As our world rapidly changes, education is evolving to equip today’s students to thrive in the world of tomorrow. Research shows that children benefit from hands-on STEAM learning, and they advance even further when their parents and other caregivers engage in learning alongside them. When a whole family can discover what STEAM is all about, good things happen.
That’s what the researchers at the Global Family Research Project (GFRP) found as they explored the impact of Remake Learning Days events on learners in the Pittsburgh region. Their data suggests that family engagement in STEAM learning makes students more likely to succeed academically, more likely to take advanced STEAM courses, and more likely to pursue STEAM-related careers.
And this parental involvement grows when schools, libraries, museums, out-of-school-time programs and all the places where children learn reach out to engage with families.
LEARNING TOGETHER WORKS
Now more than ever, parents play a wide variety of roles in their children’s educational lives. They are teachers, co-learners, partners with educators and advocates for their kids.
By participating and discovering the goals of various STEAM activities, parents and caregivers gain a solid understanding of the importance of learning concepts like problem-solving, taking initiative, incorporating multiple viewpoints and dealing with uncertainty. And as they collaborate with their kids as learning partners, parents get a chance to listen to their children and learn from them.
As this understanding of STEAM learning grows, parents can better support their children’s learning and develop even stronger parent-child relationships. But the benefits extend even beyond individual households.
First-hand experiences help parents grow a deeper commitment and pride in their schools and their community organizations. As they experience places like local libraries and museums alongside their children, they develop a deeper sense of what vital resources these places truly can be. With that knowledge, parents can then become stronger advocates for high-quality, community-based STEAM learning.
POWERFUL STEPS SUPPORT THIS PROGRESS
Remake Learning Days participants throughout Southwestern PA have been helping families develop their understanding of new ways of learning, so they can encourage their children with knowledge and confidence. Data from GFRP‘s research shows that it’s working: An increasing number of families say they’re now familiar with STEAM and they understand the importance of learning skills like problem-solving and incorporating multiple viewpoints.
At the heart of this outreach to families is a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Even organizers aim to help all families participate in STEAM learning by making nearly all RLDAA events free and creating event spaces that are as inviting as possible for families.
But families face a range of barriers around participation and engagement: Equity, one research respondent pointed out, “is more than just making events free.”
So event hosts try to make transportation easier by locating events along bus lines, when possible, and planning events closer to where families are already spending their time. They also try to schedule events at dates and times that are convenient. Some also offer meals or snacks at events and provide childcare for younger family members, so parents can focus on their active learners.
Another key step toward equity and inclusion: Event hosts are making translators available and offering materials in multiple languages.
And it’s working. Five years after Remake Learning Days began, the encouraging news is this: When families were surveyed after participating in Remake Learning Days last year, the majority said they received information that supported their continued engagement with STEAM learning and they want even more of it — more information and more STEAM learning events.
The numbers tell the story: 84% of families said they felt welcomed and supported, and 79% said they enjoyed learning together with their children. Perhaps most impactfully, 63% said they experienced new ways of learning and 62% said they learned something new about their child’s interests. And 75% said they’d like to come back for more STEAM events.
In addition, youth who attended events with a family member wanted more events like RLDAA than youth who attended without a family member. Family engagement in learning is an incredible influencer.
“It is a powerful indicator of success,” Heather Weiss, founder and lead researcher of GFRP, noted, “when families and attendees want more of what you have to offer.”
For a deeper dive into Creating STEAM Pathways for Children and Families, click here.
To learn more about Creating Engagement Pathways for Families, click here.
To learn more about How Remake Learning Days Build Family Engagement, Create Demand for More STEAM Learning Opportunities, and Contribute to a More Equitable STEAM Learning Ecology, click here.
And to learn more about STEAM learning at home during COVID-19 quarantine, click here.