Engaging Families in STEM Education

All children at every school should have access to the kind of science education that inspires them to become our next generation of scientists, physicians and healthcare workers. Every family should be provided with experiences and resources that allows them to successfully support and reinforce their child's interest in science. Our 45-foot mobile science lab travels to under-resourced public schools in Washington state bringing innovative lab experiences to students. To amplify and reinforce the impact of this program, we seek to engage families of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields through community Family Science Nights and visits to our Research Institute. Engaging families is critical if we are to increase the number of students entering STEM fields.

About You

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About You

First Name

Amanda

Last Name

Jones

About Your Organization

Organization Name

Seattle Children's Research Institute

Organization Phone

206-884-2075

Organization Address

1900 9th Ave Seattle

Organization Country

United States, WA

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States, WA

Is your organization a

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Innovation

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Entry Form title

Engaging Families in STEM Education

What change do you want to bring to the world?

All children at every school should have access to the kind of science education that inspires them to become our next generation of scientists, physicians and healthcare workers. Every family should be provided with experiences and resources that allows them to successfully support and reinforce their child's interest in science. Our 45-foot mobile science lab travels to under-resourced public schools in Washington state bringing innovative lab experiences to students. To amplify and reinforce the impact of this program, we seek to engage families of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields through community Family Science Nights and visits to our Research Institute. Engaging families is critical if we are to increase the number of students entering STEM fields.

What are the primary activities of your project?

This proposed project will add critically-important, structured, family-based activities to our existing science education program. The benefits of family involvement in a child’s education are well established. Research has consistently found that parental involvement improves student achievement, motivation, and attitudes about school regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or educational background. However, supporting science education often poses a special challenge for families, as they may not understand the relevance and importance of science. Providing opportunities for positive science experiences can stimulate enthusiasm and curiosity in parents, particularly when they actively participate alongside their children. This is particularly relevant for the low-income and minority populations that this program serves. We seek funding to add two activities for families of students participating in the program. Family Science Nights held in the community and Family Science Days at our Research Institute. At “Science Night” at the school, families will complete an activity on the Science Adventure Lab together with their children and be provided with resources that will help them encourage and support their children’s interest in science. At the end of the school year, families will attend “Science Day” at Seattle Children’s Research Institute where they will complete a follow-up, hands-on activity that extends the skills and knowledge developed during “Science Night”, tour the facility, interact with scientists and other STEM professionals who work at our organization from biosafety officers to biostatisticians and healthcare administrators. Families will learn about diverse array of career options in the STEM fields and also the importance of scientific research for building a healthy community.

What is innovative about your initiative? How is it a new contribution to the field?

Mobile science labs are being increasingly recognized as a cost-effective strategy for improving access to hands-on laboratory experiences and cutting-edge science and health education. At each school visit, Ph.D.-level scientists and other STEM professionals from Seattle Children's lead students through hands-on curricula that augment and enrich existing classroom science education. Engaging parents in the science education experience offered by our program is an innovative strategy to reinforce and amplify the effectiveness. We will draw on the expertise of the teachers who have existing relationships with the families to develop strategies to encourage families to participate. Family Science Nights will be held in the early evening following the mobile science lab's visit to the school with activities taking place onboard the Lab and in the school. All families of students participating in the project and participating teachers will be invited to attend a half-day event at Seattle Children’s Research Institute held at the conclusion of the school year in mid-June. Families will work alongside their child to complete a follow-up, hands-on activity that extends the skills and knowledge developed during the Family Science Night, tour the facility, interact with scientists and learn more about the importance of research. This event will expose students and families from diverse backgrounds to the scientists and teh wide range of other STEM professionals at Seattle Children's Research Institute, and to the real-world prospect of a future career in the STEM fields.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.

This program serves students in grades four through eight at high-needs, under-resourced public elementary and middle schools throughout Washington state. The program is committed to serving students who need it most, especially those from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields and those at schools without science labs. The program is provided to schools at no charge.
To be eligible for a visit, schools must have higher than state average numbers of students in free and reduced lunch programs and lower than state average scores on state standardized tests for science. Schools receiving Title I funding and rural schools are also given priority.
In many cases, the students who participate in our program would be the first in thier family to go to college. Involving these families in their child's science education is particularly important. Supporting science education often poses a special challenge for families, as they may not understand the relevance and importance of science. Providing opportunities for positive science experiences can stimulate enthusiasm and curiosity in parents, particularly when they actively participate alongside their children.

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

The Science Adventure Lab program was initiated by Seattle Children’s Research Institute in 2008 in response to the need for improved access of students in Washington state to high-quality, hands-on science education and in recognition of the well-established connection between education and health. Seattle Children’s Research Institute conducts pioneering basic, clinical and outcomes research to discover innovative cures and advance pediatric care worldwide. This program draws from the expertise of Children’s scientists. The program’s mission is to inspire new passions for science, promote better health for all students, and enhance science education throughout Washington state by working in partnership with teachers, schools and communities.

Social Impact

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Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Over the past two years, more than 12,600 students at 85 different schools across Washington have participated in the program. We specifically visit high-needs, under-resourced schools. Our data show that the schools visited by the Science Adventure Lab had a significantly higher percentage of students on free and reduced lunch programs compared to the state average (64% for schools we visited, state average 43%), indicating we are successfully reaching the high-needs communities.
Over the past two years, feedback from students and teachers has been uniformly and overwhelmingly positive. Student feedback includes "If I was lucky enough to experience the amount of fun I had yesterday I’d burst of happiness" and teacher comments such as "Your project is a gift to schools like mine.  The funding that you receive means that I am able to offer my kids something we would never have the financial resources to do."
Recently we have implemented a real-time evaluation system that uses student response remotes or clickers, that measure student gains. Clickers were incorporated to improve engagement of, and collect data from, all students in a class. The data are non-identifiable, so students are more comfortable providing their responses anonymously. The questions measure three important outcomes: content knowledge, student interest in science and attitude towards science. We are scaling up the evaluation component of our program so that we can collect sufficient amounts of data to allow analysis.
Another marker for success is demand. We receive many more requests for visits than we can accommodate (up to 8x in some geographic areas of the state).

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

If we are awarded funding to add the family engagement component, we will formalize and standardize the family-based activities and add rigorous evaluation to measure the effectiveness of this approach. Over the next three years we will develop an ongoing, sustainable program of family-based activities including producing a Family Science Night kit and offering regular quarterly Family Science Days at Seattle Children’s Research Institute that are open to any interested family. The Family Science Night kit that is developed will be made available to any interested school across the United States. The kit will contain resources and materials needed to host a successful family science night.

Sustainability

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What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

We recognized that successfully engaging families from diverse backgrounds can be challenging. The following principles will be applied in order to enhance the likelihood that families will participate in the events we propose to offer:
1) Focus on building trusting collaborative relationship among teachers, families, and community members. 2)Recognize, respect, and address families' needs, as well as their differences. 3)Embrace a philosophy of partnership where power and responsibility are shared. Teachers, who have pre-existing relationships with the students and their families will be key partners and will be able to advise us in how to best engage the families in their community. Additionally, we will consult with Seattle Children's Office of Diversity and Health Equity and participate in cultural competency training. If needed, we will seek out community leaders to help us create relationships with the families and to serve as local advocates for our program.

Tell us about your partnerships

Over the past two years, we have established partnerships with more than 85 schools across Washington state and the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
Officals at OSPI (Health and Fitness program supervisor Lisa Rakoz and Science Direct Ellen Ebert)serve as resources and distribute information about our program to schools in Washington state.
We regularly communicate with the teachers and administrators at every school that the program will visit (~65 per year). Kits are sent to each teacher that contain supplies and a lesson plan for a pre-lab activity to complete prior to the visit. A dialogue is established with teachers who ask our scientists questions about the activity and provide program staff feedback and suggestions for improvement. We work closely with Seattle Children's Office of Diversity and Health Equity, which provides program staff with cultural competency training and interpretors when needed. Seattle Children’s Science Adventure Lab program is an inaugural member of the Mobile Laboratory Coalition, a partnership of traveling laboratory programs, institutions of higher education, and K-12 schools and school systems, built upon scientist and educator collaborations that seeks to address the nation's science education challenge by providing equity of access to authentic hands-on, inquiry-based, contemporary science education for K-12 students, educators and the community. The member programs of the MLC meet annually to share best practices, curriculum and evaluation data.

Current annual budget of project, in US dollars

$250,001‐500,000

Explain your selections

The Science Adventure Lab is supported by Purchase A Miracle, Washington state's premier grocery and drugstore campaign that supports Seattle Children's, Foundations and Corporations.
This supports visits to students at under-resourced public schools. No funding is available to expand the program to families.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Even after only two years, we are confident that we are making an impact on students and teachers who have participated, but in order to reinforce that impact and sustain it, we need to engage their families. Adding science events for families to our program would greatly strengthen the impact. Thus, we are seeking funding to add this component.
A rigourous evaluation component is being implemented for the start of the 2011/12 school year so that we can quantify the impact of our program on students. We will use a student response system to collect real time data on student gains in knowledge, interest and engagement in science and STEM careers. The data will be used to refine our approach and improve the program.
We are adding new curriculum modules based on suggestions of topics from teachers about what their needs are. We currently offer four different curriculum modules for teachers to select from that address topics such as chemistry and nutrition, DNA, the Respiratory System and Asthma, and Infectious Diseases. We plan to establish summer professional development workshops for teachers where they will not only learn new science techniques from our scientists but work collaboratively with program staff to develop new modules for the program.

Partnerships and Accountability

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Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

Program staff work in partnership with teachers to provide an outstanding learning experience for students. The program provides scientists who lead the activities and serve as positive science role models, the mobile lab and the resources to do the experiments on the Lab and the pre-lab activities. Teachers select in advance which module they want when the Lab visits. Teachers prepare students for their experience on the mobile lab by teaching a pre-lab activity in the classroom prior to the visit, provide students with context for the experiment and generate enthusiasm. Community members are also our partners. They advocate for our program and build support among the business and Foundations that provide the funding needed to continue to offer visits to schools at no charge.
Seattle Children's Research Institute scientists are our partners. Seattle Children’s Research Institute conducts pioneering basic, clinical and outcomes research to discover innovative cures and advance pediatric care worldwide. This program draws from the expertise of Children’s scientists who are not program staff, but are happy to provide assistance with curriculum development.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

A rigourous evaluation component is being implemented for the start of the 2011/12 school year so that we can quantify the impact of our program on students. We will use a student response system to collect real time data on student gains in knowledge, interest and engagement in science and STEM careers. These data will indicate whether we are being successful in increasing student content knowledge of the topics addressed by our curriculum, interest in science, awareness of STEM careers and engagement. A long term goal is to follow students in subsequent grades to see if the postive impact we are having is long-lasting with repeated experiences on the Science Adventure Lab. Ultimately, we hope to follow the students as they enter high school to see whether they select science coursework.

Needs

Investment, Marketing/Media, Innovation/Ideas.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

Limited funding is available for visits to schools to provide science experiences for students. However, no funding is available to expand the program to include activities for families. Engaging families is critical if we are to be successful in getting students from groups under-represented in the STEM fields and from low-income families, interested in science and the STEM fields, and for sustaining that interest as they progress throughout the grades.
Parental involvement does improves student achievement, motivation, and attitudes about school in general. We seek to add this key element of a child's success in science education to our program.

Offers

Research/Information, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

Seattle Children's scientists and the staff of the Science Adventure Lab program have diverse scientific backgrounds and expertise that others may find useful as a resource. We can provide mentorship for young people interested in science, and teachers and community members interested in the practical application of science.

168 weeks ago Ryan Venti said: tour bus... awesome... love your idea.. i hope you keep this one passing down to future generations... such a cool way of helping the ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
177 weeks ago said: Thank you for the comment and for the excellent question. All activities on the mobile science lab are lead by experienced scientists. ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
177 weeks ago updated this Competition Entry.
177 weeks ago Nicole Campbell said: Hi Amanda, This is an exciting initiative. How are STEM professionals integrated as part of the mobile lab experience in ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
177 weeks ago updated this Competition Entry.
177 weeks ago updated this Competition Entry.
177 weeks ago submitted this idea.