Nickelodeon awards Avoyelles 4-H student $10,000 to teach science

Kenneth Gautreaux, Boe, Esther C.  |  3/10/2015 1:10:53 AM

Stanley Celestine Jr., a 15-year-old sophomore at the Louisiana School for Agricultural Sciences in Avoyelles Parish, teaches lessons and gives demonstrations to help other students get interested in science. His efforts caught the attention of the children’s network Nickelodeon, and he received the TeenNick’s Halo Effect Award and $10,000.

News Release Distributed 03/09/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Stanley Celestine Jr. is motivated to teach science to his peers. His efforts caught the attention of the children’s network Nickelodeon, and he received the TeenNick’s Halo Effect Award for February and $10,000.

The 15-year-old sophomore at the Louisiana School for the Agricultural Sciences in Avoyelles Parish is to use $5,000 of this award to expand his science education program, which he calls WeTeachSTEM, and the other $5,000 as a college scholarship.

STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, and WeTeachSTEM is based on grade-level expectations set by the Louisiana Department of Education, Celestine said.

STEM is also a major focus of the LSU AgCenter 4-H organization, said Janet Fox, associate head of the LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development Department.

Celestine was a member of the state SET (science, engineering and technology) executive board, according to his 4-H agent, Esther Boe. He also participated in a 4-H summer camp known as LOST camp, which stands for Louisiana Outdoor Science and Technology, in 2012.

Each member of the SET board has to come up with a project to help his or her peers back home learn science, and Celestine came up with the WeTeachSTEM idea, Boe said.

At first he taught science lessons in his school’s after-school program, Boe said. With the school district’s permission, he then went around teaching these lessons at other schools and putting on workshops at the local library. Celestine also sometimes accompanied Boe and Sheena Grote, the other 4-H agent in Avoyelles Parish, as they visited club meetings around the parish.

He established a website named WeTeachSTEM and began using social media, especially Facebook, to promote science learning.

“Nickelodeon found him,” Boe said. “People can’t apply for these funds. Nickelodeon looks for creative students who are making a difference and gives out these awards.”

Celestine credits his involvement in 4-H as the catalyst for beginning the program. “4-H motivated me to do this. It has really given me a purpose to do things like this,” he said.

With the grant received from Nickelodeon, he will get more students involved in STEM activities.

“He’s planning to use some of the money to pay the tuition for kids to go to LOST camp,” Boe said.

Celestine said the funds can be used in many ways. “As long as the activities further the mission of the organization, the funds can be used for that purpose,” he said.

Celestine said the reason WeTeachSTEM works is curiosity. “Young school children tend to be curious and ask questions. As we get older we tend to be less curious. We try to reignite curiosity and incorporate some mentoring and character-building skills as well,” he said.

Examples of lessons that have enjoyed success include one turning ice cream from a solid into a liquid very quickly and using a carbonated beverage and a popular breath mint to create a small, volcanic-like eruption.

“We like to do activities with things that are common everyday items so that the activities can be also done at home with their families,” Celestine said. “It helps ignite the scientific inquiry.”

Celestine said 4-H has given him the confidence to tackle a project of this magnitude. “I try to participate in as many 4-H activities as I can. It really has helped make me who I am.”

“We’re real proud of him,” Boe said. “He’s very serious about the importance of science education, and he’s very generous.”

Craig Gautreaux

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