by Camille Harrison
When it comes to communicating with families about STEAM a picture is worth more than a thousand words. I can’t begin to tell you how many times a parent has emailed me or reached out asking questions like “my daughter mentioned something about building a city on an iPad” or “my son says you are playing with bees?!”
Children are not the best at communicating details. I consider myself lucky that they are even talking about what happens in my classroom at all by the time they head home. But something always gets lost in translation. To help with some of this, I started documenting whatever students were doing in my classroom each day. Then compiling the photos and sharing with classroom teachers. They send weekly newsletters that highlight the different activities students did that week. I put photos by class into a Google Drive folder that classroom teachers can then link to in their newsletter. I also include a couple bullet points with what to give a bit of context to the photos.
First grade students using Bee-Bots to practice giving directions in a sequence as part of an introduction to robotics unit.
Another way I’ve connected with families about what is happening with STEAM has been requesting material donations. I have a simple list of materials that families often recycle or throw out that are extremely useful materials to have on hand for a variety of projects. At parent night at the beginning of the year I send this list out then have a collection bin in the front of the school. So they can easily bring in and drop off on their way in each morning. The items I request include:
- toilet paper tubes
- paper towel tubes
- shoe boxes
- cereal boxes
- wine corks
Wine corks are always the most commented on item I ask for, but I always joke that no judgements are made by how many people bring in. Families are consistently amazed by the different ways students use the corks, and other materials in projects they work on.
NanoBot prototype created using a wine cork as the base for the design. Students first brainstormed a problem they have that the NanoBot could help solve, then drew a plan for what the NanoBot would look like before building. This project was inspired by the book NanoBots by Chris Gall.
The final way I’ve brought families into the STEAM world is by connecting with parents who have experience in any of the STEAM fields. During the cardboard city project with second grade students I am able to have architect, engineer, and city planners come in to share with students what their job looks like day-to-day. They provide context for some of the bigger ideas I’m trying to explain to students, and lend their expertise.
In all my experience, I’ve found the more I can share and invite people in the better the project can be. So, don’t be shy! Ask for materials, snap pictures and videos to share, and get those parents into your classroom.