Connecting students from the James P. Timilty Middle School with mentors from Massachusetts General Hospital, The MGH Science Fair Mentor Program allows students to form strong, personal relationships with STEM mentors, helping them broaden their interest and awareness of STEM fields and learn about scientific inquiry while working to complete strong science fair projects.
“One of the mentors’ biggest roles is to expose students to new horizons in science,” says Arthur Newbould, the program’s coordinator. “Students may come in knowing that they are interested in doing an egg drop experiment, but they might find out that their true passion is botany.”
The Timilty Science Fair Mentor Program facilitates bimonthly meetings between students and MGH mentors in preparation for the Timilty’s school wide science fair. During these meetings, the MGH mentors, representing several different departments at the hospital, lend their scientific expertise and professional experience to students, guiding them through the inquiry process and exposing them to new ideas in science and medicine.
“Many of the mentors come from research. Many of them are clinical research coordinators or lab technicians,” says Newbould. “It’s an interesting mix of people who work in labs or in research. We even have some veteran mentors that work in different departments like parking and commuter services or in IT.”
Working collaboratively with their mentors, students devise and execute a wide variety of projects based on each student’s interests and new concepts introduced by the mentors. Each year, the combination of the students’ curiosity and the mentors’ expertise yields a unique batch of creative projects.
“One project this year simulates the motion of the heart and uses ferrofluid to simulate oil in arteries,” says Newbould. “Another one involves using a refractometer to analyze how tea is brewed. They can get pretty complicated.”
After the Timilty science fair, students have a number of opportunities to continue connecting with their mentors and MGH. Many students choose to enter their projects into the citywide science fair. Others take advantage of summer job opportunities with MGH or continue studying science and medicine in high school with MGH. Students can also continue to stay in touch with their mentors through the Boys and Girls Club and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.
“After the program, students can continue with the MGH Summer Youth Jobs Program, applying to have paid summer jobs at MGH over the summer,” says Newbould. “Some students get interested in MGH to the point where they decide to get involved in the Youth Scholars Program which runs all the way from grade 9 to grade 12. Students can also continue their relationships with their mentors through the Boys and Girls Club after the program.”
Through the relationships students form with the MGH mentors, students can learn new scientific content, experience careers in STEM, and start down the path towards studying science after high school and attaining a job in science or medicine.
“The enthusiasm is really easy to see. In the program, anything can happen based on the relationships that are formed.”