Engineering for Families
A 6-week after-school science club for KS2 children
and their families, exploring engineering through simple
science experiments with everyday household items.
Engineering for Families is:
The course invites children and their families explore a series of engineering career-linked challenges. As they cut, fold, stick, tape, test, fail and laugh they’re building experience and skills, and they’re also exploring and applying the language of engineering.
Tried and tested, the course is now available to all primary schools. It’s designed to be straightforward to facilitate, cheap to run, and rewarding to deliver. Our partner schools have found it popular with families when delivered around normal school pick-up time.
This page introduces the course, offers training materials to get you going, and discusses the objectives and evidence we collected during the pilot/evaluation phase.
Each week of the course focuses on a career within a different discipline of engineering:
Session 1: The Structural Engineer
Session 2: The Civil Engineer
Session 3: The Aeronautical Engineer
Session 4: The Automotive Engineer
Session 5: The Marine Engineer
Session 6: Engineering Challenges
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 activities related to the career. At the end of the sessions families are invited to complete a follow-on activity at home, and bring a photo of their attempt to the next session.
If you’d like to deliver Engineering for Families in your school, you’ll find everything you need (apart from basic materials!) in the box to the right.
Start by downloading the project resource, which gives you all the detail you need for delivery.
You may also like to watch our overview video – embedded to the right, or watch on YouTube – which will demonstrate some of the challenges involved during the course and give an overview of the rationale for the methods of delivery we recommend.
These training materials are based on CPD delivered as part of the pilot project, further developed in the light of teachers’ subsequent experience running the course themselves. See the Background and Evaluation sections below for the full story.
If you have any questions or comments about the course, drop us a line! You’re welcome to contact Joe Shimwell at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re particularly keen to hear from teachers who’ve delivered the course – please tell us how it went! – or who didn’t deliver the course – please tell us what stopped you, and how we can smooth your path!
We’ve prepared these materials assuming the course will be delivered by teachers from the host school, and that it will be free of charge to participants. If you don’t fit that model – maybe you’re an activity provider, a university outreach group like us, or a freelance science communicator – please contact Joe to discuss.
Development of Engineering for Families was funded by the Platton Fund at the Community Foundation, then piloted with schools in Blyth and Ashington, in north-east England. The course was developed in response to IET research which found that 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 build confidence and understanding of the importance of engineering, and its applications. Course development was also informed by emerging thinking around concepts of science capital.
Finally, the approach is intended to help schools’ efforts to build relationships with their communities. Inviting families into the school to learn alongside their children, the course establishes a supportive, playful environment which can help build rapport, deepen connections, and prompt the sharing of personal experience.
The project was delivered in 6 primary schools in Northumberland between March and November 2017. The family workshop series was evaluated to determine whether it delivered the intended outcomes for children.
All families involved in the pilot reported that they enjoyed the sessions. They enjoyed both the activities themselves, and the experience of working on projects with each other. Some of the participants’ comments included:
“It has been a great experience that I would recommend to others.”
“Engineering is much more fun than we ever thought!”
“It is very fun and creative.”
“Yes, we enjoyed spending time together and problem solving.”
Parents described the impact Engineering for Families had on their desire and intention to work together on future learning projects:
“We have continued the team work into other activities.”
“It has really encouraged us to work/do more things at home as a family.”
“Using cheap and easily-accessible resources has been a great idea and certainly encouraged me to think about engineering projects we can do at home.”
Participants’ comments indicate that Engineering for Families has some success in showing STEM careers as more relevant and accessible to children:
“My son now wants to be a civil engineer.”
“It has changed my thinking of engineering because it shows you what you can build out of everyday materials.”
A big success of the pilot programme was uptake of the Engineering for Families CPD course, with 20 teachers taking part in ‘train the trainer’ session run by NUSTEM staff. Some of the teachers were so enthused by this training that in two of the six schools, NUSTEM supported teachers in delivering the Engineering for Families course themselves, rather than the delivery being undertaken by the NUSTEM team.