Learning Memo — Makers of Change: Creating STEAM Pathways for Children and Families

In partnership with the Global Family Research Project, this series of Learning Memos are designed to share information on what has been learned from past experience and to highlight strategy ideas moving forward.

The Global Family Research Project is the successor to the Harvard Family Research Project that began in 1983. With a decades-long track record in defining and advancing the fields of family, school, and community engagement, the Global Family Research Project is working to create equitable learning pathways for children and families.

Recently, researchers at the project explored the experiences of the diverse host organizations that have participated in Remake Learning Days and gleaned important benefits of family engagement opportunities. This Learning Memo shares the benefits that families gain from events like Remake Learning Days as well as key challenges and opportunities moving forward.

Here’s an excerpt from the memo Makers of Change: Creating STEAM Pathways for Children and Families:

It’s a weeknight in May and a group of families and their upper-elementary-age children gather at their school’s maker space as part of a Remake Learning Days event. The families and their children are given a challenge: to work together answering clues on a digital tablet to break free from a virtual escape room. Students who are familiar with this kind of learning from their typical school-day instruction lead their parents and siblings in collaborative coding, risk taking, sequencing, and problem solving to complete the task. As they delight and marvel in the process together, parents and grandparents see their children in a different light, come to understand what STEAM learning looks like in new and vibrant ways, and take pride in their school. When the event has come to an end, no one wants to leave.

This story is just one of the many we at Global Family Research Project have heard on our journey to understand the ways that families are part of and influenced by Remake Learning Days. By examining past Remake Learning Days surveys and talking with a range of school and non-school event hosts, we’ve learned inspiring ideas that echo what the research shows. Families play an important role in STEAM learning—from the ways they talk about and engage with their children in STEAM activities in the home and community, the ways they hold high expectations for STEAM learning, and the ways they connect their students to high-quality STEAM learning both in and out of the classroom. And when families are engaged in STEAM, students are more likely to
succeed academically, take more advanced STEAM courses, and pursue STEAM-related careers.

Our exploration of the experiences of the diverse host organizations participating in Remake Learning Days has also gleaned important benefits of family engagement, including:

  • Families developing a greater understanding of what learning looks like for an increasingly technology-driven future. Parent survey data collected from Remake Learning Days events from 2016 through 2018 show families are increasing their knowledge of STEAM learning concepts, including the importance of problem solving, taking initiative, incorporating multiple viewpoints, and dealing with uncertainty. As one after-sschool provider explained, “One of our biggest hopes [for Remake Learning] is that parents will see a new way of learning.”
  • The strengthening of parent-child relationships. When asked to describe a positive outcome of hosting a Remake Learning Day event, over a quarter of hosts noted that an important benefit was that they had created an environment in which parents and children had fun learning together. The importance of enjoyable learning experiences was also reflected in parents’ open-ended responses. One parent commented, “It was nice and interactive. Had fun working together as a family team,” a sentiment shared by many other parent participants.
  • Families becoming champions of STEAM learning. We heard from many of those we interviewed that by opening doors for families to participate and learn during Remake Learning Days that families grew deeper commitments and pride for their schools and community organizations. As one librarian commented, “Beyond just bringing everybody in . . . we’re hoping to turn them into advocates … we need more people that understand what our library is trying to do.”

Remake participants are also creating next-step challenges and opportunities to bring more families in, promote positive family learning experiences, and use Remake as a means to build a strong, year-round, and more equitable STEAM learning ecology in and out of school for children and families. Read more about these challenges and opportunities in the full Learning Memo here: Creating STEAM Pathways for Families

Published April 01, 2019