After COVID, we wanted an opportunity for the families in our three elementary schools to feel welcomed, excited. Adding to that, our student base has been changing. A big corporation had built a plant nearby and this has led to a change in demographics. We wanted these families, and all our families and students to feel welcomed and see themselves in our school.
Family STEAM Night was for families with children in grades K - 4th and was organized by creative stations that filled the main hallway and the gym. Adding to the celebration was a resource fair for parents. A wide variety of outside vendors from nearby counties acquainted families with many of the family oriented businesses in the surrounding areas. Adding still to the line-up were popular regional outreach educators like the Carnegie Science Center and the Moonshot Museum.
There were many options for families to play and learn together, all the while having the chance to connect with a parent or one of the former Hopewell students who were heading up an activity station. Despite the STEAM focus, it was a tech free night. It was all about fun hands on learning.
Importantly, building upon the relaxed and fun atmosphere of the evening, the group of teachers who attended worked with and visited with families to help build or re-establish a parent-school connection.
Seeing that our Family STEAM Night format had been successful and had helped parents see the creativity of STEAM learning, we wanted to bring attention to our arts programming. We staged this event in a bigger space and included the drama department, numerous arts and crafts stations and added a magician and a balloon artist for the novelty.
In terms of further spread, the important learning for our team is that we have a process for exploring what it is our families want and need. Whatever we try leads to more insights and to greater willingness to try different ways to connect.
The planning has to be done systematically, especially when outside vendors and educators are desired participants. We also learned it was very important to be really thoughtful in planning the activities. Look through the lens of every child participating in the event to make sure every child will feel connected. This also increases the likelihood that parents will be satisfied and engaged.