PlantingScience Guide for Liaisons and Teachers

Click on each heading for more information on a particular topic.

1. Register

Welcome to PlantingScience!

Start your journey by registering on our website.

New Master Plant Science Team members need to create a thorough profile. Describe what you do, why you do it, and be sure to include a picture!

2. Look Over Our Online Resources

While you wait for a session to begin and as you prepare to help your teacher partner, check out our resources for mentors, including the Mentor FAQ and the investigation themes that teachers will be using during the session.

Make sure to review the materials for the Investigation Theme your teacher partner has selected.

3. Meet with Your Teacher Partner

You will be paired with a teacher to assist them in getting set up on the platform, monitor mentors during the session, and ensure that a scientist communicates with each student team in your group. Set up a time to discuss goals and plans with your teacher partner. You can use the online group forum, videoconference, phone, or e-mail.

4. Offer to Customize Your Classroom Group

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

Each teacher-liaison pair will be assigned as managers to a classroom group on the platform. You can access your classroom group from your dashboard when you log in, and you will be sent an email with a link to that group prior to the start of the session. Customize the text in “About the Group” by pasting copied information from the PS Group Overview Class Info Template file that your teacher partner should have completed and sent to you. Invited mentors will view this information to see if this class is a good fit for them. Add any missing information and verify that what is currently in the description is accurate.

To edit this area, click on the “Group Manager” dropdown on the left and select “Edit Group Settings” and replace the text in the “Public Description” area. Scroll to the bottom and click “Save Group.” Please do not change other group settings.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

For more information on how to navigate the classroom group:

5. Invite Mentors

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

Your teacher partner has a specific number of teams for their group, so you will need to invite enough mentors to have one per project team. This means if there will be 10 teams, you will need to add 9 mentors to the group so you can also mentor a team.

  • 1) Filter the mentor gallery by availability, class level, and investigation theme to choose appropriate scientist mentors for your teams. It’s a good idea to have several backup choices in mind.
  • 2) Invite selected mentors to join your classroom group using the Members tab in your classroom group, and the “invite members” button at the top right.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

6. Invite 2nd Round of Mentors

Are you having trouble with the auto-selected mentors in your group - not enough? Too many? Wrong qualifications?

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

Sometimes it takes more than one round of invitations to get all the mentors that you need. Try to plan for at least 6 days for mentor matching. Make a note of when you have sent invitation(s) so that you can cancel hanging invitations and invite someone new after 3 days.

Trouble-shooting Mentor Matching.

7. Welcome Mentors

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

Once enough mentors have joined your group, be sure to welcome them, point them to the Mentor FAQ and encourage them to ask you and the teacher questions about the platform, updates in the classroom, goals for the classroom, etc. Encourage mentors to introduce themselves as soon as they are assigned to a project team. You can also let them know that the teacher will likely provide updates on what the class is doing, and either you or the teacher may post an announcement about when the students will be logging on for the first time.

What options do I have for communicating with mentors in my classroom group?

Click here for more options.

8. Create Team Project Pages

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

Each of the student teams will get their own project page to work on.

To create projects:

  • Click on the “Projects” tab (left-side menu) in your classroom group. Click “Add Project” button at the top right.
  • Enter the number of projects you will need and click “Add.” This will create a project page for each team.
  • You can use the “team member” dropdown to add a mentor to each team at this stage if you’d like. Only mentors who have accepted group membership will show up here. The mentor role should remain “collaborator” while the teacher and liaison should be "managers."
  • Click “create” button at the bottom.

Click here for a step-by-step with screenshots.

9. Assign one Mentor to Each Project

This step can be done by liaisons or teachers.

You can add a mentor to each project as you create projects (see previous step). Alternatively, after you have created projects, you can add mentors by:

  • Clicking on the “team” icon at the bottom of each project “card” in your project list.
  • Click on the “edit team” button at the top right.
  • Using the “Add new member(s)” box to enter the mentor’s name. Mentors should be “collaborators.”

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

10. Introduce yourself to mentors and their student team.

Once you have added mentors to projects, be sure to introduce yourself to teams in the project pages. This can be done by going into each individual project page and posting an introduction, or by clicking on the Projects tab in the group, then click on the "Updates Feed" tab in the center of the page. From there, you can post an update to all projects by typing your update in the box and clicking on the "Share" button.

11. Missing Mentors: Improve Students' Experiences

Occasionally, a mentor will not come online or will come online but then suddenly stop contributing to a conversation.

As the liaison for your group, it is critical that you temporarily step in as the mentor while also reaching out to the mentor via the "Member Report Status Report" tab in the left-hand menu of your group. If the mentor continues to be non-responsive, you can remove them from the team and assign a new mentor. Of course, you can also reach out to program staff for further assistance by emailing psteam@plantingscience.org.

Use the Project Status Report and the Member Status Report to check on stalled conversations and identify missing mentors.

12. Investigations Begin

Teachers should have let you and your mentors know when to expect students to start carrying out their investigations in class. This will help the mentors to time when they should provide their feedback. Sometimes students post less frequently during the data collection phase of their experiment. You can encourage them to stay in touch with their mentor. If they do not have new data to report, they can always ask questions about their scientist’s work or life.

Liaisons, you can help facilitate discussions at this point. Often you will find that you will need to answer mentor questions about the timeline in the group forum, facilitate communication between the teacher and mentor - depending on how active the teacher is online - and provide periodic encouragement to mentors throughout the process. Remember, as a liaison, you can see a broader picture than mentors, who can sometimes feel a little lost without specific instructions or interactions from liaisons, teachers, and students. If you are unsure how to help, be sure to check in with your teacher partner if you see conversations stalling.

Mentor Tips for the Data Collection Phase

13. Videoconference Motivation Boost

If you have a good internet connection and webcam, consider working with your IT department and your teacher to plan a classroom videoconference with your scientist mentors. You can use Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or other platforms. Get in touch with psteam@plantingscience.org for help. Teachers have arranged videoconferences at many stages of their students’ investigations, either towards the beginning where students get feedback on their proposals and/or get to ask scientists about their lives or toward the end where students present their work and get final feedback about their conclusions and presentations. Typically, it is best to choose 2-3 mentors who are available for a videoconference with the whole class as more on a call can slow down the connection speed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not schedule videoconferences unless the teacher will be present on each call. It is against our policies to have unsupervised conversations between students and scientists.

14.Making Meaning with Mentors: More time = Better projects.

After the investigations are complete is another critical point for students to communicate with their mentors. Mentors can help the students make meaning of their data and interpret their results to make better conclusions. Mentors can also help student teams put together better ways to communicate their results. More time spent in this phase almost always leads to better projects.

Tips for Helping Students Make Sense of Findings

Tips for Helping Students Argue from Evidence

15. Thank yous and Goodbyes

It makes a lot of difference to students if mentors take a moment at the end of the project to share something they’ve learned or enjoyed and to thank the students for their participation and efforts.

Please be sure to let the mentors know when the students have finished and will no longer be logging on to the website so that they know they do not need to keep checking for updates.

Thank you, liaisons, for helping to open students’ eyes to the importance of plants and science!

16. Loved it? Apply for Next Year!

If you have enjoyed this side of PlantingScience volunteerism, please consider joining us again as a Master Plant Science Team member! Applications usually go live in late May. We will email our mentor list, and you can monitor the MPST page for more information.