When you were in high school, how great would it have been to have an educational mentor? Someone to help you with your understanding of the sciences? Maybe to encourage and challenge your interest in certain sciences? Someone who was helping you prepare for the whole college thing? To take you on college visits and introduce you to people working in careers that interest you? To just help polish you up and make you ready for the world after high school.
For many of us, that would have been a huge help. And a huge weight off our minds, right?
That’s what The Maritime Aquarium offers each school year to teens at the three Norwalk high schools through the TeMPEST program. TeMPEST stands for Teen Maritime Program Emphasizing Science & Technology. Its goals are to promote the teens’ STEM literacy, to prepare them for college, to make them aware of career opportunities and to develop skills that will help them in any profession.
Fifty-one students took advantage of the program this school year.
The students this year met in three separate groups. Some things, they all did. They hosted guest speakers from the Aquarium and other professions. They took field trips to the Museum of Natural History and other science-based institutions. They worked with Trout Unlimited to raise trout in the classroom and release them this spring. And some traveled to Boston for a three-day weekend for college visits, a whale watch, and a tour of the New England Aquarium.
They also took on separate special projects.
One group focused on using STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to explore the oceans, and ended up building a hydrophone and remotely operated vehicles.
Another group zeroed in on the biological and genetic components of organisms, and how these can change to help a creature adapt to a changing environment. They produced news-style videos that explained animal evolution and adaptations.
The third group tackled how to communicate conservation issues. They created hands-on activities that would engage visitors to, say, The Maritime Aquarium on how and why such animals as amphibians and sea turtles are endangered.
During the end-of-the-year TeMPEST celebration on May 28 at the Aquarium, Thomas Seuch, chair of Brien McMahon’s science department, told the students that their participation in TeMPEST gives them an advantage when they apply to colleges. Colleges, he said, will have two stacks of applications – a tall one full of average applicants, and a smaller one with quality applicants.
“Which pile do you want to be in? Programs like TeMPEST will get you into these piles,” he said, pointing to the imagined smaller stack. “Colleges want to see your ability to communicate, to collaborate and to problem-solve, and this program does all that.”
Sign-ups for 2015-16 will start early in the school year.
A big thanks to Newman’s Own Foundation for funding the program.
Plus, next year, thanks to a grant from the PCLB Foundation, some of the TeMPEST students will work as paid Aquarium interns, giving them even more experience, personal growth … and an exceptional college application.
– Dave Sigworth, Maritime Aquarium publicist