FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (March 7, 2019) – MassBay Community College continues to strengthen our partnership with Framingham’s Walsh Middle School, by adding six MassBay STEM students to serve as mentors to middle school students. The six MassBay students are not only mentors, they themselves are mentored by local STEM professionals through MassBay’s STEM Mentor Program.
Since 2017, the Walsh Middle School Mentoring and Academic Support (MAS) program has been working in collaboration with the MetroWest College Planning Collaborative, MassBay, Framingham State University, and Latinas en Accion (LEA) to mentor students living with risk factors. Mentors spend at least two hours a week at the school helping with homework, assisting mentees with setting goals, discussing college readiness, and having fun. The college students provide academic support through tutoring and homework assistance in a variety of subject areas, especially science and math. MassBay STEM students also lead special STEM programming to introduce middle school students to STEM in a fun and interactive way.
Recently mentors led students in an “Hour of Code” (HOC) activity. HOC is a worldwide event to introduce students to computer science concepts, help nurture their creativity and problem-solving skills, and prepare students for any future career. Computer science is changing every industry on the planet. Every 21st-century student should have the opportunity to learn how to create technology. With the help of mentors, Walsh students designed their own interactive computer games. At another visit, mentors taught students about electric circuits resulting in each student creating a light-up greeting card to take home.
MassBay alum and current Framingham State University senior, Philip Donaghey, is the Team Leader of the Walsh Mentoring Program and jumped at the opportunity to give back to his former middle school. Philip remembers those years of middle school where he struggled academically and was so excited to lead this program to provide support for students in this age group. “I wanted to be there for the kids,” he said. “I’ve now seen kids’ grades improve dramatically thanks to the support of the program, and it’s really fulfilling work.”
Walsh Middle School World Language Teacher and Co-leader of the Mentoring and Academic Support Nelia Correa Patrick is grateful for STEM mentors. She comments, “The inclusion of STEM tutors this year has been extremely rewarding for students and teachers alike. We have often needed clarification or confirmation of completing a problem correctly with a student, and the STEM mentors have assisted us with this. One of our mentors noticed that the students were working on fractions and having difficulty, and she provided a fractions cheat sheet that we use at every session when we are helping our students. It has also been an added incentive to have the STEM mentors introduce our students to various aspects of STEM and STEM careers with the “project-based lessons” they teach the students. We are very grateful to all of our STEM tutors. We can’t do our tutoring group without them!”
An eighth-grade student who has been a member of Walsh Middle School Mentoring and Academic Support for three years agrees, “I think that learning about STEM is a good thing for students. The STEM tutors have done great projects, and this has provided opportunities for students to learn more in the STEM field. One of the activities that I liked was the video game engineering one. We learned about video game coding and I was able to code for Minecraft. Another activity that I thought was fun was a group activity where we used blocks and popsicle sticks to create structures that were built on one base block. The challenge was to create the widest structure. Within this activity, we learned about science and teamwork. With the STEM tutors, we do activities that are fun and help us learn.”
This spring, MassBay STEM mentors will introduce the Walsh students to robotics. A multi-week activity will teach students to program their own robots. They will also learn the engineering design process with a hands-on engineering challenge. The program will end the year with a group field trip to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Museum in Cambridge. The STEM programming provided to the Walsh Middle School students is provided by a grant from MathWorks.
“Our STEM mentors talk about their middle school years and the path they took to studying STEM in college,” said MassBay STEM Mentor Program Coordinator Tracey Gustafson. “They hope to generate interest in STEM through hands-on activities and build a sense of belonging for students that may not see themselves as future scientists or engineers.”
“The MAS co-leaders are very happy with the STEM addition to the program,” said Dalia Stewart, a sixth-grade bilingual teacher and Co-Leader of MAS and Latinas en Accion at Walsh Middle School. “It has been great to see our students engage in STEM related activities that encourage them to think creatively and work in teams in a fun way. We are seeing evidence in the classroom that this is working with grade improvements. It has been surprising to me how many of our students have heard the term STEM/STEAM, but don’t really understand what it means. We have made it a goal to make sure the kids make that connection this year.”
“Tutoring at Walsh Middle School and explaining math concepts to the students has given me practice concisely explaining technical ideas so I can communicate in a clear and accessible way when I become an engineer,” said MassBay Computer and Electrical Engineering student Maddy Weaver. “It has also given me an opportunity to share my love of engineering with the students by giving them the tools to program their own robots and exposing them to a potential interest they might have never considered otherwise. I am able tell them about a low-cost pathway to achieve a future career in engineering through MassBay Community College.”
MassBay currently has six STEM mentors mentoring students at the Walsh Middle School. MassBay student mentors study Engineering, Computer Science, and Biotechnology. There are also two other mentors from Framingham State University majoring in Criminal Justice. There are currently 35 mentees from the Walsh Middle School involved in MAS, with a long waiting list of students who would like to be part of the program.
If you are a MassBay student interested in mentoring a Walsh Middle School student, please reach out to Director of Career, Internship and Mentorship Julie Ginn JGinn@MassBay.edu.