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.

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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!

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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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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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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.

 

 

Family Game Night, Anyone? 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.

 

Curtsinger Elementary School PTA had a problem. We wanted to give our families bonding time and grow our membership, but it was becoming harder to grab families’ attention for evening programs. So, we sent out a quick survey to our families. We discovered a desire for more info about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But how could we make that fun for kids? The National PTA had the answer. We saw an opportunity for a ThinkFun Game Night grant, so we applied and thankfully received 48 games.

Our local PTA members got together with the school librarian and counselor and came up with a plan to cater to all our students, Kindergarten to fifth-grade. To entice more families to come, we announced six STEM game giveaways. Then, our counselor contacted the high school to recruit student volunteers to help facilitate the game stations. We divided the gym into sections and created game stations for each grade level. We were ready to have some good old-fashioned fun.

Or so we thought! We had such an overwhelming turnout that the librarian had to provide additional board games to ensure that all students were engaged. We were so pleased to give our families the STEM programming they desperately wanted.

As the night progressed, it was a little chaotic with most of us not knowing how to play the new games, but thankfully we had several math and science teachers there playing and learning the games with students. In the end it was perfect, because we gave all the games to the library and the teachers could check out the games at any point throughout the rest of the year.

One of the teachers stated, “I cannot say enough great things about the programs you bring to our school. I can tell that you put a lot of thought into the programs, making sure that they are educational, yet fun, and most of all engaging for the students.”

In addition to the ThinkFun Family Game Night programming, we were also able to incorporate a parent education night during the event. Our guest speaker gave us practical tools to handle the stresses in today’s society and upcoming standardized tests. We had a great response from parents saying they had no idea they were adding stress to their kiddos and they were grateful for the tips and words of encouragement.

So, this all being said, get creative with your event! This didn’t cost us a dime! Will we do another Game Night? Absolutely! This year we are adding a sponsor from our community that has fun coding games for the kids. If you’re going big…why not have real Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots?

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About the Guest Contributor, Aliina Plunk: Aliina Plunk is the PTA President at Curtsinger Elementary School in Frisco, 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.

March2Success: FREE College Test Prep + More

High school students have a lot on their plates these days. Having to re-take an SAT or ACT test due to a low score shouldn’t be one of them. March2Success, a free online, interactive program created to enhance ACT, SAT and standardized test performance can help better prepare your students for important exams. From high school science, math and verbal skills to college readiness and planning tips, this online resource has the tools and information students need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

The U.S. Army-sponsored March2Success program features curriculum designed by Peterson’s and the College Options Foundation. It offers a full prep course for the ACT and SAT to complement ACT and SAT full-length practice tests and provides cutting-edge assessment capabilities and education content in an easy-to-use, self-paced format that is available 24/7. In addition to practice tests, March2Success offers a variety of study materials such as flashcards, lessons and interactive video games to make the program user friendly for many learning styles.

For students interested in a career in healthcare, March2Success recently added full-length practice tests for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and several nursing tests, making March2Success an even more valuable resource for students.

Also new this year, March2Success now offers health and wellness resources to improve the health and fitness of students and their families. The Army’s Performance Triad focuses on creating and sustaining healthy behaviors of sleep, activity and nutrition; because peak mental performance, just like optimal physical performance, is important to the U.S. Army and our nation.

Parents and teachers can use March2Success to monitor students’ progress toward their goals, view frequency of site use, and have the option to manage their students as individuals or groups. Teachers can conveniently group students by the classes they teach, grade levels or student needs.

The U.S. Army is fully committed to strengthening the education resources for our Nation’s youth and this program is the first step.  Using March2Success requires no obligation to the U.S. Army. To start using March2Success, visit march2success.com or watch this video to learn more.


Jose A. “Tony” Castillo is Education Chief for U. S. Army Recruiting Command.  In his role he oversees several outreach initiatives and promotes Army education resources designed to help young people explore various career paths and succeed in their post-secondary future – as professionals and as citizens.

STEM Nights Bring Families and Experts Together to Learn about Science

Just like children don’t stop learning when the final bell rings, great teaching doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. Across the country, teachers, parents, and community members are coming together more and more frequently to host STEM nights to get families thinking about science, technology, engineering and math through interactive, hands-on, engaging activities.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is proud to support many dedicated teachers who plan and lead STEM nights at their schools. Michelle Estrada, a kindergarten teacher at Desert Hills Elementary in Las Cruses, N.M. has been hosting STEM nights in her community for seven years.

She is a recipient of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the nation’s highest honors for K-12 STEM teachers, which NSF administers on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

As a Presidential Awardee in 2010, Michelle was invited to Washington, D.C., to take part in the National Recognition Events, received a signed certificate from the President and left with a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. When she returned to New Mexico, her experience as an awardee motivated her to continue to improve her teaching, seek out new resources for her students, and engage her local community in more collaborative and effective ways than ever before.

Sensational Science Night

In 2009, Michelle applied for the Toyota Tapestry grant,  a partnership between Toyota and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) that provided annual grants to science teachers across the United States. Her proposal focused on the Rio Grande, which cuts right through Las Cruces, less than ten miles away from Desert Hills Elementary. She planned a collaborative and immersive series of events for her kindergarten class composed of field experiences, hands-on activities, demonstrations by local scientists and community educators, inquiry-based experiments, and a variety of cross-curricular studies. She was awarded $10,000 to fund her project, and Sensational Science Night was born.

At the first Sensational Science Night, 30 expert-volunteers from the community came to share their knowledge and inspire students and parents to be more curious about science. Since then, the event has more than tripled in size: in 2016, 30 organizations were represented by over 100 expert-volunteers, and more than 400 participants flooded the halls of Desert Hills Elementary. They all spent their evening exploring, designing, and thinking critically with one another.

STEM Nights are unparalleled opportunities to engage the community with the local—or even national—scientific community, and let students know what it looks like to be a scientist in practice. At Michelle’s event, students were able to interact with pharmaceutical students from the University of New Mexico, chemical engineering students from New Mexico State University, local museum curators with displays from their traveling collections, local firefighters teaching fire safety and fire science, and a local Astronomy organization which provided telescopes for student use.

The National Honor Society chapter of a local high school took over an entire wing of the school and facilitated hands-on activities, launching paper rockets, creating bouncy balls and making ice cream in a bag. Michelle didn’t stop at inviting the local science community—she invited local food trucks which offered dinner options on the school grounds, donating a percentage of their sales to fund scholarships for Camp Invention, a STEM summer program at Desert Hills Elementary.

Over the years, Michelle says the name of the event has changed to keep up with its popularity. Once Sensational Science Night, the moniker shifted to Sensational STEM Night, and this year morphed again into Magnificent Sensational STEAM Night (reflecting her decision to include the arts). We’re excited to see what it will be called in 2018.

To learn about how you can honor great teachers in your community with a PAEMST nomination, please visit our website at paemst.org. Nominations for K-6 grade STEM teachers are currently open.

For resources on how to host a STEM night at your school, check out National PTA’s new STEM + Families webpage.

Dr. Nafeesa H. Owens is a Program Director of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Program Lead at the National Science Foundation.

Mathnasium + PTA: Helping Your Child Succeed

 becky-mcdaniels-image-with-a

(Sponsored Post) 

Across the nation, Mathnasium’s neighborhood math experts are working with PTA’s parent leaders toward a common goal—building stronger communities through quality education! Becky McDaniels, owner of Mathnasium of Brandon, Fla.—and a dedicated PTA member for over two decades—is a great example of this collaboration.

“PTA does so much for teachers and schools, and I wanted to be a part of it and make a difference,” Becky recalled.

As a mom and former teacher at public, private and charter schools, Becky’s worn many a PTA hat. She’s served on her local unit’s board, penned newsletters, driven fundraising initiatives from the ground level, bridged the gap between parents and educators as teacher liaison and served on event committees.

Mathnasium’s collaboration with National PTA through the STEM + Families initiative provided yet another avenue for Becky to show support once her children left school and she transitioned out of classroom teaching.

Now a business owner and STEM advocate, Becky’s math expertise takes center stage. Whether she’s presenting at PTA meetings, engaging families through fun in-school math nights or contributing to fundraising efforts, Becky’s clearly in her element. Many years after her first PTA meeting, she still finds it incredibly fulfilling to see a large scale project come to fruition and glows happily with every “thank you” she receives.

Colleen Horan Green, PTSA vice president at Randall Middle School, offered one such “thank you” to Becky. “Mathnasium of Brandon sought us out and became actively involved in supporting our events,” Colleen recalled.

“Now we are working together to create a seminar to help parents like me support our children in seventh-grade math. As a PTSA member, I’m looking at our common goals and filling the needs with Mathnasium.”

“The fact that Mathnasium exists is wonderful,” Colleen added. “They provide so many resources at any level, work in tandem with the curriculum, reach out to teachers and help us better serve our students. It’s more than just a partnership; they really do go above and beyond to understand needs at every school.”

For Becky and her team, the future brings more school sponsorships and fundraising as they host the Mathnasium TriMathlon the weekend of November 5 and 6. Mathnasium donates money to schools for every student who participates in this fun, free math competition. Find the event nearest you and help raise funds for your PTA!


Damaris Candano-Hodas is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mathnasium Learning Centers.

Mathnasium is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA and was invited to contribute a blog post as a benefit of this relationship. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of Mathnasium is implied. Learn more at PTA.org/Sponsors.

#PTA4STEM Thought Leaders Meeting

stem meetingOn March 22, National PTA and Bayer USA Foundation convened industry leaders, educators, association and corporate executives, government officials and family engagement researchers to launch National PTA’s STEM Initiative.

STEM has been a hot topic in education over the past few years. Nearly 8.6 million science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs represented 6.2 percent of U.S. employment in May 2015. In addition, the Administration has made significant strides to close the access and equity gaps in STEM education.

So what does this mean for us and your local PTAs? Family engagement is essential to strengthen STEM education and help all children realize their fullest potential, and we are here to support student success in STEM. National PTA’s STEM Initiative aims to model what effective family engagement looks like in STEM by engaging entire families in STEM activities.

A recent survey commissioned by Bayer underscores the importance of family engagement to STEM education. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Parents are most likely to say that they play the biggest role in stimulating their child’s interest in science (46%), followed closely by teachers (44%).
  • Nearly one-third (31%) of parents don’t feel confident enough in their scientific knowledge to help their children engage in hands-on science activities.
  • Almost one-third (32%) of teachers say parent support or involvement at home would be most helpful in increasing hands-on science learning experiences.

The STEM Thought Leaders Meeting was filled with innovation and excitement—participants broke out into groups and brainstormed on the concept of “What is STEM?” and talked about effective family engagement STEM practices at school.

What does family engagement in STEM look like for you? Comment below. Check out our Storify and presentation to see what happened at STEM Thought Leaders event.

How Robots are Teaching STEM to a New Generation

STEM(Sponsored Post)

When it comes to getting kids interested in STEM learning, there’s one word that works every time—robots.

In fact, the potential for robots is so promising to help draw student interest in STEM, that robots have been given their own week. This year, April 2-10 is National Robotics Week, which in addition to celebrating the U.S. as a global robotics leader, is raising awareness among educators, parents and children about the benefits of incorporating a robotics curriculum.

And while the idea of using robots in the classroom may have seem farfetched a few years ago, a growing number of affordable robot kits for students are entering the market. This makes robots a more realistic option for many schools and educational programs.

Here at the Sylvan Learning Center I oversee in Lafayette, La., we started offering two levels of robotics classes for grades 2-4 and 4-6 in 2014, shortly after Sylvan added the concept in its national curriculum.

The robots are so popular that it’s often difficult to get students to stop working on them once class is over. And while they are fun for the kids, they are truly educational. Designing and building programmable robots bring to life math, physics and engineering concepts.

Students as young as 7 are introduced to the amazing world of robotics by building and programming robots and engaging in friendly competitions using LEGO® bricks and award-winning software. Once a concept is introduced, the students begin to create and program complex robots with friends while learning problem-solving skills and engineering concepts. Kids are soon making calculations and gaining exposure to computational thinking on their own accord. They’re also learning programming skills as they command their bots to move!

The robots can be designed in the form of familiar objects such as animals, people and vehicles as well as more abstract concepts purpose-built for the task.

We find this engagement really encourages students who may have otherwise previously been intimidated or uninterested in STEM subjects. Given the tremendous educational and career opportunities that will be available to these children as they grow older, it is critical we use all the tools we have in order to reach them.

Sylvan is a financial sponsor of PTA as Member Benefit Provider.


Christy Sharon, a former grade school and high school teacher, has been executive director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Lafayette, La. since 1997.