Spring 2008

We started the second semester of “Engineers as Teachers” and had a team of 14 engineers (some undergraduate students, some volunteering graduate students and some professional engineers). Based on last year’s experiences and the constraint of scheduling volunteers with full-time jobs, we decided to conduct 6 evening Family Science Courses.

The topics were all sooo exciting- Structural Color, Biomechanics of Diving, Science of sporting equipment, Sound, Cardiovascular mechanics and Renewable Energy.

Each course was of five sessions, held once a week for two hours. The response was quite unexpected. We started the Family Science program for the first time in three schools (Stevenson middle school in East LA, St. Agnes and Trinity St. Elementary near USC). We had roughly 10-22 families at each site. But we had less than five participants in the two schools where we had conducted morning sessions.

I was quite mortified at this response considering that the instructors had spent 8 weeks preparing for the courses. We tried the evening sessions for two weeks with not much improvement in the numbers. We decided to move the courses back to the morning so that all the children could still benefit from the instruction.

Lessons learned:

  • If you didn’t have the foresight to prevent a problem, don’t let pride or “consistency” slow you down. Focus on your end goals and don’t be afraid to change tactics.
  • Give your team members the complete picture. If you are trying out something new and don’t know how it’s going to turn out …. Say so…. Your team will feel more connected and in step with the organization’s goals and if things don’t work out, at least all of you are trying to solve the problem together.
  • Focus on the positive! Four out of the six Family Science courses continued in the evenings.

Here is some feedback from administrators, children and parents at these schools.

These lessons sometimes take a couple/three weeks to catch on with the families – they have never really done many activities like this, so you are serving many great purposes: educating our families about science and perhaps greater than that, teaching families how to participate in these kinds of activities. Great work! Pat Falzone, Trinity Street School

I know our parents and children have benefited immensely–they have never had an experience like this. Education at its finest. –Kathleen Doherty, St. Agnes

What did you like most?
That I did it with my family and learned how to make it a ball.5th grade student, Science of Sporting Equipment Course

The class seems very interesting just as much for the parents as it is for the students. Those in charge of instructing the class are very friendly and explain the projects very well. They seem very good for the school because they help students do new and different things that perhaps like parents or in they same school they don’t do it. Thank you for showing new things to our kids. Thank you to everyone who teach the sessions. Idalia Contreras , Mother of 5th grade student, Structural Color Course

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