Evaluating virtual STEM mentoring programs: The SAGANet.org experience

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Sanjoy M Som1, Sara I Walker2, Emma Miller1, Marni Anbar1, Betul Kacar1 and Jennifer H Forrester3, (1)Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Tempe, AZ, United States, (3)University of Wyoming, Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Laramie, WY, United States
Many school districts within the United States continue to seek new ways of engaging students within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. SAGANet.org, a web-based 501c3 Astrobiology outreach initiative, works with a number of schools, partnering K-12 students and their families with professional scientist mentors from around the world to teach and inspire students using virtual technology platforms. Current programs include two mentoring partnerships: pairing scientist-mentors with at-risk youth at the Pittsburg Community School in Pittsburg CA, and pairing scientist-mentors with families from the Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School in Chandler AZ. These programs represent two very different models for utilizing the virtual media platform provided by SAGANet.org to engage K-12 students and their families in STEM. For the former, scientists mentor the students of the Pittsburg School as part of the formal in-class curriculum. For the latter, scientists work with K-5 students and their families through Cielo’s Science & Engineering Discovery Room to develop a science project as part of an informal learning experience that is independent of the formal curriculum. In this presentation, we (1) discuss the challenges and successes of engaging these two distinct audiences through virtual media, (2) present the results of how these two very-different mentoring partnership impact K-12 students science self-efficacy, interest in science, and STEM career awareness, and (3) share the impact of the mentoring experience on the mentor’s confidence and self-efficacy with communicating science to the public.