Encouraging STEM By Engaging Parents

Here at STEM Works, we absolutely adore our Twitter followers because they are a fantastic group of individuals who willingly come together for inspiration, advice, and to share their love of STEM with the world.

As of late, we have initiated a number of Twitter discussions using #STEMWorksDiscussions. We recently asked our Twitter followers the following question:

How do we engage parents in order to drive interest in STEM at school?

Twitter didn’t disappoint, so we’ve compiled a list of their answers, as well as a collection of ideas and resources to help drive STEM via parent engagement.


“Invite them to a school STEM night and show them how great it can be!”

-@Melkoogz

“[Our] school is hosting a 2 week STEM Festival utilizing parents and community members as STEM presenters.”

-hardwicke_sam

“A hands-on learning experience within school [ bridges] the gap between study & workforce.”

-STEAMWrksStudio

“Outreach work starting with 4 year olds! When children learn about doctors, we talk about STEM careers.”

-Sarah4811


Parental Engagement Resources

  • Parents are vital to the success of students, especially during the middle school years, a critical point in students’ educations. Middle schoolers are at a higher risk to lose focus and parental involvement also takes a hit. Prevent this with these tips for successful parental engagement from the Afterschool Alliance, available here.
  • A solid foundation in STEM is critical for the future of society, and we all know that kids are the key to the future. Here’s why we should teach our kids to embrace STEM by starting them young. Article here.  
  • Earlier this year, a panel of educators and experts at the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference discussed some of the often neglected methods of teaching and encouraging students, particularly those in the under-served and minority populations, to take an interest in STEM. Article here.
  • Keeping kids actively thinking, whether it’s after school or during summer vacation, is vital for long-term educational success. The National After School Network is a fantastic resource in offering strategies for parental engagement, available here.

Do you have ideas of your own for parental engagement? Comment on this post or send us a tweet @STEM_Works.

Why we do what we do (and how we’re bridging the gap between our programs)

ThNKYOU

I wanted to start this post by thanking all of you who are taking the time out of your busy lives to check out our blog. On Friday, we officially hit the 6 month mark for this blog and were excited to surpass 5,000 visits to this site in that period. We are honored to be a part of such an incredible community and look forward to continuing sharing the STEM content, ideas, and stories that intrigue us. I hope that our blogs amuse, inform, and even sometimes challenge you and the way you think about and advocate STEM. We always welcome your thoughts and insight so please send us a note or comment on our posts to engage in this important conversation!

This week we hit the road to visit old and new friends in Colorado to host a CSI Teacher Workshop and CSI Camp-for-a-Day and thought it would be a great time to explain a little more about why we do the things we do and how our various efforts are more connected than they may seem at first glance.

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

We mentioned that our team works & lives all over the country, right?

As you may (or more likely not) have noticed, we have two distinct sets of programs within our STEM portfolio: our STEM websites (KidsAhead & STEM-Works) and our CSI camps (Summer camps, camps-for-a-day, and teacher workshops). The websites are the internationally-reaching arms of our portfolio and aim to provide students and advocates around the world with engaging STEM content from around the Internet. Since we pull quality STEM content from around the Internet, as well as add our own novel content, these sites are a great place to find all kinds of materials to advocate STEM (and in the case of KidsAhead, it’s a great place to have your students check out for content that interests them).

On the other side of the portfolio, we have our CSI Camps. This includes three different programs:

  • CSI Summer Camps: offered in Dallas, TX and include a full week of hands-on activities and engaging presentations from real world forensic scientists and law enforcement officials
  • CSI Camps-for-a-Day: a condensed version of our summer camps offered over the course of one day in military-connected communities (we’re headed to Colorado Springs now to meet our next group of teachers and students!)
  • CSI Teacher Workshop: a program geared toward teaching our SMU CSI curriculum to teachers and providing them with resources to successfully utilize this curriculum in their classrooms and communities

So, now that you have a basic overview of the work that we do, and in honor of our CSI events in Colorado this week, we decided to launch a special edition of our bi-monthly scavenger hunts on KidsAhead to bridge the divide between our websites and CSI programs. This scavenger hunt, which was launched yesterday, invites you to take part in the fun and help to solve a mock crime that is related to the one that was investigated this week at our CSI Camp-for-a-Day. For more information about this “Closing the Case” scavenger hunt please visit http://bit.ly/HAoSZS. Try this challenge out and when you complete it and identify the perpetrator share your findings with us here !

So what are STEM-Works & Kids Ahead?

So, you’re wondering about our websites, eh? Check out this video for a snapshot of what we’re doing.

The dire state of STEM education in the U.S. is scarcely news to many of you out there. It has been noted time and again that our nation’s youth are falling behind many countries in the world in both interest and aptitude in the STEM subjects. Our STEM team knew that we had to do something to help encourage interest in STEM subjects, hence, our Kids Ahead and STEM Works websites were born.

So, what are Kids Ahead and STEM Works?

Kids Ahead is designed to support middle school students interested in STEM disciplines. This website, Kids Ahead, is an initiative to provide kids with hands-on opportunities to learn about STEM content and skills and excite them to learn more. Kids Ahead features articles, activities, and interviews with professionals in nine different STEM subjects. These subjects are:
Animal Kingdom
Crime Scene Investigation
Extreme Weather
Medical Innovations
Robotics
Space
Under the Sea
Video Games
Wind Energy

The links to these topics then direct the student to materials for hands-on projects that can be used for fun during a kid’s free time, for a boy/girl scout group or even for a possible science fair project. The website leverages outstanding materials developed around the country by providing a single place where these materials and activities can be accessed. Students are also able to access STEM events and organizations within their specific community on our locations page. We currently feature 29 communities across the U.S. and we are constantly adding new locations.
As a companion site to Kids Ahead, we developed another website – STEM-Works. This site aims to provide STEM resources to parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers and anyone who has a passion for science and engineering. All content that is available on the Kids Ahead web portal is also available in a similar format for adults on STEM-Works. The difference between the two websites is the intended audience: Kids Ahead is for kids; STEM-Works is for adults working with kids.

In fall of 2012 we also added an additional feature to STEM Works that we are particularly excited about: Advocacy. Here, STEM advocates can access STEM-related lesson plans, publications and virtual field trips for free!

If you haven’t yet visited our websites, now’s your chance to check them out! If you have already, we want to hear from you. Have you been able to use information from our websites in the classroom or in your community? Tell us all about it!