Engineering for Families
A 6-week after school science club aimed at children in KS2 and their families, exploring engineering through simple science experiments with everyday household items.
Funded by the Platton Fund at the Community Foundation, Engineering for Families is a 6-week family-learning course developed for primary school children and their parents in Blyth and Ashington. During each weekly after-school session, families explore a different engineering career and discipline through hands-on practical activities, career case studies and real-world examples. Working collaboratively with their children participants investigate, design and make structures which explore the wide number of pathways into engineering, particularly those most relevant in the North East of England (structural, mechanical, marine and aeronautical engineering).
The course was developed in response to IET research that found many parents lack the confidence, knowledge and skills necessary to support their children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
The course design therefore provides numerous opportunities for parents and carers to work alongside their children to learn about the importance and application of engineering. This shared experience of hands-on, careers-focused engineering challenges was designed to strengthen the science capital of the families, and increase the confidence of parents to support their children in STEM learning at school and home.
This model also equips teachers schools with the knowledge and skills to run their own Engineering for Families course for families and wider community of the school in future years.
Each week of course focused on a career within a different discipline of engineering:
Session 1: The Structural Engineer (Focus on the design and building of towers)
Session 2: The Marine Engineer (Focus on the design and building of boats)
Session 3: The Civil Engineer (Focus on the design and building of bridges)
Session 4: The Automotive Engineer (Focus on the design and construction of vehicles)
Session 5: The Aeronautical Engineer (Focus on the construction of gliders)
Session 6: Engineering Challenges (Drawing together the learning from the previous weeks)
Each session begins with an introduction to the career and uses a striking photograph of a counter-stereotypical person in that career.
Families then work together to complete engineering activities related to the career. The Engineering Design Cycle (Ask – Imagine – Plan – Create – Improve) is used to explain the principles underlying the different engineering disciplines and guide the structure of the sessions. At the end of the sessions families are invited to complete a follow on activity at home and bring a photo of the completed activity or task to the next session.
The project was delivered in 6 primary schools in Northumberland during March – November 2017. The family workshop series was evaluated to determine whether it delivered the intended outcomes for children.
All families of in the pilot reported that they enjoyed the sessions. Participants reported to have enjoyed both the activities themselves and the experience of working on projects together with their families. Some of the participants’ comments include:
Parents described the impact Engineering for Families has had on their desire and intention to work together on future learning projects:
Participants’ comments show that Engineering for Families has some success in showing STEM careers as more relevant and accessible to children:
A big success of the programme has been the uptake of the Engineering for Families CPD course, with 20 teachers taking part in the ‘train the trainer’ session. Some of the teachers were so enthused by this training that in 2 of the 6 schools NUSTEM supported teachers to deliver the Engineering for Families course themselves on completion of the training using NUSTEM’s materials, rather than the delivery being undertaken by the NUSTEM team.