Thursday, November 10, 2016

Full STEAM Ahead: The Value of Family STEAM Nights

As a new school year begins educators are faced with the age-old dilemma of “how do we get families to be involved?” It’s not a new phenomenon- parents work, siblings have after school sports events, children live in multiple households due to divorce- all of these things leads to a lack of connection between the school culture and the home culture. Every year educators scratch their heads wondering “How can we get them to read our email? Watch our video? Respond to notes we send home?”

We seek new and inventive ways to connect with families- through mediums like the use of social media, Remind texting, or mass phone calls. But the question remains...what would make these families want to be a part of the school community? Research shows ““When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” That’s the conclusion of A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002)” (

IMG_5996.JPGThis year due to a generous grant from a benefactor, we have been able to increase the magnitude of our STEAM-based (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) curriculum at our school. So what we are trying at our school this year is to have one STEAM Family Night per semester. Getting families engaged early in the year and showing them the benefits of STEAM education is the goal. So why not create a family STEAM night that coincides with homecoming week?

We are sent out an invitation for a Family STEAM Night happening in October. Our focus was to prepare a float for homecoming that represents all the great things going on in the elementary school in regards to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math as well as have some “take home options” for attending families. There were multiple rooms set up where students and their families had hands-on night of learning and creating. A parent was required to be present and participating with students throughout the evening.

Things to consider when having a STEAM night:
  • Require parents to participate with their child. This may sound manipulating to get parent involvement but many STEAM activities are dirty, maybe even dangerous, if not done correctly. Having parents participate does two things: Gives extra sets of helping hands and creates a culture of belonging. When a student knows there is a STEAM night, they are going to want to come. As parents know, pressure from your child to do something is a powerful thing.
  • Have a signup form for families. We have 400+ students in our elementary. That could mean 20 families or 300 families might show up for STEAM night. Creating a signup form allows you to spend time preparing adequately- without over preparing as well.
  • Pick a theme. This first STEAM night will be based on the homecoming theme for our school “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Themes help to build unity for your evening, especially if you plan to have more than one STEAM night throughout the school year.
  • Look for resources. There are plenty of great resources for STEAM Nights on Pinterest,, and there are many schools blog about STEAM night experiences as well. I personally use my Twitter account and search the hashtags #STEM and #STEAM to find resources.

Our plan was as follows:

Bolt Up room-
 Make lightning (didn't work well):
Light Up Lifesavers:
Learning more about Dash and Dot:

Engineering A Float room -
Prior to the actual STEAM night all the pieces for the float will be cut and ready to put together waiting for student/parent help. The actual building of the float out of wood will take place in this “room” on STEAM night.
Chromatography art for decorating float:

Chargers room-
Dress up Dash and Dot robots as cheerleaders, fans, and football players (idea adapted from:
Learn about Circuitry: Different Little Bits circuitry challenges were available
Create Steampunk robots out of old computer parts:

Greatest Show on Turf room-
(creation of tree and science experiments on grass)

Green Screen Productions-
Using the app Green Screen by DoInk have students use photo booth props to create videos of themselves as Charger fans.

I think it is fair to say this was a successful STEAM activity. STEAM night allowed families to bond, created communication/connections and a sense of belonging and ownership in homecoming week. It also gave parents a taste of the great opportunities their students are participating in weekly in the classroom settings.


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