“Alexa, what kind of herbs are used in chicken salad?” I asked my empty kitchen. Watching my 9-month old’s quizzical stare from his exer-saucer when I talk to Alexa is fascinating. He is growing up in a world where we call small black cylinders by name and have conversations with them. I cannot fathom what the world will be like when he is in my shoes, raising a family. Technology is omnipresent, and I see it as my job to prepare this little guy for the future--regardless of what that may hold. Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is going to look like, but I do know it will involve technologies that do not yet exist. So how do I prepare this kid and his older siblings for a world I have no vision for? I supply them with the tools and skills necessary to learn with a mind for innovation.
Educators are similarly faced with preparing students for a future that is ambiguous. Teaching young minds to embrace STEAM learning is a fundamental preparation for their future.
Still, I have yet to meet a teacher who either has a multitude of free time on their hands or who wouldn’t love to offer more resources and opportunities to their students. With that limited time, it is likely an item that remains eternally on the curricular wish-list to create and implement a Family STEAM event (if your school or educational community isn’t already lucky enough to have one).
Thinking about creating an event that involves multiple disciplines in hopes of drawing in students and their parents can seem a little overwhelming. Where to begin, who to involve, and what to offer are just some of the questions that may be preventing you from taking the plunge and offering to host such an event. There are countless blogs to research to even look for a plan on how to create a STEAM event. So we decided to do the research for you and combine the best blogs, Pinterest boards and websites to point you in the right direction to set up your STEAM event along with a few helpful hints of our own. The following is what you need to get that STEAM night off of your wish-list and into the planning stages.
Starting with not only a good checklist, but a timeline for the roll-out of such an event will help to get you on the right track. We were impressed by this article posted by Get Caught Engineering called The Nuts and Bolts of a Family Stem Event. This article posits the secret to success, “planning, planning and more planning is crucial.” But why re-invent the wheel? If you follow their lead you will have a to-do list starting from inception of the idea all the way to the big day with a breakdown of tasks for two months out, one month out, three weeks out and so on. The level of detail in this article is wonderful.
Once you have a timeline to follow and create your basic schedule for setting up your event, you will need activities to keep your students and their families engaged. There are numerous resources available on the internet that showcase an arsenal of activities for a variety of age ranges. Wading through them can be incredibly time consuming. Here are a few of the best resources we found that may help you pick activities for your very first STEAM Night that will cater to all ages and families that wish to participate together:
- Who is the best at planning events for the whole school and their families? The PTO or PTA! PTO-Today is an organization that has done a fantastic job assembling STEAM Night activities so that you don’t have to scour the internet searching for and testing your own. The following article has done the research for you:
- It should come as no surprise that NASA has some pretty great suggestions for how to engage children and families when it comes to STEAM. They offer so many activities you are able to search them by type (family, classroom, demonstrations, etc.), subject, grade or topic. Their soda-straw rockets and hovering on a cushion of air projects look pretty fun to us!
- The ultimate STEAM night activity is of course, Turing Tumble! What student wouldn’t want to learn what is happening inside of a computer? It is also a great family night activity because it will challenge children as young as eight all the way through experienced computer programmers. If the moderator of this activity is unsure of explaining how Turing Tumble is a computer, here is a video that explains it all:
Additional Helpful Hints from Turing Tumble:
-Avoid Obstacles: When planning, make sure to start with the school calendar and avoid scheduling the same night as the school band concert. If you are planning to use the school gym, make sure there is enough time after basketball practice for proper set up of your event. Is there a gap between athletic seasons where more students might be available to attend an evening event? Many families are juggling multiple children and schedules, so the easier you make it for them to attend, the more successful your event will be.
-Find Your Champions: Who will help you make this event come alive? PTO/PTA, individual parent volunteers, specialist teachers, teachers from grade five? You will want to have a key group for planning as well as buy-in from others in your school who will help you to get the word out, offer incentives for attendance, and in some cases coordinate with local businesses or parents who may help at your stations. Connecting with the right people to help you get the word out and drive up excitement will go a long way.
-Teachers Are Your Best Advocates: All the planning in the world isn’t going to get people in the door. Have teachers talking about this event and reminding students when it is. Make sure they spread the word to parents through classroom communications. Some teachers will even offer extra credit or other incentives to students who attend Family STEAM Night.
-Theme: Find ways to build excitement by making your STEAM night a themed celebration. The theme could be STEAM Careers and a parent volunteer from various fields could run the stations that pertain to their field. A Computer Programmer could run the Turing Tumble Station or an Engineer could facilitate the build a bridge station.
-Local Celebrities: Do your students admire the high school football team, or have a favorite Gym teacher or Principal that can be recruited to help with the event? Bringing in these local celebrities is a great way to build excitement and attract attention to your event.
Give Yourself Permission to Start Small: Make the scope of the event your own. It is okay to start small! An event like this can grow over the years. Maybe the first year is only for grade four and their parents, has no sponsors or theme and has just a couple of stations--that’s okay! The idea is to get these kids interested in thinking scientifically while having fun. Even an introduction to fun with STEAM can provide a child with an appetite for learning for life!
No matter how you decide to plan your event, remember the idea is to simply spark the interest of a child who may then carry forward an interest for STEAM learning throughout life.
"Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks."
-Johann Gottfried Herder
(We are always seeking your feedback. If you have discovered any helpful tips or tricks you would like to share, or have encountered any roadblocks along the way, make sure to contact us at email@example.com. We always love hearing from our educators!)
- EDUCATOR DISCOUNT ALERT: If you have not yet purchased Turing Tumble for your classroom, don’t forget to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get our educator discount. We love our educators!