FAMILY SCIENCE NIGHTS
Building family support for science through Family Science Nights
- Why host a Family Science Night?
- Family Science Night Showcase
- What makes a great family science night?
- How do I get started?
- How do I build the event into my school culture?
Why host a Family Science Night?
Science is important because it excites and engages students in learning. Exemplary science curriculum that fosters the development of thinking and problem-solving skills provides the foundation for learning and successful application.
One of the ways for families to become familiar with science is through Family Science Nights. These fun-filled evenings provide an environment and structure where families can comfortably explore, experiment and talk about science.
Families that participate in these evenings have a greater understanding of the importance of science in their child's life. Parents and teachers can then work together to improve attitudes towards science and encourage students to build a strong scientific foundation that will serve them well in upper grades and college.
Family Science Night Showcase
Family Science Nights, like any school event, vary from school to school and district to district. Some sites purchase ready-made programs that facilitate the implementation of Family Science Nights. While other sites, create their own science activities to share with students and parents. Some events are hosted by grade level, while others welcome all students and their families from grades 1-12.
If you would like to tell us how your school and/or district is engaging families through Family Science Nights complete Family Science Night Showcase Form and e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to Project Tomorrow at 949-609-4660.
What makes a great family science night?
Effective Family Science Nights create an environment where families can learn the value of hands-on, inquiry based science and how science integrates the teaching of science processes, content, reading, math and critical thinking skills.
- Engage families in science.
Families enjoy the freedom of learning together. Family Science Nights should be organized around a science concept or theme so that parents and students understand the context for their experiments.
- Inspire exploration and learning.
Successful Family Science Nights provide a structured learning environment where families have the opportunity to explore their understanding of science concepts. Stations that are neatly organized with clear instructions and ample materials minimize frustration and enhance the family's learning experience.
Students should have notebooks to record their ideas, observations and what they've learned during the evening. This reinforces their classroom experience and illustrates to parents the value of the science program and integration with other subject areas.
- Connect with classroom instruction.
Family Science Nights provide an environment where students can enhanced their understanding of science content and important process skills by applying their knowledge in a "laboratory-type" environment.
- Are easy to organize and facilitate.
Family Science Night coordinators agree that the event should be easy to plan, host and facilitate. Materials, guidebooks and refreshments must be readily accessible to insure a successful evening.
- Encourage positive attitudes about science.
Science and the scientific thinking process are part of our daily life. Show your children the "science" in everyday life - from boiling water to spider webs to rainbows, science is all around us. Learn how to relate science to daily life by exploring Web sites, magazines or television programs.
The following checklist will help your get your own Family Science Night started:
- Family Science Night Coordinator.
Select a staff member, parent or volunteer to serve as the Family Science Night Coordinator. This coordinator will be responsible for organizing and facilitating the program. Responsibilities include event planning, promotion, materials maintenance, event set-up and hosting.
- Ask community members to help you.
Local business members, parents, college or high school students, boy scouts, eagle scouts and girl scouts are excellent resources that can help organize or participate in Family Science Nights.
- Select a program.
Research established family science programs and materials (attend science conferences, and write for preview materials). Check our web site to find out about Family Science Night Resources. Use the Family Science Night Characteristics to help you with your program selection.
- Secure funding.
Potential funding may be secured through instructional materials funds, discretionary general funds, supplemental textbook funds, site improvement funds, PTA or PTO funds.
- Host an event.
Start small and host an event for a single grade level. Typically, Family Science Nights offered early in the school year have a higher attendance over events held later in the school year (mid-May and June). Take this into account when planning and promoting your event. Work with your site administration to select a date for the event and promote the event.
- Evaluate your success.
Conduct short pre and post surveys for student assessment and share with student's teacher. Ask participants for their feedback on the event. Determine if changes should be made to Family Science Night to improve quality, effectiveness or reach specific educational goals.
Download this sample survey form developed by the Orange County Department of Education and teachers in Saddleback Unified School District.
- Engage parents in inquiry.
Work with parents to help them understand how to encourage inquiry and address the endless questions that students may generate as part of the process. Also, share with parents how to look at science journals and encourage problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Share your success and excitement.
Invite the local press to your event. Share pictures and participant comments on your school website and/or school newsletter. Work with your district to videotape the event so that you can share the participant's enthusiasm with others.
- Build the event into your school culture.
Once you have hosted a successful Family Science Night, consider expanding the program to additional grades and hosting it on an annual basis.
How do I build the event into my school culture?
Family Science Nights are a great opportunity for all teachers to engage the community in their science efforts. A successful event is dependent on thoughtful and thorough planning and coordination. If possible, provide administrative assistance to the Family Science Night Coordinator in order to facilitate a successful evening. Additional considerations include:
- Provide adequate storage for materials at the school site.
- Build a support structure and locate funding to insure that kits are refurbished with consumable materials.
- Work with Family Science Night Coordinator and staff to outline responsibilities and required time commitments.
- Start small at your school site to get the process worked out and then expand to additional grade levels.
- Ask your PTA Board to identify a Science Coordinator person who would be responsible for organizing your Family Science Nights.