Research studies across the board all seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to family involvement: When families are involved with their children’s learning from the beginning and throughout their academic careers, students don’t just succeed — they shine. Many parents don’t know where to start, and at times feel like they are “doing it wrong.” Parents can build the foundation needed for future STEM skills simply by asking questions and encouraging children to be inquisitive, no matter how many times we are asked “why?” Involving children in projects around the house, whether they be home improvements or baking in the kitchen, helps build critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Reading with our children helps build logic skills and expands their reality to include ideas they may not have had exposure to.
Encourage Parents to Read with their Students
- STEM is about connecting content with the context of the world. Many students have limited views of the world and what is possible in their futures. Books open a door to new diverse places, ideas, careers, and heroes/heroines which students may never experience.
- Start a parent check out library:
- Parents can check out books (virtually or in person) to read at home with their student.
- Parents can check out pairs of books to read along with their student.
- Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty (Gr. K-3)
- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Gr. 8-12)
- Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang and Jordi Solano (Gr. 2-6)
- The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm (Gr. 5-9)
- Web Design for Kids 2.0 by John C. Vanden-Heuvel Sr. and Cristian Turdera (Gr. K-6)
Share Student Friendly Cooking Recipes in Weekly Memos, Twitter, or Class Websites
- Cooking together provides a natural way to discuss nutritionand the impact that food choices have on the environment. Cooking teaches kids everything from fractions (is a 1/2 cup bigger than a 1/4 cup?) to temperatures (what makes broiling hotter than baking) to geometry (what is a 13 x 9 pan). We read to learn, and cooking is one of the best ways to show kids that reading offers tangible results.
- Check out some great recipes beyond grapes on a log or Mac & Cheese here: Food Network Recipes for Kids
Ask for School Supplies that Stay at Home
- Many times parents ask, “What can I get for the house for STEM?” The best way to react to this question is to be proactive! Working with parents to understand the 4C’s and the importance of skill building activities. Items that promote creativity are great like PlayDoh, LEGO’s, Goldie Blox, cardboard boxes, Duct Tape, wooden blocks, etc…
- You can’t just ask for resources to be at home and not use them. Share weekly/weekend challenges for students to complete at home with an adult or sibling. They can be content driven or just fun experiences for the family around engineering. The key is getting them to be creative!
- You can always use this STEM Strategy from teachers in Kansas City, MO for communities without the ability to purchase additional supplies. Turn STEM Bins into STEM backpacks to go home on the weekend – STEM Strategies that Works: STEM Bins
Have Students Teach their Parents/Siblings to Code
- There are almost 10 times more US computing jobs open right now than there were students who graduated with computer science degrees in 2015. Coding can be a golden ticket to a successful career not only for students, but for parents as well.
- Code.org has some great engaging content that can teach students and their parents about coding. If you are looking for a next step, check out Scratch.
- Check out Tynker for some great coding activities using resources your students may already have access and knowledge around. Whether it’s Minecraft, LEGO’s, drones, or a number of other pathways; students can create codes tied to these resources that enhance them to being interactive!
Challenge Families and Staff to Create a Video of an Epic Rube Goldberg Machine
- What is a Rube Goldberg Machine?
- A machine that combines multiple simple machines which use a chain reaction to accomplish a very simple task in a very complicated manner.
- STEM at home doesn’t need complicated and require expensive materials; just creativity, critical thinking, tenacity and things already lying around the home. Building these elaborate machines engage families and are fun for all while building student skills and developing new ways of thinking!
- Discovery Education Streaming Resource: Mythbusters lighting a Christmas Tree
- Epic example: OK Go Music Video
- Can students do this? Ask Audri: 7-year old Audri’s Mouse Trap
Encourage Wonder at Home!
- Create a running list online or in the classroom in of places families can go on nature walks, stay up on happenings at the zoo/museums, or even just know about upcoming nighttime stargazing opportunities.
- “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand” – Neil Armstrong
- Lockheed Martin & Discovery Education created Generation Beyond, an interactive site with family activities to elicit wonder about space travel and Mars!
- The 3M Young Scientist Lab brings the power of science to families at home. Leveled activities for all levels of students turn a home into a lab and bring the magic of “doing” to life!
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