STEM Night: A Dynamic Approach to Building Family Engagement
Traditional open houses are great but at Momentous School, we decided that we could do more with this precious time with families. We focus on family involvement at Momentous School. We look at this two ways – within family engagement and between families engagement. Within family engagement means that we work with a family to help strengthen the parents’ role in their child’s development. Research shows us that this type of engagement enhances a child’s success in school.
Between families engagement means that all of the families in our school are connected. Parents are part of a strong support system that grows each year that their children are enrolled in the school. Connections among families help to strengthen parents and students’ sense of belonging in the school community, which in turn helps students to be more engaged in learning at school.
So how did we take what we know to be true about family engagement and connect it with STEM? We took our traditional open house and flipped it. Instead of parents sitting in their child’s classroom and learning from their teacher, we engaged them by learning side by side. Thus, STEM night was born.
Our first year, we focused on demystifying engineering. The longitudinal research we conduct on our students tells us that they’re taking lots of STEM classes in middle school and high school – in fact, over half of our former students are taking Pre-AP or AP courses in Math and Sciences. We embrace that STEM fields are growing and that our students will be presented more and more opportunities for STEM courses as they continue through school. So we felt like we couldn’t miss this chance to make STEM really come alive for them and their families!
On STEM nights, we bring families together with the goal of doing one activity with a focus on Math, Engineering, or Science. All of the families start together in our auditorium working on a table top activity, like building a spaghetti tower, to warm everyone up and challenge them to engage. Then we move into classrooms and the fun really begins! Families actively participate to solve a problem. We’ve had families design a prototype bike helmet to protect an egg that was dropped off a ladder. One time they designed and built a prosthetic hand to pick up objects. Another time, following our city’s plastic bag ordinance, families were challenged to design a grocery bag from a T-shirt. The students presented their research on usage of plastic bags and the cost a family would save by switching to reusable bags, as well as plastic’s effect on our waterways.
During STEM night, everyone works together to plan, execute, fail, redesign, rethink, re-execute, and persist until they come up with an approach that works. Walking through our school on STEM night is the most fun open house event you’ll ever witness! The families work together, team up, laugh and learn together.
We changed our point of view about what an open house could be. We decided that our school is a hub of learning for our kids during the day, and it should do the same for our families on STEM night. STEM night has made an incredible impact on both types of parent engagement – within and between families – and has made STEM so much fun. We’re already looking forward to our next event on November 12 at 6:00 PM! We would love to have you join us to see the magic for yourself!
If you would like to come to our November STEM night, or if you have questions about how to implement a STEM night in your school, contact Sandy Nobles, Director of Education, at Momentous Institute.The institution is owned and operated by Salesmanship Club of Dallas, who has been building and repairing social emotional health in children for over 95 years.
Since 1968, the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament has been its primary fundraiser. The organization serves 6,000 children and family members each year through Therapeutic Services and Momentous School. Building on this direct work with kids and families, the organization invests in training and research, and shares strategies nationwide to reach far more children than could ever be served directly. In hopes of infusing new, exciting ideas throughout the community.
Momentous Institute hosts its annual Changing the Odds conference for educators, mental health professionals and decision makers. The combined support of Salesmanship Club of Dallas, the AT&T Byron Nelson, corporations, individuals and foundations enables these efforts and truly changes the odds for kids in our community and beyond.
A veteran educator and dynamic speaker, Sandy Nobles is a dedicated proponent of urban education. With over 20 years of teaching experience and 15 years as a Principal, Nobles currently serves as Director of Education for Momentous Institute, powered by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. Momentous Institute is a large nonprofit with a 90 year history of building and repairing social emotional health with children and their families so they can achieve their full potential.
Sandy received her B.S. from Southern Methodist University and her M.Ed. and Principal Certification from Texas A&M-Commerce. With her insight into building and sustaining successful schools, she is best known for her ability to work side-by-side with teachers to create a collaborative, results-oriented school culture. She believes in the power of strong home-school relationships and understands that collaboration with local partners enriches the entire community. At Momentous Institute, Sandy’s efforts to strengthen research have resulted in the development of effective new practices that are widely shared with other urban educators. Away from work, Sandy enjoys basket weaving, fabric design and drawing. Whenever she gets a chance, she visits her daughter who is a PhD student in the EPD Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.