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 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 thru 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. Fall semester ran for 12 weeks from late September until early December. Spring semester ran from late January to mid-May. Our plan was to tackle one big design project in 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 four weeks.
- 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