Fall 2017
Bridging the Gap
Developing and Maintaining Family Connections

Sciencenter staff are currently exploring a science-based framework for how children learn best, inside and outside of school. In  Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, the authors present this framework focusing on 6 fundamental skills-- confidence, creative innovation, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and content--which developmental research has shown to be vital in supporting thinking, caring, and social children. 

Written to an audience of parents, caregivers, and teachers, the authors provide practical suggestions for how to put research into practice in the classroom and at home.  For instance, their colleague David Dickinson suggests that adults should " strive for five " in conversations with children to encourage vocabulary development, self-confidence, and mutual understanding between caregiver and child.  Asking open-ended questions, such as "Can you tell me about your favorite class at school?" rather than "Did you have gym class today?" promotes enriched conversation between parents, caregivers, and their children.

Try this!
At the Sciencenter, observe the animals in the New York Natives gallery with your children.
Then, at home, explore natural areas around your home on a scavenger hunt for living things.

At the Sciencenter, challenge your child to a relaxation battle at the  Mindball exhibit.
Then, at home, talk with your child about the ways you each found to calm your mind, and think of some situations in which this skill might be useful.

At home, cook a meal together with your children.
Then, at the Sciencenter, work together to invent a new cooking utensil using materials from the Reinvention Station.
Science for All Ages
How children learn about the world around them
EarlyExplorersEarly Explorers (ages 0 - 5)
Social Learning
Infants and toddlers depend on the adults in their lives to guide their experiences and to help them understand the world around them. We are social creatures, and babies are primed to learn in social scenarios by observing how their family members interact with the world around them. The Sciencenter partners with Dr. Tamar Kushnir, the director of the Cornell Early Childhood Cognition Lab (ECC), to research how children learn in social contexts. Dr. Kushnir's team is currently conducting research at the Sciencenter to study how young children, ages 0 - 5, use imitation and statistical evidence to learn from people around them, and how young children judge whether or not a person is a trustworthy source of information.
The Sciencenter uses research findings to develop early childhood programs like Science Together, add we've added exhibits to the Curiosity Corner, and create new experiences like the activity boxes in the Family Learning Area. Combining ECC Lab findings and additional  current research, the Sciencenter Education team develops activities that promote broader exploration through open-ended play.

Join us!
See this research in action, or be a part of it! Visit the Sciencenter's Family Learning Area on Saturdays between 12 pm and 5 pm  to meet the researchers and take part in their work.
Building bridges at summer camp
YoungScientistsYoung Scientists (ages 5 - 11)
Sparking Communication
Through our programs and exhibit experiences, the Sciencenter strives to create a bridge between a child's experience here at the Sciencenter, and their family life at home. 

Families with children in Sciencenter Summer Camp are given a variety of resources to help them connect with their children about their daily experiences at camp. Campers receive a daily  newsletter to share with their family. C reated by our Future Science Leader CITs, the newsletter  describes some of the exciting, hands-on activities that our campers enjoyed that day and includes a section called "Ask your camper!" with an open-ended prompt question related to an activity from the day. 

Our badge system is also designed to spark conversations at home. Campers attend a daily "Badging Ceremony" where they review what they learned and accomplished that day. At this ceremony, two campers from each camp group receives a badge from their counselor for displaying the qualities of a Young Scientist (good communication, critical thinking, confidence, etc.). When asking your camper about their Confidence badge, they may talk about how they decided to build their bridge using a brand new design that no one had tried before.

Try this!
Try combining your interests with your child's interests to support the bond between you. For example, if you like to play music and your child likes rainbows, invite them to build a rainbow water xylophone  and participate in a jam session!
Future Science Leaders hard at work
FSLFuture Science Leaders (ages 11 - 14)
Supporting Parent Involvement 
Central to engaging families of middle school students is a delicate balance of ensuring that the students feel independent and connected to their peers, while simultaneously keeping parents and caregivers informed and involved. While developing their independence, middle school-age students are excited to take on more responsibilities and tasks. Parents and caregivers play a key supportive role by making it possible for students to achieve simple tasks like doing homework or getting to and from club meetings or practices. They provide additional support by encouraging and guiding students through new experiences and challenges.

Here at the Sciencenter, we support parent and caregiver involvement in our Future Science Leader (FSL) program by thoroughly communicating the program calendar, the projects that their kids are working on, and inviting parents and caregivers to special events where FSL members showcase their work to the public. At the same time, FSL are given designated space at the Sciencenter to meet and spend time with their peers working on projects. Maintaining this balance provides the FSL with space to be independent and build confidence in their skills while also offering parents and caregivers the tools and information to connect to their children through their unique interests.
Try this!
Educators, try these different methods to engage parents and caregivers of middle school students in your classroom or club. Some methods may work better than others in different environments--test them to see what you think.
CESLCESL Spotlight
Collaborative for Early Science Learning:
A Sciencenter-led partnership of museum professionals working with Head Start

In addition to focusing on professional development for Head Start teachers, the Collaborative for Early Science Learning developed supplementary programming specifically for engaging Head Start families. Through a variety of channels, CESL helps museum professionals understand the importance of encouraging Head Start families to take part in their children's learning and provides examples of how to do so.

Research shows that children are better prepared for kindergarten when their families take an active role in their learning. The CESL-developed tools teach parents and caregivers what science looks like to their young children through the introduction of science process skills like measuring, observing, and predicting. By exploring these process skills through activities using every day items, parents and caregivers learn that science is not as overwhelming as it may seem.

For ideas on how to provide programming to engage Head Start families, explore the Collaborative for Early Science Learning toolkit

The Collaborative for Early Science Learning was made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
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