Some think parental involvement in children’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is only relevant in traditional educational environments. This perception might result from research showing parents play an important role in ensuring children’s success in STEM education in school-based settings.
This research has been conducted by such prominent organizations as the National Academy of Sciences, the Association for Psychological Science, the University of Michigan, and the University of Arkansas. However, because of the positive influence parents can have, the National Science Teachers Association issued a position statement encouraging parental involvement in children’s education both within and outside schools.
In fact, parental involvement in STEM education can extend beyond the classroom walls. One of the ways that parents can involve themselves in their children’s STEM educations outside of school is by taking them to festivals and other events that celebrate STEM learning and careers.
In cities around the United States, parents can find such festivals, some of which not only celebrate STEM disciplines but also the arts. Keep reading to find more details about these four festivals offering parents one way to support their children’s STEM learning.
1. Big Bang Science Fair
The Big Bang Science Fair in Providence, RI, was held in September 2018. With five primary sponsors, including Brown University and Harvard University, and three additional collaborating sponsors including Bryant University, the event was designed to showcase both science and art. The daylong fair offered free admission for all attendees.
The fair was held in conjunction with the city’s ongoing WaterFire art exhibit, which is sponsored by a nonprofit arts organization devoted to revitalizing Providence’s urban core and fostering community engagement. It features periodic evening lightings of 100 braziers in the city’s downtown rivers filled with wood and lit by torches from passing floating vessels. The display is accompanied by world music.
Featured highlights of the Big Bang Science Fair included a musical performance by Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. There were also presentations by scientists affiliated with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Other presentations covered topics such as making music from scientific data, real-life navigation, the use of Theremin in science-fiction soundtracks, the effects of drugs on the brain, and connecting mathematics with art and music. Additionally, hands-on workshops were offered including game design, robotics, coding, music, cloud chambers, astronomy, virtual reality, and more.
2. Columbus STEM & Arts Expo
The Columbus STEM & Arts Expo is an annual event held near Columbus, OH. Featuring free admission, the expo offers prizes to the first 500 attendees each year, which include restaurant meal vouchers and admission to local recreation areas. The expo is offered by an organization called Kidslinked, a company founded by parents to serve as a resource on family-friendly activities and advice for other parents.
Highlights of this one-day event, which is held every November, include several arts and STEM competitions. These include a spelling bee, a Minecraft tournament, a music contest, a paper airplane challenge, a build-your-own video game challenge, a math quiz bowl, an art competition, a chess competition, and a Candy Land tournament.
Also offered are a dance performance and non-competitive drawing activities with a published illustrator. In 2019, as in 2018, the featured illustrator will be New York Times best-seller Richard Cowdrey, known for illustrating the “Marley & Me” series and the “Fiona the Hippo” book.
3. Craft Lake City DIY Festival
The Craft Lake City DIY Festival held in Salt Lake City, UT, is celebrating its 11th year in 2019. This three-day event is offered by Craft Lake City, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting creativity through science, technology, and art. The festival charges a modest admission fee, but children under 12 can attend for free. Around 20,000 attendees are expected at the 2019 festival.
Featured at the event are more than 300 exhibitors of handmade art, engineering, and food products. Additionally, dance and music performances are highlighted, as are DIY workshops and artistic demonstrations. Children under age 14 sell their DIY products in a special area called Kid Row on one day of the festival. Also, a STEM building sponsored by Google Fiber is available throughout the event.
4. STEAM Fest on the Square
STEAM Fest on the Square is held annually in Redwood City, CA. Offered by the Redwood City Library Foundation, the event strives to enable youth to envision themselves as scientists, artists, creators, and inventors by providing them with hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. This one-day event began in 2016 with 3,500 attendees and has grown since.
STEAM Fest on the Square features music, dance, and theater performances by ten different local organizations. In addition, more than 70 community organizations display exhibits during the event. These exhibits cover such topics as robotics, gymnastics, electric automobiles, aviation, augmented reality, marine science, coding, clean energy, art, engineering, theater, forensics, sustainability, science, and more.
Parents who do not live in or near these cities may be able to find similar opportunities near them. Seeking STEM activities outside the classroom helps reinforce the importance of these topics in children’s lives. Additionally, young minds busy now can also bear dividends down the road, when they are seeking careers.