Mentoring young scientists
by TP staff
Feb 18, 2013 | 3222 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Young science teachers
Hirsch Elementary School fifth grader Osvaldo Limon discusses his science project — the measuring of plankton growth — with Kimball High advanced placement biology teacher, Bret States (left), and senior Nathan Van Katwyk (right), during a mentoring program at Kimball High on Friday, Feb. 15.
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Hirsch Elementary School fifth grader Osvaldo Limon and Kimball High senior Nathan Van Katwyk studied an outline as they discussed Osvaldo’s plan to measure plankton growth in four different types of water.

The discussion was one of many that the Kimball High advanced placement biology students had as mentors for fifth graders from Hirsch School who are preparing their science projects for the elementary school science fair on March 15.

The pair spent nearly an hour discussing the best ways to approach the project.

“His project is more complex than any I did in the fifth grade,” said Nathan, as he looked over Osvaldo’s project notes.

It’s the first type of collaboration between the two schools, according to Hirsch School fifth grade teacher June Yasemsky. She got the new idea from the reading buddies program at Hirsch. That program has older students practice reading skills with preschool children.

Yasemsky said designing a science fair project can be quite intimidating and noted that her 29 students have paired with two periods of the Kimball High biology students.

“Some of my students have never done a science fair project before,” she said. “This gives them one-on-one time with students who already love science. Changing the audience increases motivation, they are not accountable to me anymore. They have to explain themselves to older students.”

Students attending Hirsch typically advance to Kimball High upon entering high school.

The Hirsch students arrived Friday — and after a tour of the campus from Kimball’s Future Teachers of America club — they settled down with Bret States’ advanced placement biology class made up of juniors and seniors.

The students teamed up to go over outlines for the science fair projects and give advice on how to conduct the experiments.

Osvaldo said he was glad to be receiving the extra help.

“I think it’s better to have someone to talk to make your project better,” he said.

Around the room the students huddled over tables filling in the blanks on the steps for the projects.

Kimball High senior Jason Powell was helping Claire Iacangelo figure out how to make control groups for her experiment on how long it takes food to spoil and figure out the variables for the project.

Jason has worked on too many science fair projects to remember and thought mentoring the younger students with theirs was a good idea.

“I think it is helpful,” he said. “If I would have had the opportunity I would have seen how a high school science class works and the critiques would have made me a better student.”

Icangelo said the extra assistance was much needed.

“It’s a little harder doing it by myself,” she said. “I think it will be helpful so I know what to do.”

Bret States, 42, Kimball High’s Health Science and Education Pathways coordinator was proud of his students as they led the younger group through the steps.

“I couldn’t be more pleased how it’s going,” he said. “This is a great experience not only for the fifth graders and their projects but for my students as well.”

With the success of their first mentoring session, Yasemsky hopes to make the program a yearly event.

Both participating teachers hope the Kimball High students can visit the science fair at Hirsch and see the completed projects.

• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or

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