STEAM activities are an educational goldmine these days, and schools across the country are finding innovative ways to incorporate STEAM within their buildings. There are multitudes of Pinterest activities, websites, articles, and books on this very topic. My school decided that a fun way to utilize STEAM activities—and teach families about STEAM—would be through a family night. This event would let students and their parents work together, build, play, and learn.
We started by setting up a small committee of teachers who would plan the event. The committee decided to use three activities in three different parts of the building, and asked staff to sign up to work at the stations. The committee did the work of gathering materials for each station, which would be run by staff with committee members circulating to help make sure things were running smoothly. All three stations were fairly simple, so preparation was done after school before our STEAM night began. Most of the materials used were supplies we had in stock in our building, thus making the event rather inexpensive.
Prior to the STEAM night, we made sure to advertise the event. It was the first event like this that we’d hosted, so we posted in our newsletter, sent out notes, and even advertised on our marquee. In addition, the teachers all talked it up to our students, which helped build up quite a bit of excitement.
Family-Friendly STEAM Activities
As students and parents arrived, we had a greeter at our front door telling them where each activity would be held. In our gym, we had a LEGO® activity called Sledding Ramp—families were given LEGO blocks, one piece of card stock, scissors, and tape for this activity. They had to build a ramp, then run a toy car down the ramp to see how far the car could go. Since our evening was short (from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.), that was all we had time for with this activity. In a classroom setting, students could use estimation and other math skills to reflect on what had gone well or gone wrong. Thus, a simple activity could turn into a meaningful, cross-curricular lesson.
Our second activity was hosted in our activity room. This activity was called STEAM Snowman Stretch, and the goal was to take one piece of paper and make the tallest snowman possible using tape and scissors. Families tried many different approaches to making the tallest snowman, and after we measured their final products, we asked that they record their results on a chart. No prizes were given, as the chart was meant to be a learning tool, and each family enjoyed seeing how other families had done.
Our last activity, called Go Long, was held in the cafeteria. The idea was to take a paper plate and cut the plate using scissors to make the longest strip of paper possible. This was simple, but so much fun. Families enjoyed strategizing, cutting, then measuring their creation. After this activity, we also had families log their results. Again, if used in the classroom, students could be asked to estimate, measure, or even create a graph using the data.
An All-Around STEAM Success
My school is small, with only around 186 kids from preschool through fourth grade. For a small school, we felt that we had a great turnout—especially considering that this was our first time hosting a STEAM night. 18 families (many with multiple students, both older and younger) attended. It was a fun night for teachers and families alike, and afterwards, we received lots of great feedback from parents.
As you can see, our STEAM night didn’t take a lot of time, money, or manpower to put together. The benefits of this event—the hands-on activities, child-parent time together, strategizing and thinking outside of the box, and even just the act of getting on the floor and building—impacted all involved, even the teachers who were watching and assisting. I’d really encourage you to try a STEAM night at your school and think you’ll be very happy with the results!
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