Families Explore STEM Together During A Night of Discovery
By Alex Domine
As a crowd of Lower School students buzzed to different stations to test out scientific theories, some parents watched from behind, while others got hands-on themselves. During A Night of Discovery: In Search of STEM, all of these students found moments of wonder and awe. Families and kids participate in this annual event, complete with food trucks for dinner, to explore scientific phenomena together.
“Parent and child interaction is really important for this night,” said a smiling Lower School Science Teacher, Wendy Goldfein. “We’re encouraging exciting discussions.”
This is Ms. Goldfein’s second year planning the event. Formerly known as Science Night, the planning team expanded the event beyond traditional science and incorporated technology, engineering, and math to emphasize the entire range of skills that will be needed for students to excel in the 21st century.
Middle School students also participate in STEM Night. While encouraging enriching discussions between families and students is still a major goal in the Middle School, there is a more pronounced academic component for Middle School students. Students choose a topic to research, conduct a scientific experiment, and document their discoveries to share with the families who wander the Middle School Commons during STEM Night. Through the STEM Night project, students also exercise accountability habits to support their future success.
“Students take ownership of what they’re doing for the project,” said Middle School Science Teacher Riley Meinershagen. “I love how much they learn throughout the projects and how much they ultimately end up knowing about their own topic. They work toward being an expert.”
The Upper School Robotics team, which recently finished their competitive season at the state championship, assisted with STEM night. As the #1 STEM high school in the south Puget Sound, Upper School involvement provides role models for Lower School students who are discovering their passions in the world of STEM. Across all divisions, the core of STEM Night is teaching perseverance.
“I hope kids get some new ideas and attain a deeper understanding of the concept of perseverance,” said Ms. Goldfein. “These activities help a child understand that if something doesn’t work, they don’t have to quit; they can keep going.”
“The projects can get a little messy at times,” said Mr. Meinershagen. “But throughout the process, they become deeply invested, which results in developing their own sense of purpose.”
Teachers made sure every activity was designed with perseverance and family interaction in mind. For Lower and Middle School Technology Integration Specialist Joe Sparano, family interaction can lead to a student discovering a lifelong passion.
“This is a good opportunity for kids to really see if this is maybe a topic they want to explore further,” said Mr. Sparano. “We had a static electricity activity last year and a student kept asking if it was going to be here this year, so lot of these projects leave an impression on kids.”
He explained that the evening gives students the opportunity to voluntarily engage in a topic or experiment, which is a different experience from a student being expected to engage during school hours.
“Students and families can either talk about STEM during the evening or take the conversation back home,” said Ms. Goldfein. “Regardless, my main goal is to see families explore together.”