Over the past several years, business executives, industry leaders, public officials, and educators alike have all discussed the growing importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills to the American workforce and to the broader global economy. As the demand for STEAM-based skills and jobs has increased, New York City’s public schools have answered the call by expanding their students and teachers’ STEAM education and skill development.
Now, thanks to updated curricula, improved professional development for teachers, and Department of Education (DOE) initiatives and partnerships like Computer Science for All, the Summer STEM Institute, and the Billion Oyster Project, more City students across every grade level are better prepared for success in today’s workforce than ever before.
Of course, families are also essential to our students’ success. This is why we prioritize parental/family engagement, as we understand that school communities thrive when they find ways of getting families involved in children’s education both inside and outside the classroom.
And to help ensure that families remain involved in City schools while supporting and enhancing their children’s learning experiences in STEAM, the DOE’s Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) created FaceLab, the DOE’s pilot program to provide parents of K–8 students with hands-on learning in STEAM concepts.
FaceLab, which launched in 2016, is a STEAM-based parental engagement concept that uses LEGO™ bricks and kits, among other tools, to teach coding, engineering, and design to parent coordinators, parents, and other family members. Last year, with support from FACE and industry partners such as Makeosity and Robofun, we were able to implement FaceLab at 18 elementary and middle schools across the City.
Thanks to FaceLab, each participating school now has numerous parents to whom they can turn to for instructional support both inside and outside the classroom. Now, more students can participate and collaborate in projects like these:
Likewise, FaceLab provides families with the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques right alongside students:
In addition to STEAM-based skills like coding, mathematics, and design, FaceLab parents and students alike learn about the importance of teamwork. As demonstrated in the following video, teams of parents learn to create robots and program them to enter designated areas, scoop out items (in this case, balled-up pieces of paper), and carry the items to a particular destination:
As these parents have all learned firsthand, it is never too late to learn something new! Thanks to FaceLab, parents at participating schools can now experience, learn, and even help teach some of the exciting new STEAM lessons that their children are experiencing in our schools.
For more information about FaceLab, check out the pilot program’s website, and stay tuned to The Morning Bell for updates!