Students need passionate educators – and teachers need engaged parents in STEM education – for children to succeed.

Students might excel in their STEM studies and, perhaps, they enjoy the coursework. Though all signs of excellence might be high, the likelihood of students rising to the next level without parental interest is lower than those who have the support of parents in STEM education. The following STEM Jobs tips are designed to help engage parents in STEM education.

Parents in STEM Education

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Introduce the Theory of Growth Mindset

In past articles, STEM Jobs has emphasized the concept of developing a growth mindset. Carol Dweck’s method of experiential learning and embracing errors as tools for growth is not easily implemented when children come from homes in which parents employ a fixed mindset. If parents reinforce the idea that children embody a fixed skill set that leads toward a particular path, teachers should help build an understanding that talent is not predetermined, but honed through training and practice.

Show Them the Non-Scientific Side of STEM

STEM education has a reputation for leading to careers that require lab-coat-clad scientists be locked away for days conducting research. While there is nothing wrong with a child who wants to spend their career experimenting in the lab, there is much more to STEM than the preconceived idea of a reclusive genius, which many parents envision. By making these careers attractive to parents in STEM education, teachers can successfully engage entire families. Hold a career day and, rather than inviting parents to discuss their careers, ask STEM specialists from a variety of fields to visit your class. Ask students to invite parents to sit with them and learn together while professionals in fascinating fields, such as urban planning, animation, the arts, and marine sciences reveal how a strong STEM, or STEAM, foundation led to career success.

Assign Family Projects Beyond the Science Fair

Speaking of introducing parents to the STEM classroom, why not take engagement a step further? Sure, many parents feel the stress of a child’s annual science project. Some will go so far as to take control of the entire task and complete it quickly, simply to finish the assignment and move onto activities they feel are more important. It’s clear this method teaches nothing except how to take the easy route and complete tasks to simply pass a class. Try assigning STEM-based projects more often and engage parents by requiring family participation. In 2006, Tara Chklovski launched Iridescent, an education organization that trains teachers, scientists, and parents in STEM education. The project has successfully increased family engagement in STEM classrooms.

Parents in STEM Education

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Get Them on the STEM Trail

Gather the email addresses of parents and begin a regularly scheduled e-newsletter campaign specifically focused on providing updates regarding their child’s class and tips encouraging participation as parents in STEM education. Divide the newsletter into sections, such as STEM-based class news (including exam dates and project assignments), national and global STEM news, STEM events that families can attend together, STEM competitions, and toys or tools that encourage STEM growth. The success of this tactic will depend upon consistency and parent interest. Deploy newsletters at regular intervals, whether it’s weekly or monthly. Invite parents to provide feedback and ask questions, setting a tone of interest and accessibility.

Before employing any of the above methods, recognize that family dynamics differ according to each situation. Be flexible! Guardians might work unconventional hours, attend school and have a job, and they might be a grandparent or other family member. Work together to decide how to best help each individual child.

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