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

Raajon engineering a tower at the RMSC provided photo


A look at the RMSC

January 26, 2009

There are currently some astronomy opportunities at the Rochester Museum & Science Center that are out of this world:


  1. The Strasenburgh Planetarium is currently featuring a star show series entitled, “The Wonders of Orion“. Each week a new star is featured under the big dome, including star clusters and nebulas that Hubble and other telescopes have found in Orion’s neighborhood. Each show includes a point-out of stars, constellations and planets you can see in the current night sky.Check the Planetarium’s website for a list of showtimes.
  2. The museum’s Education department is offering an entire week of Space-based activities for students ages 6-11. The camp takes place during the week of February break (February 16-20). Visit the museum’s website for more information about this break camp.

STEM Events to look Forward to BEFORE the end of the year

November 7, 2008

It might be hard to believe, but we are now half way through autumn and well on our way to another wonderful Rochester winter. While there are many things to look forward to in 2009, there are also many STEM events taking place in our area before the coming of the new year.

Click on the calendar above to find more information on the RAC-CEMS website

Click on the calendar above to find more information on the RAC-CEMS website

Below are some highlights:

  • A General Astronomy Meeting will be held at RIT tonight at 7:30pm
  • The Elementary Science Program (ESP) will hold 3 free PD workshops on various topics for specific grade levels (2nd, 3rd, and 4th)
  • The Finger Lakes Institute will be hosting a number of community-based science presentations including a special three day event about the Love Canal neighborhood.
  • Numerous grant and award applications are due for 2009 awards.
  • And, on clear Saturday nights, the telescopes at the RMSC Planetarium will be in operation by the friendly members of Rochester Academy of Science (call ahead to double check).

More details on all of the above events can be found on the RAC-CEMS calendar at:

If you know of an event that is not on our calendar, please let us know so we can add it to our listing.