CSU Little Shop of Physics pilots peer mentorship program with Denver students

“It’s important to spark interest in science at an early age because science is everywhere, energy is everywhere,” said Keyshawn Brown, one of 15 high school juniors who helped mentor younger students during Colorado State University’s Little Shop of Physics Open House at Bruce Randolph School on Nov. 21.

Two weeks prior, Brown attended a mentorship training with the Little Shop of Physics at CSU’s Fort Collins campus with a group of 50 BRS juniors studying physics. With support from CSU’s Science Outreach Scholars, the LSOP team shared best practices around working with younger students and showcased its expansive collection of experiments, preparing them for their first science-based mentoring opportunity with CSU.

“I like helping out with the other kids and the community because I grew up here,” said Brown, who first learned of LSOP when the program visited his elementary school years ago.

The Little Shop of Physics, a program of the College of Natural Sciences at CSU, created the student-led mentorship model to provide leadership opportunities for older students to inspire scientific curiosity in their younger peers, and to increase the overall impact of the program’s school visits.

Sparking early interest

Aja Ramirez, another BRS junior who opted into the mentorship experience, elected to welcome students to the school’s gymnasium and provide a brief overview of the LSOP experiments – a small but important task usually taken on by the LSOP team.

“The most exciting part of today has been getting to know all the kids, and to know what they like,” said Ramirez. “Some of them are trying to do the experiments even though they don’t like science … I’ve always been interested in science.”

More than 600 students from grades five through 10 attended the event to experience the physical properties of light, energy, condensation, motion, and more, with roughly 100 hands-on science experiments created by the Little Shop of Physics team.

“A friend once said, ‘It is not in the having, but in the doing,’” said LSOP’s assistant director Heather Michalak. “With learning science this is key – learning through exploration.”

Bruce Randolph School juniors visit the Little Shop of Physics in the College of Natural Sciences at Colorado State University, November 7, 2019.

The juniors seamlessly moved into the mentor roles to facilitate learning with other students, Michalak said.

The LSOP mentorship program is part of a growing portfolio of student-centered programs stemming from CSU System’s formal partnership with BRS and is also an example of the type of programming to be offered at the future CSU System Campus at the National Western Center.

Strengthening community

While the majority of students attended from BRS, other nearby elementary schools were invited to explore the experiments and engage with the mentors. Swansea Elementary School, roughly one mile from BRS, brought a group of 68 fifth-graders to the event.

Beatriz Guzman, an English Language Acquisition teacher at Swansea Elementary, helped coordinate and support the visit.

“My students really enjoyed the science experience,” said Guzman. “They said it was fun to play around with so many gadgets.”

Michalak noted that some of the BRS students knew the Swansea Elementary students from the neighborhood, “which made the connection even stronger.”

“It was great to see everyone discovering their inner scientist and science teacher.”

CSU System Campus at the National Western Center

Colorado State University System has made a long-term commitment to the future National Western Center and its surrounding communities in north Denver.

The CSU System Campus at the National Western Center will focus on research and educational programming in the areas of food, water, sustainability, and human and animal health within its three buildings: the CSU Water Building, CSU Animal Health Complex, and CSU Food and Agriculture Center. What’s inside the buildings will bring together the brightest minds, inspire the next generation, and address global challenges.

The University is currently working to engage with the community and to partner with local schools, nonprofits, and businesses to create impactful research, collaboration, and year-round programming to this unique project.

For additional information, visit nwc.colostate.edu.

CSU Little Shop of Physics

The Little Shop of Physics is a traveling hands-on science education outreach program at Colorado State University that presents school programs and teacher workshops in Colorado, neighboring states, and around the world.

The Little Shop team makes science accessible to all students by building experiment stations from everyday objects that actively engage students in learning fundamental scientific concepts. Little Shop of Physics programming gets kids engaged in science, includes families in the process of learning, inspires future teachers, and shows educators how to better teach science. Each year, the Little Shop team delivers programming to 30+ schools and 20,000 K-12 students, exposing them to science but also STEM career paths and opportunities. Learn more at lsop.colostate.edu.