Last spring, Madison Elementary School hosted Muscatine Community School District’s (MCSD’s) first ever Family STEM Night, bringing children and their parents from across the district together to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. After a warm reception, Stephanie Zillig, Madison’s Principal, planned to make the event an annual tradition. Through the support of several community partners, these plans became a reality on Tuesday, November 12th.
Through collaboration between CountFast, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and the Musser Public Library, and a generous Muscatine County Community Partnership for Protecting Children Grant, Madison had the means to put on a truly enjoyable and informative event. Prior to the evening’s learning sessions, families could enjoy pizza and Rice Crispy Treats for dinner, offering both a tasty meal and a nod to an Iowa State University graduate’s invention of Rice Crispy Treats as a snack.
Following dinner, families could then attend a variety of sessions, each developed and hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, with the help of Dana Yerington. In particular, Zillig reported that children enjoyed participating in Tricky Towers (where they created towers from spaghetti noodles and marshmallows), the Lego Challenge, and marble roller coaster building. Whatever session they went to, participants had the chance to engage in both literacy and investigative STEM experiments.
In between these mini lessons, students and families could play with the Musser Public Library’s Big Blue Blocks, check out activities in Madison’s maker space (with help from recently elected school board member Karen Cooney), and speak with representatives from CountFast about how to use each of their card decks. Zillig found that many parents appreciated getting to know the people behind the successful program students throughout the district have utilized this year. “The purpose of having [CountFast] come was to connect them with families and to help put faces to a name,” Zillig elaborated.
At the end of the night, each participating student got to take home a STEM themed book to help continue the fun and learning of STEM Night long after the event concluded. Altogether, fifty school-aged students came to the event. Zillig felt elated that so many people attended and hopes it will truly help MCSD’s STEM program hit home. “We had a very good turnout, especially with the temperatures,” she said. “I hope that [families] took away activities they could do at home to further their [children’s] interest in a STEM field.”