“Is this a solid or a liquid?” “Are boy crickets faster racers than girl crickets?” “How large a payload can you shoot into space?” “What is the maximum number of pennies that you can drop into a full cup of water without overflowing it?”
Questions that pose a challenge or spark curiosity, that require a prediction or offer an entry point for novel constructions using diverse materials are ripe candidates for Family Science Night activities. And they are fun for the whole family.
At Nightingale, the Family Science Night Planning Committee paired up an upper and a lower grade teacher to choose a science activity for the evening that would lend itself to an intriguing focus question and an engaging half hour of hands-on/minds-on collaboration between parents and children … facilitated by the teachers.
Every family was given a schedule that included the names of the teachers running the activity, the room number, a hook question and the name of the actual science activity being done that session. Because the school has a large Latino population, the schedule was given in English on one side of the paper and in Spanish on the other. They ran two half-hour sessions, and once all the available seats were filled, closed the classroom doors. First come, first served.
Activities used very simple, inexpensive, and easily acquired materials: balloons, Oobleck (made of cornstarch and water), and the ever popular (with children) glow sticks.
Cleverness was the guiding principal in framing the hook question. “Is the force with you?” “How heavy is your load?” “What floats your boat?
After so many years during which science has been marginalized in favor of language arts and math, the subjects measures by the standardized tests, parents have to be re-introduced to the fun and importance of science, so that they can better support their children in learning science and participating in science related activities like science fairs. In response, many more schools are adding Family Science Night to the calendar of activities to better engage parents in their children’s education.
You can learn more about Golden Apple’s Inquiry Science Institute here: http://www.goldenapple.org/inquiry-science-institute