AAfter conferring with colleagues, I am now more confident in trying new ideas of helping my students' parents become more involved in the process of steering more of my students into pathways in STEM. From my colleagues, I received several creative examples of how to overcome the challenges our school faces in drawing in more parent involvement. Besides my plan to build upon our school's first ever Family STEM Night from last year, my colleagues recommended creating more opportunities for our students to interact with their parents in STEM by having my students perform basic experiments and STEM demos at home with their families and documenting the experiences with photos or video in Google Classroom. This could also become a regular routine since it continues to be a challenge to get our parents to come to our school for events. Another way to strengthen the home-school STEM connection and interaction with STEM between my students and their parents includes a series of scavenger hunt activities at the local museums and parks. My colleagues offered to help me create these activities by also including Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies performance standards in them. One of my colleague's recommendations really resonated with me. He said, "you have to make sure you advertise your Imagine-It effectively. Since you already inform them of the reality of STEM careers being higher paying and in more demand, try having the students create a model of a huge check for $100,000 that is predated for 8-10 years into the future and making a big poster of it as an advertisement!" Our school is proud to serve a student body whose families are all considered living below the poverty line, and also having the highest number of families currently residing in homeless shelters of any school in CPS. That is one of my Imagnine-It's main goals, to use these economic realities as a motivator for more of my students, with the support of their parents, to take STEM more seriously as a future career option and begin laying the foundation for that to happen!
I met with a focus group of students to elicit their ideas as well. I chose 10 eighth graders since I have known them for over 2 years now. After explaining my ImagineIT's main purpose of encouraging more students to pursue a path towards STEM and drawing in more parent involvement in the process, my students gave me some creative and excellent ideas to consider. They mentioned that I should implement hands-on lab investigations more often, such as at least 3 days a week, and lay off the text-based instruction some. Several students said this, combined with integration of more technology such as computer coding and robotics, would entice more kids to get excited about about STEM, especially students who find reading difficult but have a knack for tinkering. They said they have really enjoyed and benefited from me having more guest STEM professionals come into our classroom this year, such as engineering students and medical students from Northwestern University. When speaking of how to bring parents more into the process, they said too that a series of workshops where the parents can do experiments with the students would be helpful. One student said his mom, who does not speak English, would benefit because it would provide a context for his mom to practice her English skills together with other parents and that she is always asking him about technology. I plan to try this, coupled with the idea of sending home experiment kits for students to work together with their families as the students agreed that my colleague's recommendation will be fun!