Mentoring Girls in Science: Eight Case Studies of a Science Camp Experience

Mentoring Girls in Science: Eight Case Studies of a Science Camp Experience

Donna Farland-Smith (The Ohio State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9471-2.ch002
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Content area specialists (scientists) are often recruited as mentors of students to address issues in science education. These scientists are frequently recruited to help with the teaching of science, however, quite often do not have the pedagogy skills needed to be role models for young children. Guidance in the selection appropriate mentors would help maximize the potential influence on students understanding of who does science, where science is done and what scientists do. This study illustrates six case studies of scientists as they worked with middle school girls and identifies five characteristics educators should look for in selecting science mentors successful in broadening students' perceptions of scientists. The data was collected during ‘Side-by-Side' interaction with scientists/mentors during a summer camp experience and has implications for classroom practice as the use of mentors can be structured to support the infusion of Science as a Human Endeavor. As the students' experiences with mentor scientists helped to shape their perception of those who pursue careers in science and what it is that scientists do, careful consideration and preparation of mentors were critical to the success of the program, and so this paper also provides suggestions to help highly trained and highly educated scientists in these mentorship roles.
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Without clear boundaries or definitions of the characteristics of science content specialists who will likely be successful in the classroom, all scientists may be welcomed. Recently, President Barack Obama, in the National Math and Science Initiative, requested that scientists do their part in helping young students achieve better grades in science by occasionally visiting school classrooms. However, the indiscriminate use of visiting scientists should be cautioned, because all scientists don’t necessarily make teachers.

Classroom teachers are limited by time and responsibility. They must attend to day-to-day issues while worrying about meeting instructional standards and the requirements of end-of-course tests. As a result, classroom teachers need guidance in working with appropriate science content specialists for their students. As this will maximize the potential influence mentor scientists have on students’ understanding of who does science, where science is done, and what scientists do. This paper explores the approaches of content specialists when working with middle school girls and suggests as to how scientists should be prepared to serve in these mentorship roles.

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