Promising Practices for Engaging Families in STEM



Bright spots and opportunities, challenges and lessons learned


Download the guide here


Family engagement field guide host a community of practice

 STEM Family Engagement Planning Tool

STEM Next has partnered with Drs. Patty Allen and Gil Noam of the Institute for the Study of Resilience in Youth (ISRY) at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School to create the STEM Family Engagement Planning Tool. This Planning Tool introduces a new framework for family engagement in STEM known as CARE: Connect, Act, Reflect, and Empower. CARE is a simple way of organizing ideas from research and practice to provide a shared and equitable vision for family engagement in STEM.

The Planning Tool and Framework build upon the promising practices described by Drs. Linda Kekelis and Kara Sammet in Changing the Game in STEM with Family Engagement. The Planning Tool was created to help STEM-providing out-of-school time (OST) programs engage with families to support youth learning and success in STEM, but the key ideas and strategies are also relevant for schools. The process of creating and improving the Planning Tool was iterative and collaborative, involving an in-depth review of the research literature, input from a distinguished advisory council, and feedback from state networks, program directors, frontline staff, and caregivers. Using CARE, the Planning Tool takes a strengths-based approach, emphasizing the need to work in partnership with families to ensure collaborative culture and practices. The Planning Tool is designed for beginners just starting to learn about family engagement in STEM as well as practitioners who already have a family STEM program in place. A workbook provides guided reflection for programs as they establish a strategic vision and translate family engagement plans into action. Some of the steps in the process include: building a team, crafting a vision; identifying strengths and barriers; setting goals and priorities; and creating a roadmap.

Download the STEM Family Engagement Planning Tool. 


Quick tips from experts who listen, learn and welcome families in STEM.


Family engagement at its best starts with listening to parents. We can learn what parents want and need from organized focus groups and informal conversations. Here we highlight four ideas from experts in the field who listen, learn and welcome families.

How many times have you planned a family STEM event and found parents holding back? We know we have. In talking with advocates and leaders of STEM we learned some new ideas to remedy this dynamic. These strategies seem simple and may make you think, “If only I had known sooner.”

Here are some take-aways from STEM programs who have carefully and creatively made where they host events as important as what, why and how they do them.

While it’s great to host a celebration so that parents can see what their children have accomplished in an afterschool program or summer camp, there is so much more to do. It’s essential to make family engagement more than a one-time experience. Here are three promising practices from groups who listened and learned from families about how to make their STEM programs relevant, accessible, and importantly, ongoing past family night.

Girls don’t start out with less interest in STEM. In preschool, they are curious, bold in their actions, and filled with dreams. Yet, by age six, girls are less likely to think girls can be really, really smart. This belief matters because it affects girls’ willingness to try challenging activities. Instead of settling for the status-quo, let’s reimagine how we talk to girls.

From preventing summer learning loss to promoting engagement in STEM, there is abundant research that show parents play an important role in their children’s academic and career paths. And yet how can every parent access research and resources to help their children? We highlight three organizations that have found creative ways to support parents.

Parents can play an important role in supporting their children’s learning and pathways with technology. However, when programs have a family element, it often involves parents attending an end-of-program celebration to see what their kids have learned. This is an important start, but programs can do better. Here are five take-aways from Family Creative Learning that successfully re-imagine family engagement, creating computing programs that put families at the center with kids and parents learning together.

A workshop that gives families a chance to connect over coding or persevere through an engineering design challenge is a great first step in family engagement in STEM. But family engagement can be so much more. Here are three strategies for how the YMCA of the USA supports family engagement.