Graduate Leaves Life-Skills Legacy
28, 2000 -- Adam Possner is so firmly convinced that
participating in science fair projects can teach important life
skills that he founded a mentoring
program to help area school children. To date, Possner's program
has provided about 1,000 hours of help to local children engaged
in science fair projects -- a significant accomplishment for a college-age
student not majoring in science.
major in political and social thought, Possner, who will graduate
May 21 from the University of Virginia, has the satisfaction of
knowing that he has helped young people become interested in science
and win regional science fair competitions. He leaves a science
fair legacy in Charlottesville; his program has been adopted by
Madison House and will live on as one of its many successful volunteer
love for science and science fairs began during his sophomore year
at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, KY, when he did a project
on a local weed. Through that project Possner became interested
in the production of rice, and for his science fair project in his
junior year, he constructed rice paddies in the basement of his
home. He tested the effect of methane gas, which is normally produced
in the flooded paddy, on rice growth and yield.
his interest in the project grew, so did its cost -- to approximately
$5,000. To raise money for such an expense, Possner's dad,
an aircraft mechanic, worked overtime, and Possner asked local companies
for support, an effort that generated about $1,100 in donations.
rice project brought Possner considerable recognition and numerous
awards during its duration. It won first and second places in the
botany and global change divisions at the 46th International
Science and Engineering Fair in Canada. Possner was also one of
seven Americans invited to present research at the International
Youth Science Forum in London.
that his successes would not have been possible without the guidance
of others, Possner began to dream about how to help others benefit
from science fair participation. For example, he toyed with trying
to raise $100,000 to endow a fund to help science fair participants.
coming to U.Va. with several scholarships, Possner continued to
ponder how to help youth with science fairs. He established in 1998
the Science Fair Mentoring Program, designed to help students who
want to excel in creating projects, with special consideration given
to helping girls and minorities, those traditionally underrepresented
in science. The program pairs University students with Charlottesville
youth; spending at least an hour a week for six-to-13 weeks, the
U.Va. students help the youth research, design, conduct and analyze
science fair experiments. They also help them plan how to present
the program's first year, 25 U.Va. students volunteered; this
past year, 50 students worked with youth enrolled in Murray Elementary,
Buford Middle and Charlottesville High schools.
least two science fair projects -- one comparing antibacterial properties
of human saliva to canine salvia and one exploring the physics of
ice skating -- were selected for regional competitions.
just learned this week that his Science Fair Mentoring Program has
earned the Virginia Service Coalition's Most Original Project Award.
of such successes, Possner and the volunteer mentors are being invited
to give presentations on the program. In May program representatives
will speak at the Virginia Academy of Sciences meeting in Radford
and at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Detroit.
Such presentations may encourage the development of similar mentoring
speaking at the international fair will mean we have a chance to
get the word out about science fair mentoring to more than 1,000
of the top high school students in the United States and abroad,"
Possner said. "There are few science fair mentoring programs
in the United States and only a very few that were founded and run
is convinced that science fair participation teaches young people
important life skills. "I hope the experience helps cultivate
a curiosity about the world. Students also learn how to pursue and
organize a large-scale project, analyze data and communicate results
orally, visually and through written words."
who has spent hundreds of hours in developing the mentoring program
and working with students, views its creation as a way of giving
back to others after the successes he enjoyed
in high school. "What drove me to create the program is the
realization that science fairs are not just about science, but also
about many life skills. Everyone, from the most scientific-minded
to the most liberal-arts-minded, should have the experience of doing
a science fair project."
success of the program has won endorsement and financial support
from the Center for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education
and Madison House at U.Va. The fledging effort has now been incorporated
into Madison House's new Science and Technology Mentoring Program,
and will be lead by three student directors next year. (Information
about the program can be found at www.virginia.edu/~madison/sfmp/.)
graduating from U.Va., Possner will take science courses at the
University of Louisville, with a goal of entering medical school
in the fall of 2001.
sees a connection between his aspirations to become a doctor and
his mentoring work. "I want to be a doctor who relates to people,
who connects with them spiritually."
more information, Adam Possner can be reached through May 21 at
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857