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Explora Science Nights Bring Families Together
The program gives students and families from many Title I schools hands-on experience with the processes of science, technology and art.
From experimenting with aerodynamics to observing fluorescence and phosphoresce, APS Title I Explora Science Nights allow families and educator to come together and participate in scientific exploration with over 250 exhibit activities in science, technology and art.
“It was an opportunity for children and families and teachers they interact with on a regular basis to interact in a way that is educative and also embrace the joy of learning that they often don’t necessarily get in their classroom,” said Eric Meyer, director of educational services at Explora.
Since 2008, the Explora Family Science Nights have brought families from Title I schools together to share hands-on experiences with the processes of science, technology and art. The bilingual, interactive exhibits range from Rube Goldberg-type experiments to studying movement and fluids to testing sound and pitch.
Originally just 12 nights, the program has expanded to 30 nights with 60 schools. More than 7,000 have attended the events this semester, with an estimated total of 18,000 participants by the end of the school year.
“My sons love this place and they enjoy all of the exhibits,” Bellehaven Elementary parent Miguel West said. “They are just like little sponges getting to learn about science and technology and the way things work.”
The goal of these science nights is not only to improve the children’s attitudes of learning and science and increase their awareness of the scientific process, but also to increase family engagement through scientific inquiry.
“We are eliciting more deep thinking and helping students seeing the wonder of science, but I also feel like it brings communities together.” Monica Garciasalas, Sierra Vista principal, said. “It really incentivizes parents to be involved in their child’s education.”
For each science night, two Title I schools are paired, and transportation and pizza are provided for all attendees. Because of the popularity of the events, schools often have waiting lists.
For those who were not able to attend the Family Science Nights, Explora offers annual memberships for families at the participating Title I schools to come and take advantage of the learning opportunities.
In addition to the family engagement element, the Explora Family Science Nights include professional development for educators and administrators to learn about the exhibits and how to better engage families through inquiry based science questions. Five staff members from each school attending are required to attend the one-hour sessions, but often as many as 30 educators will come and later incorporate it into their classroom activities. To date, more than 260 educators have attended.
“Educators are skilled at helping students draw out their understanding, and we help them with ways they can do that with the Explora exhibits,” Meyer said.