Science can seem quite abstract to young students but having a friendly scientist to engage with can make a big difference in their science learning and interest.
“I tried to let them know that science is really just life, their lives, and the lives around them,” said Makeda Mills, a science mentor and oceanography doctoral student. “It’s not as abstract as it may seem.”
Mills is part of a group of undergraduate and graduate Texas A&M University students who are participating in Scientists as Role Models and Mentors (SRM2), which virtually connects real-life scientists with Texas rural students to discuss science topics.
SRM2 is a component of Project Virtually-Infused Collaborations for Teaching and Learning Opportunities for Rural Youth (VICTORY), a three-year project led by a team of educational researchers and professors in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M. The project looks to ensure that rural students in grades 3-5 receive additional support to increase science literacy, interest in STEM fields, and access to technology. VICTORY also assesses online vs. in-person instruction and includes take-home, family engagement science activities.
During the Spring 2022 semester, the scientists joined teachers and third-grade students remotely during their class time to converse about the science topics being covered, as well as to answer science questions.
When scientists joined their science classrooms, the students were extremely excited and enjoyed being able to ask questions, which would sometimes last until class time ran out. The scientists worked to make students comfortable and get involved in science in their own lives.
The scientists were eager to share details about their research, which sparked the students’ interest in becoming scientists as well.
“I really love being able to share my love of science and then connect that to the real world, and in turn, hear the students say that they were more interested in science and they were going to be excited about it in the future. Hearing the students say, ‘I want to be a scientist when I grow up’ was really rewarding,” said Kalina Eskew, a science mentor and doctoral student in ecology and conservation biology.
Overall, Project VICTORY not only benefits the growth of the elementary students but also the scientists who act as mentors.
“The students were exceptional, and oh my gosh, it was so exciting! It got me out of bed in the morning to work with them, so I loved it!” added science mentor and oceanography doctoral student Nathan Lanning.
“It was so fun to get to participate in the students’ lessons, interact with the students, and answer their science questions,” said science mentor Samantha Longridge, who recently graduated with her M.S. in oceanography.
Project VICTORY’s SRM2 will be working with fourth-grade students in Fall 2022.
For more information about Project VICTORY, please visit https://crdlla.tamu.edu/victory/.
PI: Rafael Lara-Alecio
Co-PIs: Beverly Irby, Fuhui Tong, Robert Capraro, Mary Margaret Capraro
Lead Project Coordinator: Cindy Guerrero