As an educator, your communication and modeling with families and caregivers can open up long-term pathways to STEM interest — more than just the short time children take part in your afterschool program. Consider three types of caregiver supports: conversation starters, extension activities, and personalized caregiver-educator conversations.
Conversations between family members and children support children’s learning across all content areas. Conversation is a simple tool available for all caregivers to use. Did you know that when children and parents talk and reminisce about their STEM explorations, it actually improves learners’ learning and long-term memory of concepts. Some ways to encourage caregiver-child conversations include:
Provide at-home ideas for families to extend the learning linked to your afterschool STEM lessons. The aim is to send playful and simple ideas that spark family interest in doing math, science, and tinkering together.
Parents and primary caregivers play a key role in explaining the value of STEM and setting positive expectations that their child can succeed in STEM.
Family engagement usually begins with personalized conversations in which educators encourage families and caregivers to extend STEM learning. This may include:
Some caregivers may hold false beliefs about STEM. If you hear parent misconceptions, graciously explain why it is not true. For example:
Children are more likely to succeed in STEM and even select STEM-related careers when their families model that STEM is interesting, valuable, and hold high expectations of their child’s STEM abilities.
Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2018). Myths of early math. Education Sciences, 8(2), 71.
Pagano, L. C., Haden, C. A., & Uttal, D. H. (2020). Museum program design supports parent–child engineering talk during tinkering and reminiscing. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 200, 104944.
Van Tuijl, C., & van der Molen, J. H. W. (2016). Study choice and career development in STEM fields: an overview and integration of the research. International journal of technology and design education, 26(2), 159-183.
Walsh, B. (2018, February 14). The brain-changing power of conversation. Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/02/brain-changing-power-conversation