• Middle School
The Power of Mentorship

by Amy Cornell, Middle School Science Teacher

Country School 7th Grade science was off again on another adventure, this time to Choate Rosemary Hall. As part of our deep dive into molecular biology concepts and technologies, we had a unique opportunity to visit Choate, listen to student biomedical research presentations, and learn more about student experiences in authentic science. Choate’s Signature Program SRP (Science Research Program) offers real-world research experience for junior and senior high school students at a university lab.

The emphasis of our visit was on student-to-student mentorship and peer sharing. Choate students discussed how taking the lead on their own biomedical research directly impacted their appreciation and passion for science. The following four key skills identified by Choate students resonated well with our 7th Graders. 1) Curiosity and Freedom, to be creative and to propose new solutions to a problem; 2) Patience and persistence, and how multiple iterations are needed to develop and test those solutions; 3) Resilience and satisfaction, in the face of many failures and successes when working with microscopic systems; 4) Understanding data, when interpreting charts, determining statistical significance of results, and that negative data is, in fact, data.

Choate students’ mentorship and advice were inspirational and motivating for our 7th Grade, providing a rich experience of relatable learning and discussion.  Below, are some reflections from our 7th Graders about their visit:

“I thought that the students’ presentations were very intriguing. I thought it was amazing how they discovered something that nobody had discovered before. I learned from Sarah that the drugs she used reduced the interactions with the prion proteins and the laminin proteins which reduce the growth of meningioma cells. I also learned that science does not have to be your favorite topic in school to go into something like their SRP. I didn’t realize how many hypotheses people had that had never been tested or experimented with. I also didn’t realize how hard it was to get into the SRP and how many kids applied for it. Overall, I thought it was a good experience and I learned a lot from it.” – Jay D.

 “I found it inspiring that all the students really love what they were studying and work really hard to achieve their goal.  A lot of work goes into the SRP's. It takes time and not everything goes your way. You have to experience failure.” – Bina F.

“I was inspired to see that there was a way to follow your own research as early as high school and would love to do something like that someday. The research was inspiring and handled some pretty advanced topics (at least for me) and seemed very complex. I didn’t know that you could work with such advanced topics at this age.”—Alex B.

“One of the kids said that he spent the first six weeks failing, and he had no idea why. I thought that it was really inspiring that he could keep trying and remain optimistic and eventually reap interesting results.”—Helen S.

“It was really cool to be able to see what these high schoolers could do even though they are still young. They had to find their own topic that has never been done before, find a lab that would accept them, and interpret their data and put it in a way that other high schoolers could understand all by themselves.”—Cate C.

“I thought that it was very fascinating when I saw the two slideshow presentations. I didn’t know how quickly cancer cells could divide. I also liked the red light/green light scenario. It was very helpful to see the cancer cells with the red and green lights. (If it was green, it could keep on dividing).  When I walked with my group to each of the posters they created, I was amazed how much time and effort it took just to research one topic. And after, as they said, they must have felt really good. (It probably feels better than completing homework). I loved it when I got to see the images of what they were describing (since I’m not an auditory learner). I liked it when one of the boys was talking about xbp-1(might be wrong). I learned that it’s a gene. I loved the trip and I think you should do it for the next upcoming years!”—Caleb B. 

“I got excited for our IRP’s (Independent Research Projects) from this field trip because you can give answers to help people in the real world.  It was also cool to learn that science was not all their favorite subjects in middle school or even at the beginning of high school, but that some of them became interested in it through other subjects.” – Cooper S.

“One reflection that I had from the Choate field trip is that you don’t necessarily have to like labs to like the SRP program and how that you can combine so many spheres of work into the project. This trip has given me a new perspective on the feeling of satisfaction when you are teaching the teachers.”—Chris C. 

At The Country School, we are fortunate to be able to bring authentic science learning, beyond the textbook, into the classroom at the middle school level. Choate SRP students and faculty were very supportive, helping us to achieve this mentorship opportunity and peer-to-peer engagement, an important component, as we grow and develop our TCS Biotechnology Program.