Inspiring Family STEM Learning

The Challenge

Parents and guardians, after-school program and extracurricular leaders, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers are among the most influential parts of a STEM student’s world and their success in STEM learning. Frequent exposure to STEM activities both in and out of school supports students’ growth in STEM and contributes to school success, according to STEMconnector’s 2018 State of STEM report.

Although many schools would like to offer students more out of school opportunities to experience STEM education, it can be difficult to plan schoolwide events aligned with curriculum that appeals to students of different ages. Parent Teacher Organization and Association (PTO and PTA) volunteers frequently organize educational after-school events. However, without detailed instructions for child-friendly investigations, the groups commonly decide against science-related themes.

According to a recent survey of the FSN leaders and parents who attended events, 88 percent saw an increase in students talking about science, and 98 percent of parents enjoyed experiencing their child’s school as a place of STEM learning and fun.

The Approach

School Family Media (SFM) – the leading media, data information, and marketing company at the intersection of schools and families – partnered with UL to develop Family Science Night (FSN), a grassroots school community program to address this need and strengthen the bridge between schools and families.

At no cost to schools, the program provides leaders who request the cobranded planning kit with everything to organize, promote, and host a FSN event, including instructions and supply lists for 25 activities that focus on core subject areas in physical sciences, chemical reactions, energy, earth and space science, life sciences, and engineering. Developed collaboratively by UL’s Education team and reviewed by subject matter experts, along with SFM’s content team, all activities are in alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards, are fully tested for safety, and appeal to a wide range of ages.

Organized by volunteer PTO and PTA leaders, FSNs create experiential events that foster parent involvement and spark an interest in science outside of the school day. The FSN program powers hands-on, cross-generational STEM learning in a fun way with science experiments that are easily scalable for a gathering of 200+ people. Students can learn about chemical reactions while making bouncy balls, or they can apply engineering concepts by creating a marble run. These investigations fuel parent-child discussions with a goal to continue the learning at home.

Leaders are always searching for simple, inexpensive events that bring families together at school while promoting community engagement; FSN’s are a perfect way of doing so. Since 2012 more than 4 million parents and children have experienced Family Science Night.