Imagine this, if you can:
A cafeteria full of people of all ages, from a few months to 70-plus years.
People exploring and experimenting–looking through microscopes, testing buoyancy, building and testing rockets and catapults, testing reaction time, twirling pennies, creating layered water, recording genetics information (just to name a few).
Everyone wearing a broad smile and simply having fun.
What you’re picturing actually happened last week. The occasion was the first STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Family Fun Night at Winooski Middle and High School. Over 300 people showed up to explore what it’s like to learn science by doing science. Starting with a free dinner, from Namaste Deli, Donny’s Pizza, and Subway, and culminating with a much anticipated Egg Drop competition, Family Fun Night was a local version of a mini-hands-on-science museum for our community.
This all started with the idea that our families are often not well connected with what happens during the school day. Many of our parents have spent very little or no time in science classes throughout their lives. Even for those who have, chances are pretty good that today’s emphasis on hands-on, inquiry-based science is very different than how they learned in their younger years.
With the new Next Generation Science Standards, as well as the new WHS Graduate Expectations, our students are all well on their way down the path of using the Science and Engineering Practices as a way to do science and thereby learn science.
As part of our Partner Teacher work, supported by the Partnership for Change, WMHS science teachers have been busy working these documents into descriptors and rubrics that our students can use to guide their own learning. A central part of the idea of the Science and Engineering Practices is that these not only define a set of learning goals, they also describe the process through which students can best learn science. It’s by experiencing the challenges of rigorous inquiry that students can best learn how to shape a quality investigation, or how to use data in a disciplined way to provide evidence to explain phenomena.
So, STEM Family Fun Night was designed to allow parents to experience the hands-on challenges, to ask real scientific questions, and to feel the joy of figuring something out. Students and parents alike experienced a little bit of the secret known by those who work in the field: science really can be fun.
For more information about the STEM Family Fun Night, or our WHS science partner teacher work, contact Nancy Keller at gro.s1505965285loohc1505965285sdsw@1505965285relle1505965285kn1505965285, Steve Crowley at gro.s1505965285loohc1505965285sdsw@1505965285yelwo1505965285rcs1505965285, or Shannon Bundy at gro.s1505965285loohc1505965285sdsw@1505965285ydnub1505965285s1505965285.