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Science On Wheels Peer Mentoring Educational Center

The official biography below was current at the time of the award. See the organization’s website for its latest information.

The Science on Wheels Peer Mentoring Educational Center (SONW) approach to mentoring transfers STEM knowledge and skills through exposure to hands-on scientific experimentation, known as the Expository Peer Mentoring Model. SONW's particular extension of this model involves transferring STEM knowledge, from university fellows to K-12 teachers to students, through exposure to a series of interventions. Under this scenario, university undergraduates and graduate fellows, supervised by University of Puerto Rico professors, contribute to developing teachers' cognitive and non-cognitive foundations and knowledge in order to transform and restructure STEM terminology and proficiency at the schools.

Key to SONW's success is its inter-generational model. The first mentees from 1991-a cadre of professors, graduate and undergraduate students-have gone on to mentor their peers, as well as K-12 teachers and students. This pipeline became an exponential and self-consistent tool in enhancing STEM knowledge and skills in university fellows, K-12 teachers and K-12 students. Overall, 376 university fellows (247 graduates and 129 undergraduates) have provided general, specific and integrated STEM interventions to 3,334 teachers and 145,290 pre-college students. Junior faculty members associated with SONW have received NSF Career Awards that included SONW, and some of these former fellows are now professors with established independent K-12 outreach programs in universities like UPR-Aguadilla, UPR-Ponce, UPR-Mayagi.iez, Inter-American University and the Ana G. Mendez University System in Puerto Rico.

A unique component of SONW is its seven mobile laboratories. A pipeline of general, specific, and integrated STEM interventions are delivered to K-12 students across Puerto Rico by undergraduate and graduate students, in-service and pre-service teachers, and junior faculty who have received support and training in conducting effective mobile school visits. General interventions include science shows and hands-on informal science demonstrations for students. STEM-specific interventions targeted to K-12 teachers, such as professional development and residential workshops, help improve knowledge and transform pre-college curricula. STEM integrated interventions combine mentoring with learned multidisciplinary teaching skills to solve STEM problems in classrooms.

The SONW activity has received numerous awards and recognitions from institutions such as the Puerto Rico Department of Education, the GLOBE program, the American Chemical Society, and the National Science Foundation's GK-12 Fellows program. Dr. Lopez-Garriga won an Individual PAESMEM award in 2000 for his research mentoring and his involvement with SONW. The SONW program has received over $18 million in outside support for its work from private industry, government agencies including NSF and NIH, and nonprofit organizations and disciplinary societies.