Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How To Plan a Successful Family Science Night

Somehow I inherited the role of science lead teacher at my school. I have to admit at first I was just taking on the job because I was asked to and I felt I wanted to get more involved in my school. Never would I have thought that this role would become one that I feel strongest about. Two of the biggest responsibilities I have are planning a family science night and the science fair. Luckily, I attended a very helpful session at the NSTA conference, entitled "Science Rocks & Rules: A Science Family Night How To" by M. Brouwer and K. Walther. Here are some highlights from their session that I thought were helpful:

Science Vocabulary Rings
  • Start early! Never underestimate how much time it will take to plan a successful family event. Put the date on the calendar at the start of the school year. Sure it is possible to throw something together in a week or two, but it won't be the quality event it could be. When I saw what these two science teachers have accomplished at their school, I realized how much more I could be doing with our family science night.
  • Think about limiting the science night to a certain grade level. The presenters' science night was only for 4th grade students. Think about the level of participation you expect to have and decide if it is worthwhile to limit the event or just invite the whole school. Personally, it makes more sense for our school to hold a school-wide event.
  • Apply for a grant. Need funding? Think about getting a grant to fund the science night. A lot of the initial supplies you will purchase can be used over and over. Buy them the first year, store each station in a tub, and replenish each year.
  • Think about take-home items. The presenters had these cute rings (see above). When the students arrived they got a zip lock bag with a pencil, the ring, and the "Welcome to Science Family Night" card. As they went around to each activity, the collected a science vocab card that went along with that particular activity. At the end of the night each student had a ring full of scientific vocabulary words. I love this idea! If you have parent volunteers they could cut the cards ahead of time and this would be a relatively inexpensive take-home favor.
  • Think about getting help from high school or middle school students who enjoy science. Why not get volunteers to man that stations so you can be free to float around? It's best to ask for students who want to help, rather then offering extra credit or requiring students to help. I think this is a great idea because there are always students who will want to come back and help their elementary school.
  • Have a t-shirt design contest. The presenters have students design ideas for t-shirts and then sell the shirts before and after the event. What a great way to foster community excitement about this event. 
  • Brouwer & Walther's science night t-shirts!
  • Have some type of science give away. The presenters use Steve Spangler's test tube science experiments. These are pricey, but if you having funding I think it is a great idea to get kids excited about science at home. You could put them in each student's zip lock bag. Check them out here.
I love the idea of having an open-house style night with stations where student volunteers help younger students complete each activity. Here are some possible ideas for stations:

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