Science Alliance is a winning experiment | January 25, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 25, 2008

Science Alliance is a winning experiment

High school students guide fifth-graders through advanced science projects

by Jordan M. Doronila

Hundreds of high school students and fifth-graders teamed up in Danville to create and explore new and exciting scientific ideas last week.

The Monte Vista High School Science Alliance held its annual Hot Chocolate Extravaganza for high school mentors and their fifth-grade buddies last Friday at the school's small gym. Approximately 150 high school students and 150 fifth-graders from the San Ramon Valley Unified School District worked together and explored a broad range of scientific topics.

In the program, the high school students mentor fifth-graders and help stimulate their interest in science.

"It's exciting because you learn a lot," said Justin Chen, a fifth-grader at John Baldwin Elementary School. "I'm learning about mold growth."

"It's fun," said Stacey Hsi, a Monte Vista junior. "I like being able to work with them on their projects."

The topics ranged from the number of earthworms used for plant growth, liquids affecting the composition of metal density, racing cars, a hovercraft and testing bone density. Various elementary schools from the district participated in the event.

"Every school in the county should be doing this," said Patti Carothers, Monte Vista science teacher and alliance coordinator. "This is a model the state of California should incorporate in schools."

"It forges bonds that last forever," she added, noting that this is the program's fifth year.

Monte Vista High School Science Alliance was started by Carothers and past science students Jonathan Wu and Aliza Ali in 2004 to help youths gain a deeper appreciation for the sciences. Fifth-grade students buddy up with high school honor students who guide them through advanced level science projects.

Fifth-graders develop a basic understanding of planning, executing and reporting in the program. They socialize and brainstorm with their mentors throughout the year and develop a project for the district's fifth-grade Science Alliance Science Fair and Activities Day in April.

"I love helping them understand what to do and be comfortable with science," said Emad Alazzeh, a junior at Monte Vista.

"It's really fun to do a project with someone else," said Alex Ackerman, a fifth-grader at Rancho Romero.

Carothers noted that the Science Alliance is expanding and its mentors are training other high school students in San Ramon.

"We are spanning out like a virus - in a good way," she said.

The next Science Alliance program is from 4-5:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8, at the Monte Vista High School Small Gym, 3131 Stone Valley Road. For more information about the alliance, visit