-on STEM experience with a STEM professional from the Seneca Park Zoo.

 

The STEM Mentor Program facilitates field trips and hands on activities for the Big/Little pairs – things identified as important to teens in the Lemelson-MIT survey. 

The program also gives the Littles something the Lemelson-MIT survey found lacking on a national level – exposure to adults in the STEM fields.  Just 51% of teens surveyed said they knew someone who worked in a STEM profession.  

 Another mentor program aimed at increasing hands-on STEM learning and direct access to STEM professionals is Lemelson-MIT’s InvenTeams High School Invention Grants.

 
 InvenTeams is a national program.  Teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. such as a temperature-sensitive color-changing roof to combat global warming.

 For more information about Lemelson-MIT’s InvenTeams High School Invention Grants visit: http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/index.html

 For more information about the STEM Mentor Program email Caurie Putnam, program coordinator, at  cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu


STEM Mentors Program Kicks Off!

March 26, 2010

A Big and Little from the STEM Mentor Program meet a duck from The Seneca Park Zoomobile. The Zoomobile also brought a rat, an owl, and an armadillo for the presentation they did called "Animal Adaptations."

 

March 6th marked the kickoff of the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative new partnership between The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (The Center) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (BBBS)  

This exciting program matches fourth, fifth, and sixth graders with adult mentors who have a background or passion in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Pairs meet once a month to engage in a formal or informal STEM related activity – such as visiting the Rochester Museum and Science Center or taking a nature hike in a local park. 

BBBS of Greater Rochester provides the matching and training of Big/Little pairs and The Center supports these matches with access to community resources, field trips and other group activities.  

The goals of the STEM Mentor Program are to: 1) Foster excitement and engagement in youth for STEM disciplines 2) Increase the number of students that maintain passing grades in college preparatory courses and 3) Increase the number of youth planning to attend college in STEM disciplines.  

While the final two goals may seem far away for children in grades four through six,  the reality is that those grades are the pivotal years to incite longterm interest in math and science.  Studies have shown that math scores decline most between grades six and seven. 

STEM Mentor Paul Guglielmo decided to become a STEM Mentor because he witnessed this trend starting with his own Little. “I was talking with my Little’s caregiver one day and she mentioned he was having a little trouble in school with science.”  Guglielmo, who is surrounded by science and technology on a daily basis as an on-air personality for a popular Rochester radio station, saw an opportunity to make a difference. “I want to pass that [interest in science] onto my Little,” Guglielmo said. 

March 6th was the first group activity for these pioneering pairs like Paul and his Little. The STEM Mentor Bigs and Littles came together for a fun-filled afternoon of games, pizza, discussion, and a presentation from The Seneca Park Zoomobile.  

Mentor Ensley Townsend, who said he joined the STEM Mentor Program “to share my love of math and science with younger minds,” enjoyed the event–especially the hands-on approach to science–something the STEM Mentor program strives for. “I loved the Zoomobile and the interactive nature of the event,” Townsend said, “It was my first time touching or even coming close to an armadillo.” 

Touching an armadillo was also a first for all of the Littles at the event.  These exciting moments of science shared between a Big and Little is what the STEM Mentor Program is all about. 

If you are interested in learning more about or joining the STEM Mentor Program please email the program coordinator, Caurie Putnam, at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu All STEM Mentors are Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers foremost and must first go through the thorough background check and training the organization provides.