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Laguna Beach High School Welcomed the 2021-2022 Authentic Exploratory Research Program Mentors


LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - On Monday, September 13, our second Authentic Exploratory Research (AER) program cohort gathered in the LBHS Senior Patio for a welcome breakfast. Handpicked mentors connected individually with their mentees over breakfast as they began to learn more about one another and engage in preliminary discussions around the mentee's year-long project.

The AER independent research course provides the opportunity for students to propose their own driving questions in order to explore their passions and career pathways in a variety of fields. Students are purposefully matched with adult mentors to aid in their research and analysis. From Fashion Designers to Gaming Industry founders, mentors include Industry experts and leaders, and university-level academics.

Our program was inspired by Palo Alto Unified School District’s highly successful Advanced Authentic Research program and brought to LBUSD by Superintendent Viloria in 2019. With the intent to expand and differentiate college and career opportunities for our high school students, our executive team worked diligently to tailor this program to meet the needs of our students. 

Mentees will conduct their projects through various approaches including internships, action projects, and academic research, all of which culminate in an end-of-the-year publication and symposium. Students are expected to spend about 90 hours per semester on coursework, roughly half of which are on the project itself and the other half on instruction, reflection, organization, and other weekly tasks.

Throughout their experience in the AER program, students will learn essential academic skills in preparation for post-secondary education, such as research, argumentation, and critical thinking;

as well as life and career skills, such as time management, communication, professionalism, and organization. We would be remiss not to share that this incredible endeavor would not have been possible without the initial financial support of SchoolPower, our volunteer-based, non-profit education foundation, through the ‘Fund-A-Need Campaign’

“The incorporation of industry experts to serve as mentors to our students is a critical component of AER,” explained Career Counseling Coordinator Kellee Shearer. “The mentors provide industry knowledge, experience, and work-based learning opportunities for our students, which is so important for their learning and the success of the project. We would not be able to offer AER without the dedication and commitment of our industry professionals.”  

LBHS AER teacher Jun Shen is excited about this year’s program, “We hope that AER will empower students to unleash their passions and create real-world solutions.  We want students to surprise themselves with how much they can achieve and grow in this new type of learning experience.”


AER Mentor and Mentee Picture


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