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Staff Workshop Instructions: Involving Parents in Science Discovery

Leadership: A Special Section for Administrators by Carol Seefeldt, Ph.D. 

1 > Goals

  • To develop ways of involving parents in exploring discovery science with their children
  • To prepare a handout for parents on how they can explore discovery science at home

2 > In Advance

  • Get a flip chart and marker.
  • Distribute the handout (pages 9-10) one week before the workshop. After reading the handout, ask teachers to underline key phrases and ideas they think would be most useful for parents. Then ask them to reread the first guideline and list a few classroom or playground materials they use to involve children in science, and to think of ways to involve parents in exploring science with their children using similar materials in their homes.
  • Collect four baskets or other containers. Fill one with toys, including a ball, a wind-up train or car, a yo-yo, a top, and a paper or balsam wood airplane; fill a second container with different-size blocks; fill the third with clear plastic containers, a plastic funnel, a turkey baster, a sieve or other materials used in water play; fill the fourth with plastic animals.

3 > Begin the Workshop |

  • Divide teachers randomly into four groups. Give the first group the basket of toys, the second the blocks, the third the materials used in water play, and the fourth the basket of animals. Ask each group to list the science ideas children might develop from exploring the materials, and how they would use the materials to demonstrate to parents how they could explore science at home with their children.
  • Ask someone from each group to share the group's ideas with everyone else. List these on the flip chart.

4 > Continue the Workshop

As you record the teachers' ideas, discuss the scientific concepts that can be gained by playing with everyday materials. Draw out teachers' thoughts on how to talk with children in ways that foster observing, questioning, classifying, and problem solving.

Next, take time to discuss ways of using the materials with parents. Talk about what you would do with the toys and blocks, what you would say to parents, and how you would illustrate the science involved in everyday activities and materials. Make initial plans for inviting parents to a science night.

5 > Conclude the Workshop

Conclude by brainstorming ideas for a handout to send home to parents or give to them when they attend science night. Ask teachers to look back over the parts of the workshop handout they underlined. One group might work together to construct a simple, basic "Exploring Science with Your Children" send-home derived from the sections they've chosen and insights gleaned from the workshop. Another send-home could be developed from the workshop you just had. Choose three or four toys or materials that parents would most likely have at home. These might include a ball, a top, and plastic or wooden animals. List each material, and next to it provide parents and family members with a list of open-ended questions they can ask as their children play and explore.

Carol Seefeldt, Ph.D., is a professor of human development at the Institute for Child Study at the University of Maryland.

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