Our first STEM night was an overwhelming success! With about 150 people, from 70 Schaumburg families the event was well attended and everyone learned something, including the teachers.
Planning a STEM night was a challenge– we started by thinking about the science fairs we experienced in school, but that seemed too boring, considering the interactive, technologically-based projects that our students are used to. We decided to showcase STEM work from each grade level, as well as invite community partners to participate.
STEM is a broad field so we invited outside organizations that have worked with us before. NASA taught the students to build rockets and launched them by stepping on a water bottle. The Energy Alliance taught students about electricity and allowed them to ride a bike that powered a light bulb. The Health Committee had families measure out the sugar in popular drinks and snacks– information that shocked and disgusted many participants. Sci Tech came and had students navigate a robot through a maze. Each grade also presented a hands on experiment that explored a STEM topic on the curriculum. It was great to see how STEM works in pre-k through 8th grade.
My favorite part of STEM night was the computer stations. We had two first graders man the station and explain to parents, students and teachers about the blended learning programs use everyday– ST Math, MyOn and iReady. We had papers explaining how to use the programs at home. I was impressed with the number of parents who said they planned to visit the websites or download the apps. The students also loved teaching their parents how to play the game. I hope that this provides students with extra practice and gives parents a way to help their students learn.
We also had a station with free websites and apps that parents can use to help their students learn. I find that many times parents do now know what to do to help their child. The act of downloading an app is empowering to parents and will hopefully pay off for our students. I learned a lot about apps that are available and hope to try to incorporate some of them in my class.
While we did have a great turn out, I would love to find a way to pass on some of the information to the families who were not able to attend. I am hoping to have the information about our blended learning programs and the free apps available to parents at Report Card Conferences. I am also considering sending home the information in homework folders to try and reach even more parents.
Next time I would like to incorporate more student presentations. Each grade had a table and the experiments were engaging and educational. However, I think it would be powerful to have students run the centers. It also might increase turn out in the presenters’ families.
I would also like to showcase apps and websites for the upper elementary and middle school students. I would suggest having a teacher that works with older students help in the planning of STEM night, our committee was all early childhood teachers so that was where we naturally focused the content.
In the future we need to figure out how to use social media to promote our event and share the outcome. I tweeted for the first time at STEM night and Jiji, the super popular ST Math mascot, retweeted me! This would be a great way to inform the community about the event as well as connect with STEM experts who may want to get involved.
Overall the event was great! Parents, students and teachers all seemed to have a great time and learn something. I hope that STEM night becomes an annual event at Schaumburg and that the other schools are able to plan an event with similar outcomes.
(Pictures by Juston Jackson)