Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Children mill around the Rivermont Elementary cafeteria accompanied by parents, grandparents and neighbors as they engage in activities organized by the Creative Discovery Museum’s outreach program. Some children vigorously shake plastic bottles to create chemical reactions as others glue fluffy cotton clouds to construction paper, excitedly signaling to parents as they complete the activity and want to show off their accomplishment.
Students holding their parents’ hands pull them toward the science showcases they created with their classmates as they share what they have learned about the solar system over the past nine weeks. Others rush to find answers to the scavenger hunt posted about the building, showing off their newfound knowledge in the process.
This scene is exactly what school officials were hoping for as they planned the school’s first Science Night event, followed closely by the March 5 TCAP Fun Night that featured activities for parents and children designed to prepare students for the Tennessee Comprehensive Program. Rivermont also has a math and reading night each year, and last year the school held its first science fair, which was not well attended.
School officials thought if the outreach team from CDM came to the Science Night event with activities for children and parents to do together, more parents might attend, said Angie Chidester, fifth-grade science teacher and the school’s educational coordinator with CDM.
“It’s a way to get parents to interact with the kids and learn what we’re doing with them at school, not just tell them,” said Chidester. “We want our parents involved.”
The CDM team set up 10 stations with science activities relating to the solar system, the theme each grade level has focused on for this nine-week period. The activities covered a wide variety of standards across grade levels to encourage participation by all students, said Chidester.
“It’s fun to have mom or dad here with you,” she said. “Kids really respond to that.”
Rivermont principal Marthel Young said the school is pushing for more parental involvement because it completes the circle of learning that begins at home.
“When parents join in to support [the students’ work at school] it completes the circle,” she said. “It sends a message to children that their parents value education.”