Strengthening our STEM Ecosystem – Preschool to 3rd grade Moms

Strengthening our STEM ecosystem has been an on-going priority for New Providence School District.   Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with 3 Moms with young kids . They were discussing their wish list in preparation for Tuesday’s Superintendent Forum on STEM.  (Recap here.) Some points may find widespread support while others might not. This purpose of this article is to spark your own ideas.

Remember that our BOE values direct communication with parents rather than conversations in social media or posts on blogs like this. If you want something, then speak up directly.

Strengthening our peer group in STEM

“My kids need a group of peers that are as into math (& STEM) as we are.”  (Mom of Preschool – 3rd graders)  Very important to bring them all along.

At these ages a teacher is way more effective than parents. The technology in the curriculum is not that hard yet.  The challenge is keeping the kids engaged and the know how to handle a class/group of kids.

Curriculums the kids can grow with.  

Looking for these to be both in School & Co-curricular.

Math – Montessori example

  • Expand use of manipulatives especially, the Montessori Stamp Game. It is useful in teaching addition, subtraction multiplication and division. Then by using Base 10 rods such as Cuisenaire rods to teach place value, perimeter and area.   These could be put on carts for 1st to 3rd graders.  
  • More challenges for strong students within the existing classroom.  More opportunities for students to teach other.
  • Enrichment not just about accelerating through curriculum or for the gifted and talented.  All our kids benefit from strong math skills. We want to benefit the whole class.
  • Math Club after school – Get excited.  Enjoy Math. Learn to apply what you have learned. Led by teachers, parents or both.  PTA?

Robotics – e.g. FIRST Lego League Jr. (age 6-10 years); FIRST Lego League (age 9-14 years)

  • 1st & 2nd grade team.  Just starting
  • By 3rd grade much better. Had process down.
  • Why is robotics mod in Middle School and not in 4th grade?  It is at the end of the useful life of those robots.

Other

  • Would love district leadership on other co-curricular options within the STEM ecosystem, whether led by teachers, parents or 3rd parties
  • Scouting has traditionally filled this gap for many, but scouting participation is declining nationwide.  As demographics change, new groups may be less familiar from their own childhoods.  Scout groups may need to adjust their marketing.

Strength in Inclusivity

  • We are very vested in benefiting from and including our diverse community.  We see strength in inclusivity.
  • To keep our own daughters / kids interested in Math, they need a group of interested peers.  Want the whole class excited about math.
    • Concept of feminine includes being smart, strong in STEM, and leadership.  Want both our boys and our girls to believe this at a deep-seated level.
    • Research shows great strength comes from including diverse groups in decision making.  Give our kids a leg up by helping the whole class to succeed.  Learn from each other and respect each other’s differences.

Strengthen our STEM eco-system

  1. The school district brings teaching expertise and we parents bring industry expertise.  
  2. Value continued school district leadership for community
  3. Expanded role for PTA/PTOs to bring back after-school enrichment and clubs?  These parents want more after-school STEM options in town. Teacher-led clubs go longer than 6 weeks.  Agree with BOE that we want co-curricular not fluffy offerings. Can use older kids as assistants to Teach It Forward
  4. Getting a room for a STEM club should not be so hard.  We want a wide crosssection of kids to participate – or better yet the whole class.  Want to offer through PTA’s / schools.
  5. STEM after-care options should go later in the day.  Hiring a Nanny to take to and from these classes gets expensive.  Would pay more for quality co-curricular options, especially if combined with after care.  Really helps parents if it could be at school, eliminating a transport from school to STEM class.
  6. Parents are willing to help.How can we be better partners? We can assist a district teacher, teach, or raise funds.  Would contribute or fundraise to pay for those who’d find it a hardship.  We see strength in inclusivity.  
  7. Survey parents to see what their fund raising priorities are.  Is it a 6th grade trip and DVD or better co-curricular opportunities in many subjects.
  8. Better alignment between school and library as a provider of children’s programs.  Library’s systems and procedures for offering kids’ classes could use upgrading.
  9. No Education is wasted.  We also value education in music, the arts, foreign language etc.  Not an either or.
  10. PTA should use more social media.  E.g. AWR put reminders of this Forum on Facebook, which was appreciated.  Parents prefer Facebook or Twitter and a blog to reading email.  Embrace digital media

This outline is based on discussions with three Moms of preschool, first, third and fourth gradersattending New Providence Schools.  My thanks for their insights

Is this what you see benefiting your kids? We are publishing their thoughts to help other parents think about what they’d like to see for their own children in district.

Cecile Seth

Trying to make our world better. Mom to 3. Recovering Management Consultant. MBA. STEMshoots.com Founder.

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