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Science Fairs & Mentoring

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James Bader ( 09 scholar)

 I have a question that I would like input from the group on. I am involved in a brand new program that involves Case Western Reserve University undergrads and Cleveland Municipal School District middle and high school students. The goal of the program is to improve the quality of science fair projects in the Cleveland schools. Our strategy is for myself and another faculty member in biology to provide some degree of training for our undergrads (10 hours) on how to work with middle and high school students. Undergrads will begin working with the students in late November through early February when most of the school science fairs will take place. Our training will focus on how to turn observations into meaningful questions, how to design a robust experiment, how to quantify and analyze results, and how to relate and work with students who are likely very different from them.
 
This seems an ideal opportunity for an interesting study, particulary if anyone has seen the Letters to the Editor of the September/October issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching that debates the value of science fairs.
 
I have some ideas on how to approach this, but would value the input of the Scholars.

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add comments BELOW: ( don't forget to start with your name and year you were a scholar)-----

Mary Pat Wenderoth '08 Scholar

James-- as I read your topic, I thought to myself that it sounded very much like the scholar's research residency! 

You will need to figure out how to determine at what level of mentor expertise your undergrads are starting.  Maybe the easiest thing to do is ask your undergrads to write up responses to each of the questions above at the beginning of the program and again at the end.  You could analyze the responses ( qualitative assessment, word cloud, ask Christine P for advice.)

  • how to turn observations into meaningful questions,
  • how to design a robust experiment,
  • how to quantify and analyze results,
  • how to relate and work with students who are likely very different from them

You could also collect the judges scores for ALL the science fair participants and see if participants with Case Western mentors had higher scores than those without mentors.

would be good to see what the literature on assessment of mentoring is saying these days.
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Janet Branshaw 09 Scholar
My colleagues at the UW-Madison Center for Biology Education do something very similar to what you're planning. They have a whole course developed to teach undergraduate and graduate students how to work with pre-college kids in afterschool programs. The two lead folks on this project are Dolly Ledin and Sarah Wright. I've copied them, so they can tell you more about what they do in this class, and in other related venues.

Here is a web link to the course description: http://www.biology.wisc.edu/Courses/...e_children.asp
and
a link to other outreach activities my Center does with K-12 teachers and students: http://cbe.wisc.edu/K12/

Hope these are helpful!
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