There are increasing conversations surrounding the need for schools to provide more rigorous education in science and math in order to produce graduates ready to meet the workforce demand of the 21st century workplace. As schools assess their programs and begin to implement a more STEM focused curriculum, there are two needs that come to mind when considering how we can prepare students to not only engage in STEM, but once there, stay interested.
- The first critical need is for a stronger emphasis on engaging students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training earlier in their school career.
- The second need is to engage parents in the STEM discussion.
It goes without saying that parents play a significant role in engaging and sharing the excitement concerning school with their children. As schools approach the conversations about STEM education and career possibilities, it is critical that schools engage parents in the conversation.
So, what are the steps in taking this proactive approach for engaging parents in STEM discussion?
In the Rochester City School District, Nathaniel Rochester Community School #3 will begin engaging parents in the STEM discussion this October through a program that was developed by STEM Specialist, Peter Mastrogiovanni. The K-2 STEM Parent Academy, offered to the parents of kindergarten, first and second graders will be held once a month at NRCS to inform and increase parent knowledge of STEM, while engaging parents in hands-on and minds-on STEM based experiences. The K-2 STEM Parent Academy is a combination of the Math and Science Parent Academy, Mr. Mastrogiovanni originally developed as the Math Instructional Coach at Henry W. Longfellow School #36 in 2008.
Focusing on the parents of K-2 students is purposeful. For K-2 children, the world revolving around them is full of wonder and discovery. Children in the primary years are extremely curious about how the world works. They continuously ask “WHY?” as they try to satisfy their insatiable curiosity. According to Mr. Mastrogiovanni, “This is the time we want parents to feel comfortable having conversations and supporting discovery with their child about how and why things work in the world the way they do.”
Capturing students and engaging them in STEM experiences begins the development of critical inquiry skills for a child in the early stages of his or her life. The K-2 STEM Parent Academy introduces parents to the STEM approach and begins giving parents the tools necessary to prepare them to be an important part of the process that helps their children learn how to find answers for themselves with parental guidance.
Additionally, conversations in the K-2 STEM Parent Academy will allow parents the opportunity to share experiences and fears while building support for each other through STEM based hands-on activities that once experienced, will be taken home to be complete with their child.
In addition to the work they are doing with parents in the classroom, the program recently launched a STEM website that includes a page just for parents.
You can contact Peter with any questions about the parent academy at Peter.Mastrogiovanni@rcsdk12.org
Peter Mastrogiovanni is a STEM Specialist at the Nathaniel Rochester Community School, part of the Rochester City School District.