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Shana Lee, a graduate research assistant for science education outreach at Mississippi State University, works with a local high school to encourage students to enter science fairs. Last year, she received the Society's Advocate Grant for her work mentoring young people to complete scientific research projects and enter them into science fairs. The grant helped her grow the program, and covered fees for entering competitions, and transportation.
Shana is also a Region V MSEF Fair Director at Mississippi State University. With a limited budget for student and teacher outreach, the Advocate Grant Program has greatly helped her augment her efforts in the 2017-2018 school year. She's also working on bringing students into labs at the university.
In addition, Shana also leads an Adventure Club and science fair program at a local high school, which provides students with outdoor experiential learning. "The first thing we do is a nature science activity, to get them excited about science," Shana explained. "Hopefully, then they'll come to the science fair meetings."
"I focused on that local school because the students come from low-income backgrounds; they're a 100 percent free lunch program," she said. "Most of them don't have a science course before they get to the high school. To take on that science fair is intimidating, and I want them to know it's a process and I will work with them every day, every week, the whole way through."
In the past two years, Shana has seen incredible growth. "It just amazes me," she said.
To take on that science fair is intimidating, and I want them to know it's a process and I'll work with them every day, every week, the whole way through.
The support system Shana offers students is invaluable. Her returning students show more confidence in their science reporting and writing and often come back with already formed research interests and focus.
To increase student interest in science, Shana exposes them through various activities, like watching a documentary on climate change, tracking pollution regulations in different countries, and more. Jessika Harkins, a 10th grade student, told Shana, "If I would've known this was science, I would have liked science a long time ago."
From September 27-29, 2019, the Society will welcome 200 high school science research teachers to Washington, D.C.