Research shows that when parents engage in simple science projects with their kids at home, it boosts their learning in school. (Shutterstock)
Did you know that children spend just 14 per cent of their waking time between Kindergarten and the end of Grade 12 in school?
Given this startling statistic, it comes as no surprise that much of children’s learning happens “out there” — in the playground, during extracurricular activities, at a museum, on a walk, via the media, and, perhaps most importantly, at home.
I am the director of the Education Community Outreach Centre at Queen’s University and coordinator of Science Rendezvous Kingston. Science Rendezvous is Canada’s largest pop-up science, technology and engineering and mathematics (STEM) festival. I also develop mathematics content for two educational children’s programs, The Prime Radicals and mathXplosion. I have developed two provincial toolkits for parents about inspiring children to learn, love and choose math and I am the “math talk” consultant for MathStoryTime.
I have worked for decades to engage parents because I believe that families and schools have much to learn from and share with each other. Schools have formal knowledge of teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and evaluation. And parents know their children’s motivations, skills and interests.
Science at home doesn’t need to be daunting. It can be as simple as planting seeds with a child, or helping them collect leaves and bugs. (Shutterstock)
The research also shows that informal environments including the home — also called out-of-school-time [OST] settings — play an important role in promoting STEM learning. They do this by sparking student interest and providing opportunities to broaden and deepen engagement in STEM content.
Empirical evidence clearly suggests that OST experiences strengthen and enrich school STEM learning by reinforcing scientific concepts and practices introduced during the school day. These experiences can be in museums, after-school programs, science and technology centres, libraries, aquariums, zoos, botanical gardens and at the kitchen table.
OST experiences also promote an appreciation for, and interest in, the pursuit of STEM in school and in daily life. They help learners understand the daily relevance of science to their lives, the depth and breadth of science as a field of inquiry, and what it might be like to choose to do science in the world, either as a professional or a citizen scientist.
It is no surprise then, that informal science education researchers and educators are actively reaching out to parents, asking them to enthusiastically encourage and support children’s science learning at home, in school, and through their communities.