STEMGEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: girls exploring and mentoring) Partners supports educators in creating meaningful science experiences for middle school students through mentoring, empowerment, and student directed work.

STEMGEM Partners is possible because of the generous support of an Out-of-School STEM Programming Grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center. We also thank the Idaho STEM Ecosystem for past support.

contact: Rachel Jameton [email protected]



Here are a few quick ideas for bringing more mentoring into your science education work.


Learning in science includes an affective, or emotional, domain in addition to cognitive and psychomotive domains.1 Affective learning in science includes gaining a sense of belonging and self-efficacy in science, which can be accessed through activities in which students focus on what and who they connect to.2 The affective domain encourages retention, wellbeing, and motivation along with cognitive development.

We have been able successfully able to guide middle and high school girls to identify science content that is meaningful to them, and also plan and facilitate a summer camp. We accomplished this, in part, by including affective learning exercises in our programming. Below are a few of the methods that we used.

1. Mcdaniel, R. (2022, June 10). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved October
23, 2022.

2. Trujillo, G., & Tanner, K. D. (2014, March). Considering the Role of Affect in Learning:
Monitoring Students’ Self-Efficacy, Sense of Belonging, and Science Identity. CBE—Life
Sciences Education, 13(1), 6–15. 

Engagement and Empowerment

We begin programs by listening to what students are interested in, and how they are thinking about themselves. Here are three activities that we use to help foster meaningful conversations:

  • A library walk: students each pick the most interesting science/nature book they can find to skim through and share.
  • Gifts, impacts, quality of life: each student divides a page into three columns and labels/fills out each column: gifts (what the student is able to do well), impacts (how the student wants to help) and quality of life (what they want their life to look like). Students can share anonymously through a snowball fight or other method.
  • Notice and Wonder and Brainstorm: have students do a very simple but surprising experiment like combining baking soda and vinegar or playing with purple cabbage juice and acids/bases. Ask students to talk about what they see, what questions they have, and what the experiment makes them think about.

Tips for sharing:

  • Make sharing safe and equitable by writing down all ideas on a whiteboard or padlet, making sure to honor everyone's ideas.
  • Let students submit their ideas anonymously through a snowball fight or similar activity.
  • Respond with many yesses, and avoid no.

Mentoring and Inspiration

Mentors are role models, showing that people with a wide range of backgrounds and interests become scientists. They also provide the inspiration to think about what we want to learn more of and help us figure out how to do so.

In our STEMGEM programming, students are mentored by scientists in the community to make science relevant and accessible. They are guided through idea generation, discussion, and experimentation with their mentor to find activities that connect to their interests, and also have productive conversations. These students then act as mentors for elementary school students at our STEMGEM summer camp.

For example, one of our biologist mentors inspired the middle and high school students to learn more about creating humane snake habitats. We adapted the experience to a STEMGEM activity in which students developed appropriate habitats for animals.

We have been fortunate to find many women interested in mentoring, including the director of a hospital lab, scientists and public health experts who work in environmental quality, college professors, and college students. We have visited the scientists at their workplace and have also asked them to visit us.

Sometimes, it is hard to find local scientists. If you are interested in providing role models and mentors for your students, it is also possible to zoom with the scientists who are out of town or provide access to one of the excellent books of role models written by Erin Twamley and Josh Sneideman. We will be using "Everyday Superheroes: Women in Energy Careers" this year and we are able to donate books to regional student groups with an Out-of-School STEM Programming Grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center.