BURLINGTON – The ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain hosted Community Science Night, an annual celebration for local youth mentoring pairs from the Chittenden County Mentoring Network (CCMN) on Thursday, March 21. More than 200 adult mentors and youth mentees from 10 mentoring programs in Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, and Addison Counties attended the free event, which featured an open exploration of the museum’s exhibits, a scavenger hunt, and hands-on demonstrations led by the ECHO E-Team (Environmental Leadership Team).

The event was sponsored by ECHO’s Open Door Program and MENTOR Vermont, and participants received free pizza courtesy of Domino’s. The featured exhibit for the event was the “Age of Dinosaurs,” featuring replica dinosaurs and interactive stations include a fossil dig pit, fossil rubbing, and remote-control dinosaurs.

Eleven mentors and mentees attended the event from Watershed Mentoring, a community-based program coordinated by Franklin County Caring Communities that supports youth throughout Franklin County.

“My mentee liked the scavenger hunt around ECHO, as well as the dinosaur exhibit,” said St. Albans resident Jodie Marshall, who attended the event with her 12-year-old mentee Aryanna. “We had a great time!”

“We had so much fun together,” reflected fellow mentor Tammy Johnson, a resident of Fairfield. “My mentee loved the dinosaurs and fish. His favorite activity was the owl pellet dissection – so cool!” Johnson participated in the event along with her nine-year-old mentee Jeremiah.

The ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. (Wikimedia Commons)

ECHO’s E-Team is a year-long teen leadership program for highly diverse 9th-10th grade students that are passionate about science education and sharing their knowledge with the more than 170,000 people who annually visit ECHO.

They are guided by Noella Krakowski and Carlie Wright, the Education Programs Coordinators at ECHO, who help the teens develop skills in leadership, building STEM literacy, public speaking, science communication, and teamwork.

Community Science Night is the culmination of six months of work and features the E-Team guiding mentors and mentees through interactive educational experiences. This year’s activities featured an exploration of sources of pollution in Lake Champlain, owl pellet dissections, and the annual Community Science Night scavenger hunt. Mentees also got to have a memorable hands-on experience at the Champlain Sea Tank and make and take home buttons commemorating the special event.

“The Community Science Night is the time for the E-team to showcase everything they have learned and create a unique experience for the mentor-mentee pairs,” said Krakowski, who leads the planning and execution of Community Science Night. “The E-Team chose topics and created the Community Science Night experiences. Not only are they sharing knowledge and love of learning with the mentors and mentees in attendance, they are also putting skills they have been developing into practice. It is always exciting to see their progression and growth as educators, leaders, and citizens throughout the year.”

The CCMN is a network of adult-to-youth mentoring programs in northwestern Vermont, supporting more than 900 mentor pairs. MENTOR Vermont is a non-profit organization that provides support for nearly 140 mentoring program sites and the 2,300 mentor pairs they support across the state. For more information about mentoring programs in the CCMN, and throughout Vermont, visit www.mentorvt.org.