STEM Mentoring Program Creates Long Lasting Training Resources with Support from the Governor's Prevention Partnership
Written By: Abby Lormer, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
Sea Research Foundation, Inc. (SRF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Mystic, CT. With a focus on conservation, education, research, and youth development, SRF is a leader in providing mentoring and academic enrichment programs to underserved youth. One of SRF’s programs is STEM Mentoring — a group mentoring program for youth ages 6–10 that brings together youth and mentors for fun, hands-on activities about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), with a particular focus on conservation.
STEM Mentoring connects youth with mentors in a ratio of four youth to one mentor. Mentors and mentees commit to the program for a year, and during that time, they participate in three to four STEM curriculum modules that range from four to 16 weeks long. Each module has a unique theme such as endangered animals, renewable energy, or water conservation. As part of each module, the groups engage in a variety of hands-on activities that help build their relationship as they learn about the featured STEM topics. Groups also participate in a STEM enrichment activity as part of each module, which could be a virtual or in-person field trip to a zoo, aquarium, or other STEM-related institution where mentors and mentees can learn and experience something new together.
During Sea Research Foundation’s 2018 program year, STEM Mentoring is being implemented at approximately 80 sites in 28 states and Puerto Rico, engaging more than 1,600 mentees and 400 mentors. By partnering with youth-serving organizations across the country, STEM Mentoring is able to serve youth from a wide diversity of urban and rural communities. SRF supports its implementation sites by providing all the STEM content along with extensive training on how to run a successful small-group mentoring program with a focus on STEM.
Laura Batt, Director of STEM Mentoring Programs at SRF, explained that National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) Technical Assistance (TA) provider Dr. Susan Weinberger from the Governor’s Prevention Partnership provided critical support to SRF by assisting them in developing webinars to train the site coordinators of the STEM Mentoring Program. These webinars covered topics like peer mentoring and match closure, and not only were site coordinators able to participate in these webinars, but they were also recorded so that they could be used for continuous learning across the network. These webinar topics were chosen from a survey that was given to all site coordinators nationally, and asked what program coordinators wanted to talk about. TA also assisted the Sea Research Foundation in developing a presentation and feedback session around the challenges faced in mentoring programs, as well as a train-the-trainer session for program staff on the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM.
Laura would recommend TA to other mentoring programs because this training made it possible to get the program coordinators off on the right foot and gave them materials and knowledge that they could take back to their sites and pass on. She also said that TA is a “high quality, free, and expert view on mentoring best practices that was given to our network in a way that we couldn’t have done ourselves. It was an engaging and quality experience!”
MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) partners with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to deliver the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) to the mentoring field. In addition to convening a Research Board which develops evidence-based reviews about mentoring topics, and offering a comprehensive mentoring resource center website, the NMRC provides mentoring programs nationwide with the opportunity to request and receive no-cost technical assistance to help them more deeply incorporate evidence-based practices into their programming. Once a mentoring program requests technical assistance, their request is assigned to a local or regional technical assistance provider within MENTOR's network of state and local affiliates and TA providers. New and emerging mentoring programs may benefit from technical assistance to help them design and implement programs that meet quality standards as outlined in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, while existing or established programs may utilize TA to improve operations, assess impact, or adapt their program to changing or emerging community needs.
Learn more about the STEM Mentoring Program here and the Sea Research Foundation here, and the Governor’s Prevention Partnership here. Submit a request for no-cost technical assistance for your youth mentoring program here.