By Lara PoirrierDecember 12, 2016
Fort Huachuca -- "Hi guys, I'm Krystal. And you're going to have a lot of fun," said Krystal Kniffen, a senior at Tombstone High School, as she introduced herself to the third-graders at General Myer Elementary School.
The high school students were visiting General Myer Elementary School to participate in a STEM exercise. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is a federally funded program that provides opportunities for students to study and be inspired by science, technology, engineering and math--and have the chance to reach their full potential.
Daniel Matchette, mathematics teacher at Tombstone High School, explained that his students were new to the STEM program.
"This is our first time. It's a good opportunity for my kids." Matchette said, excited about the opportunity for his students to teach. "Another way to think about math is not just do it, but having to explain it to someone else."
For preparations, he said "I gave them a standard lesson plan. My students had to write a lesson plan, and now they have to present the lesson plan. I gave one team fractions, one team primarily focused on multiplications and division, and the third is focused mainly on graphing." Students were divided into three groups set at three tables, and each team rotated from table to table after a set time limit. They engaged one on one with the third-grade students, and used food and three dimensional objects for hands-on learning.
Sandee Trevino, ENLIST 2.0 STEM mentoring coordinator, runs the program in the Sierra Vista area. She taught math at Buena High School for 30 years and now works for the University of Arizona. She coordinates classroom involvement between teachers and volunteers.
"The enlist program is [designed] to pair up people who are strong in STEM fields, such as [Network Enterprise Technology Command] and Raytheon to work with teachers so they can give them the guidance and ideas and help them."
She said the goal is to bring some real life experiences into the classrooms to inspire students and that mentors can "support the students in the classroom with some project based learning." "This is just a great bonus that Mr. Matchette brought his whole class here to work with the students," she said
Trevino is always looking for more volunteer mentors. She said she's "in the process of recruiting more teachers and more mentors. It does great thing for kids." The program is targeted to fourth through eighth grades, but is open to other grades depending on the situation.
When asked about other ways that volunteer mentors have worked with students, she said, "at Huachuca Mountain School, the mentor has worked with kids on respiration rates, pulse rates, building bridges. He took it upon himself to sponsor the STEM club at the school.
"If a person wants to be a mentor, they don't have to teach in front of the classroom," she continued. "They can work with the teacher and have the teacher implement the lessons. It's whatever the mentor is comfortable with. They have the skill set and the knowledge base to help the teacher come up with ideas. Making it authentic for the students, and possibly sharing resources that they can bring for use in the classroom. We ask that they communicate twice a month between the teacher and the mentor so it's a continuing partnership. If mentors really have a desire to give back to the community, working with the kids is priceless and they get more back than they give."
Trevino said that every situation is unique.
"I do have some teachers that have more than one mentor. I have one middle school teacher who has three mentors."
Heather Clay, 3third-grade teacher at General Myer Elementary, explained how the two classes connected.
"Sandy linked up the classes and matched the two of us together," Clay said. "She was trying to recruit teachers. Over the summer I went to a conference and she was there."
Clay was excited to start the program in her classroom.
"This is the first time I've participated in this program," she said. "The goal of the classroom is get more science and engineering in the classrooms. The things that they are doing now we've already done, so they created lessons based on what the kids have already learned, to learn how to apply it. This program enriches their learning experiences."
Martin Dinden, a junior at Tombstone High School, spoke of his impressions of being a mentor.
"It was weird going from calculus back to a third-grade level math. We spent a couple of weeks preparing the lessons. They have some different tricks now [than what] we had [in third grade]. A student here showed me a different trick for multiplying nines."
Alberto Garcia Chacon, a senior at Tombstone High School, said next time they will be better prepared.
"Some of the stuff we were going to bring, we didn't have. We were going to bring cookies and muffins but we changed. The hardest part was keeping the students' attention," Chacon said. "I think they took the most away from the multiplication that we were showing them. I showed them with the graph the area that you can learn higher math. I showed them a complex number and then showed them shortcuts for multiplication of the two numbers. Area and graphing will help them with multiplication."
Torren Bohnes, a junior at Tombstone High School, explained one of the methods the mentors used for learning.
"One of the things we tried to do was introduce them to new kinds of graphs they hadn't seen before," Bohnes said. "We went over bar graphs, pictographs and pie graphs. We got the most response out of the pictographs. Overall how to make these different types of graphs and make them fun."
Cameron Roberts, a senior at Tombstone High School and former General Myer Elementary School third-grader, visited with some of her teachers.
"The students know our weaknesses" she joked. "The food related exercises worked well with the [candy], and it was a good reward."
Third-grade teacher Clay had one last piece of advice to offer.
"I'd like them to think outside the quadrilateral parallelogram."