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STEM Family Engagement: Growing and Learning Together

By Amber Folkman and Julie Euber

For over five years, SARSEF has hosted Parent Nights at schools called Roadmap to a Rockin’ Project, an evening of exploring what interests students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and how parents can support them in their pursuits. The evening events culminate in both the students and the parents feeling ready for the science fair. As SARSEF expands and broadens its reach, family engagement has remained a key aspect of our work.

This year, SARSEF was one of 10 out-of-school-time organizations selected nationwide to partner on the Institute for the Study of Resilience in Youth (ISRY) Family Engagement and Empowerment Project. The common goal between partners, who are from 9 states and all four U.S. regions, is to learn and grow their family engagement strategies in STEM.

Science education doesn’t end at the school doors. Curiosity is a mindset children naturally possess that can be encouraged across all environments. Parents and other caregivers play an integral role in shaping children’s STEM journeys, and their expertise in what fascinates their children and how they learn is invaluable. Research has shown that how a child perceives their own math abilities is more related to their parents’ perception of the child’s math abilities than the child’s actual achievements in math. Family Engagement Nights give parents the opportunity to encourage and recognize their children’s abilities and to help build their positive associations to STEM fields.

As SARSEF creates more opportunities for STEM family engagement, we will be using ISRY’s CARE framework (Figure 1). This framework encourages programs to connect, act, reflect, and empower for a holistic, thoughtful approach to supporting families from all backgrounds.

Figure 1: The CARE Framework: Caring about Family Engagement in STEM This family engagement planning tool promotes effective and equitable family engagement in STEM (Read more in ISRY’s guide to the tool here).

At the end of the study, SARSEF will have a STEM family engagement plan informed by national research and feedback from local families. Additional insights and opportunities to get involved will be shared here on our blog.

If you are interested in learning more or helping us shape our STEM family engagement plan, reach out to SARSEF’s Director of School Engagement, Amber Folkman at amber@sarsef.org.