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Ask HN: 5th grader seeking science mentor in California
74 points by doubleyou on Oct 11, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments
Hi all,

I teach two 5th graders science and programming privately three days a week and am trying to get them involved with some engineers/scientists in an open dialogue of sorts to inspire them and give them some insight into the world of applied science. I have already scheduled us for some interesting tours of aerospace companies and a lab or two, but I am really hoping I can find someone interested in an ongoing relationship with my students who we could maybe visit or skype with once a month or so, to keep a thread going that had some continuity. I am trying to change two very bright students lives and could use any help I can get. Where would you look if you were me? Who would you contact? Any ideas whatsoever are appreciated.

Thank you! Mr. W

The key to effective mentorship is 1) finding someone who has something that you want 2) helping them, for free, get something they want. As a result, you gain access to the mindset that has the thing you want.

Perhaps you could ask the kids who they really admire, or what products or things from their own lives are impacting them. I'll bet there are unknown engineers and scientists behind just about every single man made thing they come into contact with on a daily basis.

Reach out to those companies and see if they will put you in touch. Try the PR department possibly for the intro. This will give the kids a real connection to the people.

If these are products where the kid is the end user, the engineers might love to spend an hour a month on skype with them just to gain insight into their lives to make better products.

Some people might agree to help kids because they want to, and that is great, but you will 10x the value for BOTH the kid and the scientist if you find a way for them to really help each other (and it's massively possible).

I've mentored high school / college kids into pro athletes, wildly successful entrepreneurs, activists and non-profit leaders and it's always been rewarding.

Finally, the process of finding a mentor is a skill that most people lack -- what a great chance for you to involve them in finding their own mentors and letting them reach out, send emails, and otherwise discover the power of their own voice and agency.

Fun Fact: When I was in 5th grade back in the late 80s I had a secret pen pal / mentor I found in the back of 2600 Magazine who was in federal prison for hacking ;)

Great advice, except I'd change one thing: encourage the kids reach out, don't do it yourself.

And if they don't want to reach out, don't push them to. 5th graders are incredibly capable and should be given agency to make their own decisions.

Yes, I agree and hoped to convey that.

Appreciate the reminder that it should be self-directed from the student and his role is to support that direction.

Very sudsval.


Fantastic response! Thank you! Some of the PR departments I have already contacted I pitched it as a possible marketing move, to use the mentorship somehow to make the company look altruistic, etc (they would be doing a great service, truly) but that was the only real benefit I could see for them. What else could we offer?

Contacting a company that has children as its user base is a great idea and I can see how that could be a useful exchange, beyond that it seems like I need to meet an individual who has a personal interest in helping kids.

Great points all around and I am taking them all to heart.

In user research exercises, designer/engineers can find unique perspectives by observing children (who have a fresh set of eyes) interact with their device/product. Could perhaps pique the interests of professionals using this approach: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/videos/2100/Field-Observations-w...

Yes, one of the most beneficial things we can all do it to spend time with kids, listen to what they talk about, care about, are worried about, are playing with. Their actions contain within them deep metaphors for the collective conscious. It's also just wonderful for them to be in the presence of adults who are in a state of non-judgement, exploration and curiosity about them -- it helps model for them a healthy relationship with their Self.

Smart creators of any type will be curious about what children are up to.

Various wisdom traditions have observed this as well.

From the Tibetans selecting a Dali Llama to Christ saying "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

One of my psychedelic mentors, perhaps it was Ann Shulgin, said that the state an adult enters on a psychedelic is the default state for the child... That the "return to the garden of eden" is to return to the pre-traumatic self without shame.

Spending time with kids is a great way to reconnect your Self with the possibility of possibility and the essenence of who you are.

I'm a college freshman now and I wish my middle and elementary school teachers were as devoted to their students as you seem to be. I would suggest going to ResearchGate.com where a lot of scientists and grad students hang out. It's likely you'll be able to find one there who would be interested in helping them out.

Thank you!

Also you can try asking this question on Quora if this HN thread and researchgate doesn't get anywhere.

Yeah, I also think Quora should be a better match for this as profiles are much more detailed there


Firstly, cheers and congrats, it sounds like you are already doing good work.

My 2 cents: Hold off just a second before finding an ongoing mentor. By 5th grade students can start to get a feel (might be this year or maybe next year) if they like computers or engineering or space exploration or biology or fast cars or another field/type of science work etc...

Finding a mentor in area of science that a student loves, after sampling different areas of science can make a huge difference in terms of sticking power. And it minimizes the potential issue of too many mentors coming in and out of their lives as you find nice scientists who want to help but they don't click with the students.

It sounds like you are already able to teach science and programming and introduce the students to various scientists and companies and labs. I would continue doing this, as sort of a "middle man and a teacher" until an area of science or type of scientific work grabs the student's attention and he/she connects with it and thirsts to learn more about that thing (for me it was astronomy).

Then work on finding a mentor in that area of science.

If you haven't heard it, Malcolm Gladwell's interviewed Eric Eisner (who started YES Scholars in LA and deal with similar issues regularly) recently and it might of interest: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/04-carlos-doesnt-reme...

I am in LA and have been a volunteer math tutor for over a decade. Happy to help in other ways if I can.

Thank you, great advice.

I'd be interested. Send me a private message via reddit and we can talk: https://www.reddit.com/user/euyyn

It might be interesting and helpful to try to narrow down what areas of science or engineering would be most interesting to them (if you know, and if the kids know!).

These kids are have diverse interests, they like space and sharks and horses and have been enjoying making art with coding. It's hard to peg them!

Hi, Unfortunately I do not live in California - But maybe look into existing FIRST lego league teams in the area.http://www.firstinspires.org/ There are a lot of volunteers that work with the kids. They might be able to join an existing team abd it would also get them involved with other students interested in science and engineering.

Sadly I'm not in America and can't offer any interesting contacts, but I'd like to say this is fantastic, and for kids who are interested in engineering and applied sciences this would be an amazing opportunity. I wish more people were as dedicated to giving kids a great education experience as you seem to be! Nicely done.

I do STEM Q&A sessions at schools various times a year. I cannot mentor anyone at the moment, but I could schedule time and do a Q&A session with them. No strings attached. Email in profile.

Disclaimer: I work in Ed-Tech. This is in no way a sales pitch.

Great thought. Where in California? If in San Francisco (or the Bay Area in general) I can think of a number of places and people who would be happy to talk in person.

We are in LA but because it is a private home school situation we are lucky enough that traveling to SF is a real possibility. We were already planning to visit an autonomous car start up in SF sometime this month. If you want to pm me on reddit please do (https://www.reddit.com/user/yewew/). Thank you so much for your interest.

Are you on any of the gifted homeschooler lists? When my sons were children being homeschooled in California, I knew folks active in the LA area. It seems to me that would be a better path for figuring this out than posting on HN.

Though this is a website that was held in high esteem back in the day and happens to be owned by a member of HN: http://learninfreedom.org/


Same question. If you are in San Diego, let me know.

LA, but we can do field trips. Feel free to pm me on reddit (https://www.reddit.com/user/yewew/) thank you!

I'm in LA and work at SpaceX as an engineer. You mentioned you had two aerospace companies already, not sure if SpaceX is one of them.

I would be happy to talk to you/your students. I only am where I am because of other people that helped me out where I was a kid, especially my mom who like you would, and actually still does, to find really cool opportunities like this to help me learn more about the world.

What part of LA are you located in? Maybe we can set something up

That would be awesome! We are planning to visit the telescope under construction at Grumman, but spaceX is one of my favorite companies to follow so I would personally get a kick out of working together as well. My students love space so it is right up their alley. Are you on reddit so we can pm? /u/yewew

Hi how can we get in contact, my students love SpaceX and we watch tons of launch and landing videos of your guys work!

I think you should somewhat anonymously chronicle this if you're successful, because you could amplify that 2 by some factor.

If anybody wants to found a startup with me that makes it easier to set up mentorships with tech companies and labs in a way that would somehow benefit the companies as much as it would the students, lets do it.

maybe instead of going after the companies (who might feel the need to get some tangible benefit) you can search linkedin for employees at some of the co's that the 2 students admire. perhaps a person may simply enjoy the benefit of helping someone.

Great initiative, Mr. W. Please keep us posted on it.

> I teach two 5th graders science and programming privately three days a week

We're talking 11 year old children, right?

Leave them be, send them out to play with their mates.

They want to visit laboratories and talk to engineers, hard to stop them.

Well, adults are supposed to have better judgement than children.

I like my children as I like my phones: batteries fully charged up of play time before it's time to put them to work.

For some people, visiting labs and the like is play time. You haven't met these two kids. He has. Presumably, he knows them better than you do.

I agree with this. Boeing let me see their 717 and c17 plane factories when I was a kid. Was an insanely fun experience as a kid and formative for who I am now. Glad I did that that particular day rather than hang out with my friends

My students want to play with space ships.

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