Pittsburg "SAGANLab"

Pittsburg/Golden-Gate High School for at risk youth - Pittsburg, CA

In this innovative mentoring opportunity, SAGANet.org mentors engage students in life-wide learning at the Pittsburg/Golden-Gate Community School, an alternative high school for at risk and underrepresented youth from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Pittsburg Community School teacher, Mr. Doug Corbin met SAGANet.org advisor Daniella Scalice at the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference. With the help of Mrs. Scalice, Mr. Corbin introduced astrobiology into his classroom, with some students in his words “only coming to class because of astrobiology”.

To help develop STEM reasoning and process skills that would be useful beyond the classroom, the class was divided into groups of 2-4 students, each mentored by one or two SAGANet.org mentors. The mentors work with students to develop a 3-minute presentation where the students would perform in front of their peers.

Because of the “at-risk” nature of the students, informal learning can only be performed within the confines of their formal curriculum, so dedicated hour-long informal sessions are organized during their time at the school for each group. The goal of the presentation is to develop the students’

  1. communication skills,
  2. complex-topic breakdown,
  3. teamwork abilities,
  4. science self-efficacy, and
  5. self-confidence.

Each mentor-mentee team meets for a one-hour session once a week, during which the mentors discuss with students STEM topics related to astrobiology covered in the classroom, or from their own research background (origin of matter, DNA, big bang, science & religion, early earth evolution etc.).

Each mentor also discussed with the class what it is like being a professional scientist and how they got there, and emphasized how “STEM-driven thought” could be applied regardless of their career choices.

At the end of the 6 weeks, the students perform in front of their classmates. A professional presentation-coach is brought into the classroom using virtual technologies a week prior to their event for additional advice.

A panel of professional scientists with excellent oral communication skills is then organized to judge the student presentations.

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