Science Technology Engineering and Math

Mentoring for Science Technology, Engineering, and Math

By Coral Tily

EPA researchers Cheryl Brown and Christina Folger were among the 45 volunteer science mentors that offered technical assistance to elementary school students preparing for the Newport Science Fair in Newport, Oregon. This science fair is one of the Oregon coast’s many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities.

Lydia Miller with Anastasia in front of the poster of Lydia’s group – influence of soil composition and retention

Lydia Miller with Anastasia Kaldy in front of the poster of Lydia’s group – influence of soil composition and retention

Students at Newport area elementary schools conducted experiments, gathered data, and compiled results. On January 21, the students shared their scientific discoveries with the public at a Science Fair held at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, home to one of EPA’s Western Ecology Division research laboratories.

The science mentors visited the classrooms regularly to assist the students with their investigations. Over 800 students from 33 classrooms at Sam Case and Yaquina View Elementary Schools in Newport participated; each class was matched with one or more science mentors. Oregon Sea Grant and volunteer coordinators organize the Science Fair in partnership with the schools. Cheryl and Christina (in her 5th year volunteering as a mentor) worked at Sam Case Elementary School, helping to develop and conduct experiments investigating plant growth and factors influencing soil permeability.

Science Fair participant : Anastasia Kaldy in front of her group’s project – effects of soil types

Anastasia Kaldy in front of her group’s project – effects of soil types

Cheryl’s class tested the effect of different factors on plant growth and survival.  Each group came up with their own factor/hypothesis that they tested.  Factors selected included the effect of salt, detergent, soda vs diet soda, Gatorade, effect of soil type (dirt, sand, and coffee), if plants could grow on ramen noodles, and the effect of burning plant leaves, as some of the boys just wanted to burn something.

Christina’s class worked with how different soil composition influences water retention. Students used different materials (sand, clay, pine needles, pebbles, etc.) to create multiple soil treatments in plastic cups with holes in the bottom for drainage.  They ‘made it rain’ on the cups several times over the two week period and recorded the weight of each cup at specific times after the “rain” to see which combination of materials retained the most water.

The event was a great experience for students and mentors alike. It showed the promise of making the connection between working scientists and young people in science, technology, engineering, and math activities.

About the Author: Information services specialist Coral Tily wrote this post in cooperation with Cheryl Brown (oceanographer), Christina Folger (marine ecologist), and Joan Hurley (senior environmental employment grantee).

Read “Science Fair A Big Success,” an article about the Newport Science Fair in the local paper

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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My Confidence in Future Young Scientists

By Thabit Pulak

EPA guest blogger Thabit and friends

The students were taking part in “enrichment clusters,” sessions in which they learn about one important public issue in depth. I was invited by 2nd-grade teacher Ms. Claborn to visit her cluster on water purification and to present a real-life example of a water filter.

I had recently worked to develop an affordable filter that removed not only bacteria and contaminants from water, but also arsenic, a poisonous substance that affects nearly 150 million people across the world today. I had the opportunity to present my water filter at the 2012 Intel International Science Fair, where I won 3rd place and EPA’s Patrick J. Hurd Sustainability Award. The Hurd Award included an invitation to present my project at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which showcases EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program.

STEM in the classroomI presented the filter to the class and answered questions, learning just as much from them as they did from me.  I was invited to stay for the remainder of the cluster, where the students were putting final touches on their own water filters. Ms. Claborn gave each of the students some muddy water to run through the filters. It was exciting for me to see the children’s smiles as they looked at the clean water slowly trickling out of the open edge of the soda bottle after traveling through the sand and rocks. The filters were based on a water filtration activity that EPA designed specifically for students.

Afterwards, I was invited to attend the upcoming STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) exhibit that the school was hosting. The students’ mini filters would be on display, and I was invited to display my filter alongside theirs. As the stream of curious parents and students came in, I gladly talked about both what the students did and my own filter, and what this means for the future of environmental sustainability issues like water.

This was my first opportunity to present my work outside of my school and science fairs. I felt very honored and happy to be able to give something back to the community. I hope to find ways to keep doing so!

 

About the Author: Guest blogger Thabit Pulak of Richardson, Texas was the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2012. As part of this award, he was invited to attend and exhibit at the National Sustainable Design Expo, home of the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, DC. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Davidson Fellows Award

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.