Today’s school curricula tend to fall short in the subjects science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Many public schools have shifted their focus to helping students do well on various standardized tests and now spend a good portion of the school year reviewing materials covered on these tests. As a result, numerous nonprofit and charity organizations have developed programs over the years to help connect students with STEM mentors.
STEM mentors play a vital role in helping children, teens, and young adults further develop their interests in related STEM career fields. A STEM mentor does not have to be a teacher by professional, and many mentors come from various STEM career fields. The goal of a STEM mentor is much more than just talking about STEM-related topics of interest between the mentor and mentee.
What makes a great mentor is being able to listen to the student. In some cases, the student may only require a “sounding board” and someone to talk to about different ideas and thoughts they have while working through a problem on their own. Other times, they just want someone they can talk to without discussing any STEM topics whatsoever. STEM mentors need to recognize these differences and be able to provide the support the student requires.
Another aspect to becoming an outstanding mentor is helping to inspire students in various ways. For instance, you could challenge them to explore various topics on their own and find something within those topics that truly excites and motivates them. On the other hand, you could provide them an overview of a recent advancement in a STEM field and ask them their input on how they think this new development will benefit people.
Furthermore, a STEM mentor needs to be able to notice the differences between admiration and true interest. Some students will look for adults they admire, who are basically their “heroes” in one of the STEM fields. This adoration can sometimes create challenges for the mentors because they need to help the student learn the difference between what topics are of interest to the student, not just the STEM field of expertise their mentor excels in.
In addition to these traits, a mentor must be able to come up with creative ways to provide students with hands-on experiences to truly help expand the student’s ideas and thought processes about STEM-related fields. Mentors should also try to arrange the opportunities for students to meet professionals working in STEM career fields so they can see first-hand exactly what is like to work in that area of STEM.
As students become older, the nature of the relationship between mentor and mentee needs to evolve and expand. Mentoring high school and college students becomes more about building stronger relationships and helping guide the students to careers they will enjoy doing.
If becoming a STEM mentor sounds enticing, we encourage you to seek out various programs in your area. For all of your research and scientific lab notebook needs, remember to order them from SNCO by calling 800.537.3028 today. We are world’s leading manufacturer of scientific notebooks!