Project SLIM: Science Literacy and Inquiry Mentoring
| Introduction | Application | Participants | Program Outline | Contact |


Our previous work with Atlanta Public School Science & Mathematics Fair participants has demonstrated a wealth of creativity and imagination in these students, but also a lack of skills and background necessary to bring their ideas to life. Basic tenets of the scientific method such as hypotheses, controls, and sample size are often misunderstood, and students seem to miss "The Big Picture" in their projects. In order to address these concerns and to increase the scientific literacy of students graduating from Atlanta high schools, we will place trained undergraduate mentors in select Atlanta Public Schools middle school science classes. Undergraduate mentors will assist middle school students in the development of student-driven inquiry-based science projects, ensuring that sound scientific methods are employed.

Students are eligible to participate in the Atlanta Public School Science & Mathematics Fair annually from 7th – 12th grade. The rationale for targeting middle school students is to have sustainable impact, improving science fair performance and meeting science literacy benchmarks as students progress through middle and high school.

Project SLIM adds value for all participants. With exposure to the enthusiasm and science-related career goals of their undergraduate mentors, middle school students may be inspired to change their attitudes toward science and scientific careers. Undergraduate students pursuing science careers will have the opportunity to practice communication and dissemination strategies for their research. Furthermore, the Project will encourage undergraduate science majors to explore careers in K-12 education.


Undergraduate Mentors – Undergraduates will be selected from participants in the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research at Emory) and HUES (Hughes Undergraduates Excelling in Science) programs who will be available in the Atlanta area during the subsequent fall semester. Approximately 10 undergraduate mentors will be matched with middle school classes in pairs. Interested students should apply online.

Middle School Science Fair Participants – We will select 5 teachers from Atlanta Public Schools middle schools to participate in the Project. Teachers will be selected by Lela Blackburn, Science Coordinator for Atlanta Public Schools and Adrian Epps, Director of the Atlanta Systemic Initiative. Teachers who have participated in Atlanta Public School’s middle school science endorsement programs will be given preference for SLIM, as incentive for their participation in those programs.

Program Outline

Summer Semester

  • Approximately 10 undergraduate mentors will be selected from applicants from the SURE and HUES programs, by mid – late August.
  • Middle school teachers and classrooms will be identified by selection committee.
  • Mentors will attend the following training sessions:
    1. The SURE "How To Make A Poster" Session.
      July 16, 2003.

      Session Leaders: Cathy Quinones, PhD, Center for Science Education; and graduate students.
    2. Introduction to Project SLIM. Timeline, expectations, payment, logistics.
      September 3, 2003. 5-6pm.

      Session Leaders: Jordan Rose and PJ Gallagher, Center for Science Education;
    3. Project SLIM Workshop. Introduction to the APS Science Fair (student requirements and expectations, examples of projects, judging criteria, timelines, etc.), how to present the scientific method to middle school students (curriculum, learning objectives, creative ideas), procedures for school visits, matching mentors to classrooms.
      September 6, 2003. 10am-1pm.
      Session Leaders: Lela Blackburn, Science Coordinator, Atlanta Public Schools; Adrian Epps, Atlanta Systemic Initiative; Model Teacher Leaders; middle school teachers.

Fall Semester

  • Undergraduates will spend ~2 hours every other week working with their middle school classes during class time and after school sessions. They will assist in defining each student project's main question of inquiry, and then guide the students into designing controlled experiments to address these questions.
  • Mentors will share their own research experiences and model the original scientific posters they created for the SURE program.
  • Monthly mentor reflection sessions will assess the effectiveness of the mentors' intervention, identify and overcome obstacles through collaborative problem solving, and make programmatic changes as necessary.

Spring Semester

  • Mentors will assist their students in consolidating their data for interpretation.
  • Mentors will help students prepare their projects in publication form. Undergrads can use their posters from the previous summer as presentation examples.
  • Middle school students may participate in a practice poster session at Emory University, involving faculty and undergraduate student evaluators.
  • Middle school students compete in school and APS science fairs (January and February).
  • If possible, middle school student projects will be published on the ScienceNET website.


PJ Gallagher

Jordan Rose