Involving families in early childhood science education

An elementary school PTA veteran observed to me, “If you want families to come to school, serve food or have their child take part in a performance.” This advice goes for preschool too!  Serving food makes it easier for families to participate together and seeing their child in action gives families what might be a rare look at what happens at school. Some families can come in at lunchtime—ask them to spend another 15 minutes with their child in the classroom observing the class pet, reading a book aloud, or at a science station.
Children participate in a National Science and Engineering FestivalA “Science Night” or “Science Saturday” opens a different time slot for the same purpose—to connect families to their child’s education. These social gatherings can be relatively simple, with stations such as leaf rubbings, making a seed sprouting bag to take home, spinning and comparing tops, and building castles on a piece of cardboard that won’t fall over when the “ground” shakes. Follow up the action with a pizza and fruit dinner or just an ice cream social. The Foundation for Family Science and Engineering has two publications with very detailed lists of how to prepare for a more elaborate Family Science (and/or) Engineering Night, with instructions for activities to challenge older children too. Take a look at Family Science and Family Engineering: An Activity & Event Planning Guide.
Technology allows teachers to share science learning outside of school hours with any family with access to a computer. PreK teacher Gail Laubenthal built a wiki (a website database), titled  Using the Latest Technology to Support Young Children in Science and Math for teachers to share their’ work in using technology in the classroom and to connect to families. Explore the wiki, beginning with the “Agenda” on the right side, to learn about technologies that you can use. Other teachers use school websites or blogs to connect families to school learning, such as Deborah J. Stewart’s Teach Preschool blog. 
Cover of Science and Children February 2012Are you a teacher who sends home a science activity for the student to do with family members? The data collected by each student can be put together back in the classroom to see if there are any patterns, such as, “How did family members describe the cornstarch and water mixture in the bag—as a liquid or solid?” or “What happens to light when it falls on a mirrored surface?” Read about an example activity in The Early Years column in the February 2012 Science and Children.
Or explore this list of other resources to find a take-home science activity for your class:
Exploratorium, museum of science, art and human perception, The Science Explorer excerpts
National Science Teachers Association. April 2009. Parent Involvement in Science Learning.
Questacon. Science Play: Play-based science activities for early learners. Australian Government, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Scientific American. Bring Science Home activities for families
WGBH Educational Foundation, Family Science and Math letters in English and Spanish
WGBH Educational Foundation, Neighborhood Safari
WGBH Educational Foundation, Peep in the Big Wide World Explorer’s Guide
Other articles in the February 2012 issue of Science and Children are great resources for developing a connection with families:
Science Sacks by Kimberlee Freudenberg and Lab With Dad by Brenda Havers and Karen Delmotte.
I send an email to the families of my students once a week to touch on the work their children did and invite their participation. Send a photograph or two, if you can, to entice the families to open up and read the email!

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3 Responses to Involving families in early childhood science education

  1. Thank you says:

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you really understand what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please also talk over with my website =). We can have a link change agreement between us!

  2. April Gunderson says:

    As a college student who is pursuing my dream of owning and operating a preschool and daycare I think finding ways to incorporate the parents into the classroom as much as possible very important. I also find it important to do so specifically during science based activities. As we as a country fight the battle of the tests and which classes should get pushed to the back burner to ensure we are getting high enough test scores I think it is even more important to pull the parents in. The parents are great advocates for their students, and if they realize and understand that science is not only fun, but also educational and beneficial for the students then we will have someone to help back the “fight” to allow the sciences and arts to remain in the school systems.

  3. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    I’m presenting an informational session to parents of preschoolers tonight and hope that their current enthusiasm for science education will lead to actions to support science education in the elementary schools and beyond, as their children grow up. April, in your future daycare you can model how children learn and use literacy and mathematics skills as they participate in science practices. I hope you are able to be a member of professional organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. When I was a family-home child care provider, the journals and local meetings kept me from being isolated, and supported my professional development–still do!

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