STEM Family Fun: Getting Organized

In September 2018, we started a science club. Our church, Cedar Creek, has a ministry that encourages small groups where people with a common interest gather together for fellowship and encouragement. These groups are generally for adults or high-school students. A few groups offered child care, but there were no groups designed for children. STEM Family Fun was a new kind of group because it was centered around children and caregivers who were interested in Science.

Most of the STEM materials we’ve written have been team-based, so we decided that the group would be organized as little teams with a kid and an adult partner in each team. We opened the group to students in grades 1-5 with a goal of getting 5 or 6 teams. In retrospect, this design decision was a great benefit. We had a couple of teams with grandpas and grandkids, three teams with moms and sons, one father-daughter team, and a team with teacher and student. The student/caregiver team structure was extremely valuable. Our students ranged from K through 5. Having an adult in each team helped smooth out the wide variation in science experience and aptitude across the group.

The group was organized around a semester calendar. The fall semester ran for 12 weeks from late September until early December. The spring semester ran from late January to mid-May. Our plan was to tackle one big design project each semester. Then, fill in any remaining weeks with one-off lessons. In retrospect, this was not a good design decision. 10 or 12 weeks is too long for elementary students to work on a single project. In addition, it’s difficult to add new students if slots open up. In the future, we plan to keep projects to six weeks.

Lessons learned:

  • For a family based group – kid/caregiver teams provide a great structure
  • Keep projects manageable – 3 to 4 weeks per project
  • Keep the age range as narrow as possible
  • Focus on learning by doing – minimize the use of presentations or lectures

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