New Program at Colorado State Provides Scientific Learning Opportunites for Centennial High School Students

Colorado State University students are teaming up with local high school students to explore and learn about the environment through science.

Colorado State’s Environmental Learning Center is the host of a new chapter of the EnvironMentors program.  

Initiated in Washington, D.C., in 1992 by the National Council for Science and the Environment, EnvironMentors is a science research program that matches high school students with professionals, graduate and undergraduate students in one-to-one mentoring relationships. Throughout the academic year, students and mentors will work together to develop an experimental science research project on a topic of the student’s interest.

"We want to assist students with collecting and analyzing data and making scientific conclusions, which leads to the development of basic critical thinking skills," said Brett Bruyere, assistant professor in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.

Centennial High School, the chosen high school in Fort Collins, is an alternative high school that features a learning environment based on self-empowerment. The EnvironMentors will provide learning opportunities to expose students to science outside the classroom.

Ethan Billingsley, graduate student in human dimensions of natural resources, oversees the EnvironMentors program and is responsible for helping to design the curriculum at Centennial High School, communicating with students and mentors, training mentors and communicating with the Washington, D.C., office.

"Centennial High School is a unique school with unique opportunities," Billingsley said. "By providing guidance and encouragement, we are building a foundation in education which can lead these students to opportunities for studying scientific fields in college."

The program was launched this fall as students took an environmental inquiries course at Centennial High School. When the class concluded in December, the students had the option to continue scientific learning outside the classroom and earn additional credits. The teens will be able to guide scientific projects with their mentors.  

Sixteen mentors and nine students are continuing with the EnvironMentors program.  

"We are excited about getting kids turned on to science and exposing them to scientific outdoor activities," Bruyere said.  

EnvironMentors stimulates new partnerships with local business, agencies and community groups; facilitates visibility and exposure opportunities that demonstrate Colorado State’s commitment to the Fort Collins community, high schools and minority youth; opens new doors for inter-departmental partnerships and collaboration within the university; and provides opportunities for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to serve as mentors and conduct research projects with high school students.   

The Environmental Learning Center is housed in the Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU. Its mission is to advance environmental stewardship among students and the community through opportunities for experiential learning, self-study and educational programs. It is managed through the College with the staff comprised mostly of CSU students.