Building Character at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Pumpkin Delight School (Milford, Connecticut)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

Curiosity. Engaging. Problem Solving. Results. Creativity. – All important words that help to build character, scholarship and learning in our elementary students. In today’s society, we are limited to common core, state standards, and standardize testing. What can a PTA do to engage students? Utilize all their senses? Build a sense a curiosity? And allow students to problem solve on their own in order to find results? The answer is invention!

Our PTA applied for the Invention Night grant from littleBits and National PTA for two reasons. First, we had a science fair, but we were looking for a (FREE!) way to have more students participate. Second, we wanted a new way to get our students engaged in creativity. Our budget was tight, and we had no way to allocate dollars towards this event, so we looked to National PTA’s grant to help us with our mission. The application process was not difficult and the answers to the application came easily as I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

Our Invention Night consisted of the littleBits Kits, science projects from about 25 students, teacher interaction and support from our local Milford Public Library. We set it up in our gym, which is the largest space in our school, also across the hall from bathrooms. Our school used our Facebook page as well as flyers sent home in backpacks to help advertise the event. While we knew the students who did projects would be attending the event, we welcomed our event to the entire school and community.

The biggest driver that brought traffic to our event was the littleBits Invention Kits. We informed the community of our grant win and promoted heavily. We also provided information on the app that needed to be downloaded prior to attending the event. While the communication was clear on our end, we knew parents are busy and this step could be easily forgotten. littleBits also has a YouTube page that walks you through the steps. This helps with those parents that did not download the app beforehand. While we live in an electronic age, I would say this was the biggest roadblock of the event. I would advise other PTA’s to prepare for this when hosting similar events in the future.

Overall what made this event such a success was the students and families working together on the littleBits Kits. It was inspiring and emotional to see the successes when focused minds come together to solve a problem. We had parents working with their children and saw their faces light up when they made progress along the way. I also noticed quite a bit of peers working together on the kits. When one student was able to work through a level, they were then able to help their friends around them be able to achieve the same success.

It was a privilege to be able to host an Invention Night at our school. The event helped boost the support the PTA received from the community. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor: Kristyn Liebelt is the PTA President at Pumpkin Delight School PTA in Milford, Connecticut.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018-2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

Spark Family Engagement at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Bonny Kate PTA (Knox County, Tenn.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

The entire community of Bonny Kate Elementary School was so excited to learn that we had been awarded a PTA STEM + Families Initiative grant for a littleBits Invention Night. Invention Nights are incredible opportunities for family engagement.

Last year, we had our inaugural STEAM Night and the activities were more visual than interactive. This year, as we combined our STEAM Night with Invention Night, and we had a very different experience. Families were working together on activities, talking and laughing, and genuinely enjoying themselves this time around. It was awesome for our small community to have a fun learning time together and great to see all the smiles.

The STEAM Team and our building-level coach worked hard to plan and promote our Invention Night. We advertised the event through emails, parent links, classroom newsletters and fliers that were sent home. We also contacted our local television stations, and one came out and did a short piece on the event!

Our PTA decorated the school for the event with balloons, streamers and posters, and we had a food truck for families who had not eaten dinner. These things helped to ensure a large crowd for the event, even though it was a very cold winter night, and made it very welcoming for our families.

To get families even more engaged in their child’s learning, we used the entire school for the event. We created a map of the school, and the students had passports with places to stamp for each activity. Activities included visiting our local high school’s robotics team, checking out STEAM projects from each grade level, and chatting with the University of Tennessee’s Engineering Club, in addition to the space dedicated to the littleBits kits. Because there were so many activities, the space was well-divided, with lots of room to spread out and work on projects.

The enthusiasm and excitement this event created has inspired us to move forward with plans to have a STEAM lab next year. With STEAM careers being a focus for future jobs, it is so vital that our students—who live in a more rural area—are exposed to STEAM activities. The seeds planted by this event will help us to grow and bloom with STEAM for years to come. Thanks PTA and littleBits!

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor: Denise Cross is the Assistant Principal at Bonny Kate Elementary School, part of Knox County Schools in Tenn.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018 – 2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

Make Connections at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Hollin Meadows PTA (Alexandria, Va.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

If you are looking for a way to get your school community involved in a meaningful, engaging and fun activity, consider hosting a National PTA Invention Night sponsored by littleBits! This event allows students and families to make so many connections—both the science kind and the personal kind!

We recently hosted an Invention Night at our Title 1 elementary school in Alexandria, Va., and it was an overwhelming success, with over 250 attendees! Because we are an extremely diverse school community, we promoted the event in multiple languages and multiple formats including fliers, social media, ads on our in-house news program and personal invitations. We also prepared several videos, some in both English and Spanish and some featuring our PTA event lead volunteer and our favorite teachers, to give a teaser about the cool inventions the kids would make.

These various outreach efforts allowed us to spread the word to more of our families and to make them feel welcomed, included and excited about the event from the outset. Our principal and teachers supported our Invention Night with announcements in the classrooms, school-wide email updates and tweets, in addition to being active participants during the event. We also invited our student alumni, neighbors and larger school community to volunteer. Due to these efforts, our attendees were reflective of our community, representing families from all grade levels, backgrounds and languages.

Having hosted weeknight events before, we know that feeding our families a full, free dinner is extremely important. Parents took the night off from cooking, knowing that their families would enjoy a wholesome Noodles & Co. meal—veggies included! We set up the event in the cafeteria, using the cafeteria line to serve dinner. Families ate in a designated section and once they’d finished, moved to the part of the cafeteria where the kits were positioned.

Because we had so many attendees, families paired up to work on the kits. This allowed families to meet other families and have a natural, shared experience as they worked together. Some families had challenges downloading the app or the specific invention instructions, so the cafeteria was abuzz with families sharing information and advice. It was beautiful to see new relationships forged and for families to collaborate and contribute their unique strengths to the group’s efforts.

Kids and parents alike were clamoring for more time with the kits, so we would definitely love to host another Invention Night! With events like these we are empowering not only future STEM professionals, we are empowering families and communities! Wow! Imagine the possibilities…

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor, Eileen Gorman: Eileen Gorman is the PTA President at Hollin Meadows Science and Math Focus PTA in Alexandria, Va.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018-2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

 

The Summer of STEM

Original post: https://medium.com/stem-next-opportunity-fund/2019-the-summer-of-stem-e7755ebae5e7 

“Not all summers are created equal.” We agree with this assessment from Laura Johnson, VP of Communications at the National Summer Learning Association. STEM Next Opportunity Fund puts forward the challenge — Let’s empower families so that every child has access to quality summer learning.

Summer can offer time to explore new subjects and go deep into personal interests. Summer can also increase the opportunity gap. We know that kids from under-resourced communities may fall behind in academics, while kids in higher-income families increase skills over the summer months. It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s research that shows elementary school kids with high levels of attendance in voluntary summer programs experience benefits in math and reading.

There are lots of summer coding camps, robotic workshops, and environmental science classes where kids can have fun and learn. There are online opportunities too. But, how do parents find summer programs? How do they sort through and make the best choice for their child? How do they take advantage of opportunities without spending a lot of time and money?

STEM Next appreciates the importance of supporting families and summer learning. Here are six ideas to empower families and make 2019 the summer of STEM.

#1 Help parents find summer programs. Create a resource that highlights programs that are accessible by public transportation, free or low cost for families, and are creative and culturally relevant. The Summer Learning Recruitment Guide from the Wallace Foundation can help you communicate the value of summer programs to families. You might take a lesson from Digital Youth Divas and engage families with their own research of summer programs. Parents are given time to reflect on their needs (e.g., schedule, transportation, costs) and their goals for their children (e.g., deepening their child’s existing interests or creating new ones), and work in small groups to find relevant programs using a networked city resource. Once they identify programs of interest, they save them and email them to themselves, share with others, or bookmark them to follow up on. What I especially like about this approach is how it creates social networks in which parents become resources for one another. You can learn more about empowering families and building parent networks in our case study about Digital Youth Divas.

Photo credit: Bay Area STEM Ecosystem

#2 Help families apply. Support the application process for families for whom English is their second language or who are not tech savvy. Techbridge Girls created a summer list and went a step further, holding workshops in which they helped families apply online. This experience helped staff understand how family-friendly (or unfriendly) the application process was for different programs. With these insights, staff gave feedback to partners and advocated for more family-friendly applications.

#3 Make summer STEM a family experience. The Bay Area STEM Ecosystem offered a summer science series for families. The 10-week program was hosted by 10 different partners at one convenient location. We learned valuable lessons like making explicit that activities are for kids and adults so that parents don’t sit back and watch. From parents who often juggle competing activities on the weekends, we heard how much they appreciated a program that was for kids ages 3–13. The entire family could spend time together and continue talking about these shared experiences at home.

#4 Don’t assume to know what parents are looking for when it comes to summer programs; involve families in the process. Listen to parents to understand their needs and interests along with possible barriers. Think that transportation might be a barrier? Ask parents and enlist their input to figure out ways around potential challenges. Carpools and bus passes might help. Think that a scholarship will make a summer program accessible? Ask parents if that’s what they want or if there are other reasons beyond financial barriers to a summer program. A trusted community partner or family that has participated in the program may help to answer questions and encourage parents.

#5 Don’t let STEM learning end with the end of summer programs. I love the idea of digital postcards that were created at a summer camp at Shaver Center Environmental Center. Kids in grades 3–5 were invited to take photos and write about their camp experiences. These postcards were emailed to parents and available through an access-controlled website. If you try this, take advantage of what the research team from Penn State University learned. A prompt asking kids to tell what they learned during camp was not effective; kids just named what was in their photo. Instead, the following three prompts sparked rich reflections. 1) My picture is of… 2) Today I learned … and 3) I want to learn more about … Kids’ responses helped parents understand their child’s interests and follow up with relevant activities. You can read more about the Digital Postcard Maker project in this article in TechTrends.

#6 Offer ideas that encourage families to do STEM at home, in the backyard, and around the neighborhood. Check out The Busy Parents’ Guide to Easy Summer Learning from EdNavigator. There are family-friendly activities like going to the library and finding the math or science in a movie. You can find more ideas to support summer learning in Summer Stride from Learning Heroes, a research-based, English/Spanish resource. I especially like the suggestion for parents to ask teachers what they can do over the summer to set their child up for success in the next grade. The National PTA, in partnership with Learning Heroes and the National Summer Learning Association, offers more ideas in Summer Playbook Smarter Summer. Brighter Futures. A Summer Playbook for PTA and School Leaders. Families can try the 20–2–1 Summer Challenge. Read something of interest for at least 20 minutes, engage in two activities like writing in a journal or playing outside, and try one math activity each day.

How will you support families this summer? We invite you to share your ideas, successes, and lessons learned. Share on twitter and tag @STEMNext or write us at familyengagement@stemnext.org.


I am an advisor for STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Family engagement has been a passion and at the center of the research and programs I have led for over two decades. My favorite memories from summer include reading lots and lots books, learning to bowl, and playing with friends in the neighborhood until after dark. lkekelis@gmail.com @LindaKekelis

Math Fun, Rain or Shine! With a STEM + Families Mathnasium Math Night SPOTLIGHT: Friends of Penngrove PTA (Penngrove, Calif.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received STEM + Families Mathnasium Math Night grants. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

The Penngrove Elementary School community was elated to receive the news that we were awarded a 2018 National PTA STEM + Families Math Night Grant, sponsored by Mathnasium. The Friends of Penngrove PTA executive board enjoyed planning the event and loved seeing all the happy faces of our families during our event Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.

Despite the huge winter rainstorm that evening, we thankfully had a record attendance. We had over 225 attendees and 25% of our students attended!

Our local Mathnasium transformed our school’s multipurpose room into 16 math stations plus a jumbo chess game, festive balloons and candy jar raffles. The executive board checked in guests and sold logo wear. School leadership helped with marketing the event via assemblies, announcements and encouraging teacher involvement.

The grant from National PTA was used to supply dinner and purchase enough raffle prizes for each student participant. The first 20 RSVPs received their choice of a ThinkFun game and then every 15 minutes we invited 10 more students to visit the prize table. They were able to select prizes from additional games, logo wear and pizza certificates. This was a highlight of the evening!

We decided to try three new things when planning for our STEM + Families Math Night.

  1. Requiring attendees to fill out a google RSVP form
  2. Providing a pizza and salad dinner
  3. Inviting the community to support us by volunteering to run stations

Creating the RSVP form allowed us to secure the proper amount of supplies, volunteers and prizes. It worked so well that we started using RSVP forms for other free PTA events. Providing dinner was a relief to parents and the students loved eating in the classrooms with their friends. By asking our school staff, student teachers and local high school students to volunteer to run the stations, the majority of adults in attendance were able to be guests and play math games with the students.

Everyone loved the event and we are planning on inviting Mathnasium back to Penngrove Elementary during the 2019-2020 school year for another successful collaboration. The #PennPanthers were so appreciative for the National PTA Grant—thank you for the opportunity to celebrate our community with a free, fun and educational evening!

Melissa Morelli is the Treasurer of Friends of Penngrove PTA.


Franchise Feature: Becky McDaniels (Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.)

Over the last six years, Becky has co-hosted one to two Math Nights each month in her area. For her, the key elements for success are the relationships she builds with each school, creating open communication between her team and the PTAs.

Becky’s intention is to be a partner to her local PTAs, letting her take the pressure of the event—from set up to clean up—so the families can relax, and have a good time with their kids.

Her fundamental goal is for families to see that Math doesn’t have to be scary. There are simple things parents can do at home or anywhere with fun games allowing them to have conversations and experiences with their children around Math.

Becky’s pro-tips:

  • Spread the word about the event. Send home fliers with students, emailing directly to parents, adding the event to the PTA’s website. Her Mathnasium location hosts a Facebook group which is shared out by the PTA as well.
  • Provide food: This doesn’t have to be a cost! Becky has helped PTAs partner with other local business like Chik-fil-a to donate dinner to the event.
  • Prep for event set-up: Becky has created a set-up map she shares with schools to make organizing the event space a breeze. She recommends two stations per game, dividing by grade, and having them side by side so parents with kids of different ages don’t have to split up.

Becky is a single-center owner and one of Mathnasium’s Math Night pioneers. Mathnasium used some key learnings from observing her practices to develop the official Math Night programing.

Take Action:

Disclosure: Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 2018 – 2019 National PTA STEM + Families Math Grant, sponsored by Mathnasium. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

Nominate a Teacher for a Computer Science Professional Development Scholarship!

Computer literacy is quickly becoming a crucial skill for students to succeed in an increasingly competitive workplace, but many schools are not adequately equipped to teach this skill. For most schools, the lack of a trained computer science teacher is the biggest barrier to offering computer science.

That’s why National PTA has a partnered with Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.

Code.org offers professional development programs for current teachers who want to begin teaching computer science. Out of the nearly 100,000 educators who have taken these workshops, 98% say they would recommend the program to another teacher.

This year, Code.org is offering scholarships for thousands of eligible K-12 teachers to attend their professional learning workshops. This is a great chance for your PTA to advocate for teachers and share this awesome opportunity!

We’re encouraging everyone to nominate a favorite teacher for a scholarship. If your PTA knows of a passionate educator who would make an amazing computer science teacher, we encourage you to recognize that teacher’s impact and help them get started teaching computer science!

Make sure your PTA nominates your teachers by the end of April, as workshops range from early June to late August, depending on geographic location.

After you nominate your own teachers, you can help spread the word about this scholarship opportunity by:

  • Sending an email to your PTA members to encourage them to nominate a teacher.
  • Promoting Code.org’s “nominate a teacher” campaign on social media.

And, you don’t have to start from scratch! Here’s some suggested language for the email and social media posts.


Rachel Fishman is a programs and partnerships specialist for National PTA.

 

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Game Nights are so special because they are family based. The experience is extremely fun for kids and exciting for parents as well, especially when it’s a new theme or a hands-on activity like playing ThinkFun games. Family members play together – kind of like a large home game night where kids are trying to beat their parents and vice versa. The games are a focal point. They are high quality in design, materials, texture, and colors and enjoyable to play!

We hosted our event in the cafeteria and served pizza, muffins, and drinks. Our local PTA members decorated with balloons, colorful tablecloths, and we had every game station set up with colorful standing signs and ample space to spread out. The sample guidelines on the NPTA website was our main source of recommendation when setting up for the event. We also enlisted middle school student volunteers to welcome families and guide them through game rules.

In total we had about 130 people attend our event. We also invited the PTA members of our sister school to participate. Our attendance was robust for the midweek day and the time frame. A lot of our students are in extracurricular activities, so we were pleased to see several make time to attend!

The main reason for our great turnout was our marketing methods, which we have nailed down! We usually have sizable attendance at our PTA-sponsored school events (e.g. festivals, carnivals, at-school programs). All students were invited and welcomed. We advertised the event early and often, using several methods including flyers, the school website, weekly newsletter, morning and marquee board announcements, posters (lobby, hall, and cafeteria), and parent emails.

But even a great event doesn’t happen without a few lessons to learn from. We would have liked a little bit more time with volunteers prior to the start of the event to review game rules and handling the games. After the event ended, in the process of repackaging games, we ended up losing a few small pieces here and there. Having a larger number of each game would have been helpful as well. The number of games combined with our great turnout created longer than expected waiting lines that were not anticipated. My take is that families wanted a bit more time than 15 minutes between game rotations, perhaps 20 minutes would have been better.

Overall, we just absolutely LOVED the games!!! It was such a treat watching families get excited about finding solutions to the puzzles and choosing their favorite games as the night went on. I remember the younger kids enjoying Balance Beans a lot, while some families found Color Cube Sudoku the most challenging, and Gravity Maze was very popular among all ages.

The highlight of the night was being able to give away games as prizes. The NPTA Tip Sheet went a long way in helping us prepare and in my opinion, the best tip was the STEM Tournament Prize Suggestions. The kids who won the game prizes (On the Brink and Clue Master) were very excited to have won such fancy gifts – they were beaming, and their parents were, too!

Looking ahead, we are currently organizing another STEM-based Game Night due to the level of success. In a 2018 school PTA Parent Survey, when asked what new enrichment opportunities families would like to see this coming year, many requested more STEM related events. Several parents noted how much they enjoyed our ThinkFun STEM Game Night. As our students’ advocates, we like to ask, listen, and respond to the needs of our families. We want to ensure our students, at all grade levels, have access to STEM offerings, and the STEM enrichment opportunities are relatable to their families, are interactive, fun, and if possible, scheduled after-school.

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

About the Guest Contributor, Isabel C. Materon, PhD: Isabel C. Materon, PhD is the CWE PTA Event Organizer at Commonwealth Elementary School in Sugarland, Texas.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Maplewood STEM/ThinkFun Game Night is something I spearheaded after a very meager turn out the previous year that our school put together. I am a firm believer of getting out of something what you put into it. So, in this case as a PTA we wanted to “Do Better.”

We try to apply for grants for our school and students, which will help fulfill the expanding budgetary gaps that our school, like many others, are facing. Our school is a Title 1 School and for us parental involvement can be very difficult. Our PTA has more staff than parent members, but us parents work hard to help in any way that we can. Providing family events is one of the greatest gifts the PTA can provide to students and their families, which is why STEM, Game, and Family Nights are so important.

When planning events, we like to have a committee, but in reality, it is often one person with occasional helpers that put our events together. The key is scheduling volunteers so that you maximize their time. No one gets discouraged faster than a busy parent that comes to help only to be left confused or feeling unappreciated for what they do.

Start planning early so you don’t get overwhelmed. Our main strategy with inclusion for any event is having something that appeals to a variety of ages, and both boys or girls. For STEM, it’s important to stress that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is universal. It holds no boundaries and these nights help pull families into discussions and activities about subjects that will carry over throughout the students’ academic paths into their futures. Since our PTA had to purchase all supplies with a limited budget I researched STEM activities that were inexpensive but would span multiple grade ranges. We were also the recipients of the ThinkFun Games Grant last year, which provided our school with Balance Beans, Clue Master, Color Cube, Gravity Maze, Laser Maze, Laser Maze Jr., Math Dice, Math Dice Jr., and Rush Hour to use at our STEM Game Night.  The games helped provide STEM Night with new life, which is sometimes all you need to make a huge difference.

In preparation I printed out the ThinkFun game directions, along with directions for the activities that included the definitions of the STEM they would be learning about and had a meeting with teachers and staff armed with a signup sheet to address questions and concerns. We ended up with an activity for each grade with teachers’ support, in addition to having an Hour of Code that was hosted in the Library with our Librarian and a demo from Winnetonka’s Robotics team (our local high school). Our PTA pulled together to create activity boxes for each room with the supplies bundled or bagged and then delivered to each classroom the day of the event.

Getting the word out is important so we utilize all our outlets; both the PTA and our school’s Facebook Page, sending multiple flyers home, and phone blasts from our Principal. Parental involvement can be tricky for working parents with no time to attend evening events, so the PTA voted to provide dinner for our families. We purchased pizza, veggies, cookies, chips, and drinks, which were served by our school’s staff members to families in shifts. Pairing that with our ThinkFun Games as Door Prizes made it a huge incentive for families to step through our door. Families were immediately greeted by PTA at our sign-in table where they were entered in the Door Prize drawing, handed a STEM Night Map along with a Dinner Time Ticket (we had 4 different dinner shifts that were announced throughout the evening to ensure a smooth transition.)

Families were allowed to come and go as they pleased, picking the activity or game that interested them the most. The clear winners were the Slime Room, Balance Beans from ThinkFun for the younger grades and Gravity Maze for the older ones. My favorite moment of the night was a family at the end of the night that said they had just planned to come, eat and then leave but they got so caught up in all the fun and games that they had totally lost track of time. Strengthening relationships between school and students’ families is what PTA is all about. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a parent or grandparent sitting with their kids laughing, building and creating not just experiments but lasting memories. So yes, I am already planning our next STEM Night and will be utilizing our ThinkFun Games!

Take Action


Continue reading the series here:

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

About the Guest Contributor, Sondra Miller: Sondra Miller is the PTA Treasurer at Maplewood Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri. Mom of one, trying to do it all one small step at a time.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

 

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Our local PTA had a problem: We needed a way to get our teachers involved in our PTA events. Thankfully, we heard about the National PTA STEM + Families Game Nights and thought it presented a perfect opportunity! We were fortunate to win a bundle of ~50 ThinkFun games during the 2017-2018 school year.

Our goal for the school year was to get our school community out and interacting, and winning the games was a perfect opportunity to have a fun, low-cost community night. This game night was definitely a winner and we’ll be hosting it again this year! Here are a few of the biggest lessons we learned.

Getting Teachers Excited Gets Students Excited

We believe one of the best decisions we made about running the event was asking our teachers to sign up to run the games. The teachers who participated learned the game prior to the event and ran the tables to teach the participants how to play. In exchange, the teachers received a classroom set (four copies) of the game they chose. Teachers also encouraged their kids to come to the event to play games.

Event Marketing

In addition to event marketing via teacher excitement, we advertised the event by sending home flyers and creating huge colorful dice and large dominoes out of donated boxes. These large colorful game props caught the eye of parents as they dropped their kids off and served as a great reminder as the event approached.

Attendance, Prizes and Favorites

Overall, we had around 250 people in attendance at the event. It was very fulfilling and encouraging to see the full room at the event. Families moved from table to table to play games—if kids got bored they could move on, and if they were having fun they could play the same game all night! All event participants (adults and children) filled out an event survey and the surveys filled out by the children were used as a drawing entry to win the extra games. There were a few favorite games among our attendees—Clue Master, Gravity Maze, and Math Dice. The enthusiasm of the teachers running the tables definitely drove the interest levels in the games!

Overall Costs

For the event, we chose to offer pizza slices and water for sale. Our overall costs were recovered through families buying the pizza and water, but we did overbuy pizzas and were giving away whole pizzas by the end of the night.

Conclusions

Fun PTA events don’t need to be extravagant or complicated. Often a simple event can be the most fun. Remember that along the way there can be hiccups like extra pizza remaining or that a few game pieces go missing, but one of the most important parts of running a successful PTA event is the feeling that the participants walk away with afterward—a feeling of being included and supported in a vibrant, diverse, and active community.

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Continue reading the series here:

 

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/family-game-night-anyone-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/member-growth-huge-turnout-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/creating-lasting-memories-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

 

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

http://onevoice.pta.org/parents-and-kids-join-forces-with-stem-families-thinkfun-game-night/

About the Guest Contributor, Amy Jorde: Amy Jorde is the PTA President at Pearl Zanker Elementary School in Milpitas, California.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

 

Member Growth, Huge Turnout With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Did you know that games are good for motor skills, help our kids solve problems, can lead students to get better grades, and promote family bonding? That’s why at Cedargrove PTA, we are proud to host three Family Game Nights every year, which we think are unforgettable for everybody.

Family Game Nights give students and parents the opportunity to test out some of today’s most popular games without having to purchase them while wondering if they will even enjoy them. It also brings together many families and helps our local PTA grow relationships in the community as everyone takes turns, shares, and plays games with each other. These game nights also help parents understand and support what their children are doing at school.

Our tradition of hosting these game nights made Cedargrove PTA a great candidate to host a National PTA STEM + Families ThinkFun Family Game Night. Our PTA already had a team in place to coordinate with the school staff. Our librarian organized and marketed the event, a PTA volunteer made flyers to send home and to post on the school boards, and the principal added the game night event to the school’s marquee and made calls. We posted on the school website and on the PTA Facebook page, had a PTA Newsletter “Charger Chat” to advertise the event and had teachers send letters to parents reminding them how important it is for students to attend Family Game Night events.

To get familiar with the new ThinkFun games we were going to play at our event, we first had a ThinkFun game activity with our Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students to test out the games and get feedback. This experience gave us the idea to reach out to the local high school students to see if they could volunteer as facilitators during our event—giving them community service hours, too.

The night of the event, our PTA, librarian, and teachers set up tables to do hands-on math, reading, and  science activities. We had 14 stations with each game labeled. When students entered, they had to sign to get a passport. They also got a raffle ticket for a chance to win some incredible prizes and if they completed their passports, they got another raffle ticket.

Being welcoming and inclusive is an important value within our PTA; everybody is welcome to attend our events! We were so happy that parents, grandparents, tutors, teachers, and students all showed up. Attendance for this event was significantly higher because we added new games and gave away some amazing prizes courtesy of ThinkFun.

We always ask for donations to sponsor our Family Nights because our budget for these events is small. Asking for community donations is also a great way for us to build our PTA’s reputation in the community—local businesses are now aware that we host these Family Game Nights and can help us spread the word.

Family Game Nights are great opportunity to increase your PTA’s membership too. We set up a membership table at each event with useful information about how our PTA is contributing to the school. We also gave away a few small prizes for just the parents who joined PTA that night.

Our ThinkFun Family Game Night turned out to be an amazing event where every member of the family was able to bond together while playing STEM board games.

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Continue reading the series here:

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Creating Lasting Memories with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

Parents and Kids Join Forces with STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

About the Guest Contributor, Yesy Reyes: Yesy Reyes is the PTA President at Cedargrove Elementary School in Covina, California.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.