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Help Wanted: How to Onboard Parents Early with STEM

Posted by Maryellen deLacy on Dec 5, 2017

Help Wanted: How to on Board Parents Early with STEMWhen you hear about STEM education, the conversation often revolves around teachers and students. What’s often overlooked is the role parents can play, both in supporting student learning at home and in advocating for teachers and schools in the community.

It goes without saying that parents want the best for their children. They want to see their child master the skills they will need to succeed both in and out of school. Often they want to support what is happening in the classroom, but they may not know how. Uniting your efforts with theirs can strengthen student interest, engagement, and outcomes.

Keep reading to find out how you can partner with parents to create a strong community working toward the same goal: quality STEM education.

Supporting Student Learning at Home

Children’s curiosity about the world around them is a natural vehicle for parents to nurture their child’s interest in STEM. Parents can help make connections between their child’s questions and the science and engineering they are learning in class.

There are a few things you can do to facilitate this parent-child dialogue. Parents may not realize they can use STEM to develop their child's critical thinking skills by asking higher order questions. When students are engaged in higher order thinking, they analyze and evaluate scenarios, create solutions to problems, and apply what they’ve learned to new situations. Even though this type of questioning should happen every day in the classroom, extending it to the home through parents reinforces and strengthens student understanding.

Help Wanted: How to on Board Parents Early with STEM

When you meet parents at the beginning of the school year, have a conversation with them about how to ask higher order questions about scientific phenomena that go beyond "What did you learn in science class?" Give them a simple guide for asking higher order questions that they can take home. Help them understand how a simple car ride can turn into an engineering discussion about solving problems you see on the way to school.

You can also create a one-page resource that gives parents an overview of the STEM unit you are working through, along with key vocabulary and ways to connect the unit’s concepts to everyday life.

Bringing Parents into the School

Beyond knowing about the content covered in science class, parents want to know how their children are engaged hands-on during the school day. Yet volunteering in the classroom is not always an option for parents. You can help keep these parents connected by creating meaningful events or notes to send home that showcase what their students are doing in the classroom. For example, you can organize a hallway display or a section in your monthly email that recaps the month in STEM.

Other examples include organizing a STEM night where students show off the experiments or prototypes they developed by explaining the question they answered or the problem they solved. You could also plan a science fair where students apply what they’ve learned in class to develop an experiment, investigating a question that interests them outside of class and presenting their results to their parents and peers.

Parents are STEM Advocates  

The benefits of creating resources for parents will have a broad impact not only on individual classrooms, but also on your school and the community. These resources work to make the learning goals of your classroom transparent and accessible to parents. When parents in a community have the tools to support the goals of your classroom, they become more invested in helping you achieve your goals. 

By taking the time to educate your student’s most powerful advocate, you in turn benefit as your expectations align, student engagement increases, and student outcomes are strengthened. You may be surprised how appreciative parents will be when they are given opportunities to be more involved in their children’s STEM education.

A well-developed STEM curriculum will help you develop the resources to share with parents, helping you communicate just how those resources are aligned to your classroom’s experience.

Topics: STEM

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