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3rd-graders and Medical Students Team Up for Science Experiments and Mentoring

Talent mentoring program reaches more than 200 students across 22 schools. 

Raincoats and goggles are no match for a perfectly timed Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School 3rd-graders Alex and Linnea have been given the harrowing task of dropping the Mentos into the soda bottle.  

“3, 2, 1.”  

They drop the Mentos, launching a massive geyser. The girls try to escape, but they’re caught in the deluge, soaked and laughing. 

Mentos geyser

“AND PAUSE.” Actually, Alex and Linnea are in the school library watching FOOTAGE of last week’s experiments. Sitting with their fellow students in the Talent Mentoring Program (TMP), they’re reviewing the video and gaining insight into the scientific process. 

With University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) students Ozerk Turan and Theresa Nguyen leading the way, the 3rd-graders are evaluating how they could have improved their experiment and better capture the geyser height next time: 

“Use a longer measuring stick”
“Move the camera back”
“We shouldn’t block the camera!”

The students dutifully record the results of the experiments in their notebooks.

“I like all the science and learning we get to do in Talent Mentoring,” says Alex. “And I get to do it with my friends. My favorite is the explosions.” 

Now in its sixth year, TMP offers more than 200 3rd-grade gifted and advanced learners the chance to engage in an advanced science curriculum and learn from their medical school mentors.

Talent Mentoring Photo

“It’s the best part of my week,” says Ozerk. “The kids are so fun to work with, and they’re so smart — much smarter than I was at their age. We benefit so much from having our school right here in Baltimore, and giving back to the community like this is the least we can do.” 

Research shows that mentorship is one of the best ways to engage gifted and talented learners.

“We want our gifted students to realize that it’s cool to be smart — that they don’t have to hide their talents,” says City Schools Educational Specialist Joyce Jackson. “By connecting them with medical students, we’re showing them how striving to achieve at the highest level is a lifelong endeavor.” 

UMSOM knew it had to be thoughtful when designing its service-learning requirement for first-year medical students.

"There is justified criticism of how some of Baltimore's biggest institutions interact with the city, so it was important for us to listen," says Dr. Norman Retener, Director of Longitudinal Undergraduate Medical Education at UMSOM. "We let the community tell us where we could do the best work. One idea that came up repeatedly was allowing our medical students to be role models for city youth. The 3rd-graders love it and so do the med students.  Medical school can be a grind. Mentoring the kids helps them remember the joy which led them to pursue this career." 

Even though Ozerk and Theresa have fulfilled their service-learning requirement, they both plan to come back to Mount Royal’s TMP next year. “I love the kids,” says Theresa, who grew up in Baltimore City and wants to be a pediatrician. “I just want to give them the opportunity to learn more.”

A face-full of Diet Coke and Mentos haven’t deterred 3rd-grader Alex from a career in the sciences. “I want to be lots of things. Like a veterinarian — science can really help with that. Or I could be a science teacher. But I also really want to be a doctor.”


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