Have you found yourself the unexpected parent-teacher? Not really home-schooling, not really teaching, but somehow responsible for your child’s education? Welcome to our current reality, a bit surreal; even for the seasoned educator, this is something new. No one knows what to expect; all we do know is that right now our lives are very different. In all this confusion we need to create some semblance of normalcy, consistency and control for our children. Our schools and teachers have been working overtime to try to figure out how to continue to provide a stable education plan. Our communities have been working overtime to figure out how to continue to provide a more stable world. And as parents, many of us have to readjust every aspect of our lives to meet the needs of this unprecedented time. There isn’t one easy answer, but we can try to figure it out together. I was once recommended a book by my supervisor which led me to the idea that I am a connector. Be it people, organizations or ideas, my strength lies in being able to make connections to help others. I’m hoping that I can use that ability to help the unexpected parent-teacher in their new journey.
I’m not a flowery writer, I don’t have the patience for that. So, let me get straight to the point. My goal, at least for now, is to provide parents with resources and ideas to help them navigate involvement in their children’s day-to-day education. While teachers are working hard to provide materials for their classes, my hope is to alleviate some of that parent stress of “Ummm…what else am I supposed to do?” and maybe even have some fun along the way.
Below you will find a list of a few STEAM resources and an idea for a fun activity. My plan is to continue to post resources and activity ideas in manageable chunks that parents can easily use.
- NASA “STEM Activities for Families”: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/stem-activities-for-families/
- The United States Geological Survey is planning 8 weeks of learning resources for all ages, to be updated every Tuesday titled “USGS Learning From Home”: https://www.usgs.gov/science-support/osqi/yes/resources-teachers/learning-home#
- The National Gallery of Art app titled “The NGAkids Art Zone”: https://www.nga.gov/education/kids/kids-app.html
- Code.org is posting “Take a Code Break,” a weekly webcast on Wednesdays: https://code.org/break
- Calculation Nation is an online math strategy games created by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM): http://calculationnation.nctm.org/
- The Home Depot has project guides for kids: https://www.homedepot.com/c/ah/summer-projects-for-kids/9ba683603be9fa5395fab9096b7500b
Activity idea: Design your own board game
Who said we can’t make a game out of learning? This activity can be as involved or as simple as you wish, and can be adapted to multiple age/ability levels.
How to start: Tell your child/children that they are responsible for designing a board game for the entire family to play! They are in charge; the only requirements are that 1) the game focuses on a STEM topic, 2) they make up rules the entire family can follow and 3) they use materials they find in the house.
What to do next: Have your child/children start brainstorming and building their game. The idea is to have them take the lead. If they get stuck, you can use the questions below to kick-start the process:
- What is your STEM topic?
- What is the goal of your game?
- How are you going to build the game? What materials are you going to use?
- What is your game going to look like?
The toughest part about this activity, and all the activities I’m going to post, is that as a parent, your role here is to step back and let the kids work it out. If you think an idea may not work as planned, or if something else may work better, resist the urge to get involved. As long as your children are safe, let them be in charge. And if they ask a question, a great answer would be, “That’s a great question. I’m not sure. How do you think we can figure it out?” This is a chance for them to use those wonderful brains of theirs and make something completely their own. Their success is in the attempt, not in a perfect result. Let them fail, the fun is in trying… and fixing… and fixing again…
Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?
- Writing: Write out the instructions. Make sure they will make sense to someone who has never seen the game before.
- Science: Is there a way to connect your idea to a(nother) science topic area? Or can you delve deeper into the topic?
- Technology: How can you use technology to build the game? How can you add technology as part of the game? What technology would you need to mass-produce the game?
- Engineering: Did you just build the game or did you design it first? What tools did you use? What other tools could you have used?
- Art: Make sure the game board and pieces are visually appealing. What colors are you using and why? Do you have a theme? A logo?
- Mathematics: What are the measurements and shape of the game board? The pieces? Do the pieces need to fit together in some way? If so, how?
Well there you have it, my first post. I hope it was helpful. If you liked it, pass it on!
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