International Journal of Environmental and Science Education

EnvironMentors: Mentoring At-Risk High School Students through University Partnerships

Oct 10, 2014

Author(s): Melissa H. Monk

Informal place-based environmental education is a proven approach for increasing environmental awareness for students in urban cities. This article describes and qualitatively evaluates the first two academic years of the EnvironMentors program at Louisiana State University (LSU-EM), which is part of a national network of EnvironMentors programs. Despite its short history, LSU-EM has already proven successful as an after-school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) mentoring and college-access program predicated on a nearby campus and community partnerships. LSU-EM partners with the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (Gear Up) in the College of Education and the Louisiana Sea Grant program for support and to foster the relationships among scientists, educators, and high school students. Each high school student is paired with two science mentors from the university. Students and their mentors spend the school year conducting an environmental science-based research project to be presented at the LSU-EM Science Fair. Program evaluations indicated students enjoyed forming a bond with their mentors, increased their environmental awareness, and had a better understanding of the scientific method after participating in LSU-EM. Mentors improved their science communication skills, benefited personally by giving back to the community, and took pride in their student’s work. Program success was also measured based on the number of students completing their EnvironMentors projects, graduating high school and enrolling in postsecondary educational institutions.