FAMILY SCIENCE: ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF PARENTS IN THE ACADEMIC SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS IN SCIENCE
This work describes Family Science, an innovative extra-curricular science education program that takes place in a home environment. This program is aimed at contributing positively to the creation of a new educational culture by promoting and supporting the continuous participation of parents in the formative task of learners. Students in public elementary schools and their families engage in science self-learning activities at home (after school) through a program mediated by participation of the school administration. The Family Science program is based on the constructivist methodology and emphasizes the open expression of what the family thinks about the subjects that are the topic of discussion.
For this program, experiments are designed by scientists and educationists to be carried out at home under minimum tutoring by school teachers, motivating participants to study and investigate by themselves with the goal of promoting and developing a positive attitude towards science, values, and scientific competencies within the family, in a responsible relationship within a social, cultural, and natural environment. Activities are planned to lead families subtly and gradually to utilize the scientific method of investigation. Environmental problems at national and global levels are taken as study subjects to create printed activity guides in the form of flyers with a suggestive and colorful graphic design and an organized structure. These flyers are then given to students who voluntarily enroll in the program. To date, 60 flyers have been printed and distributed to students (and their families) in the 10 years that the program has been running without interruption.
During their participation in the program, students and their families assemble a portfolio where they keep systematic written records of their experimental activities, research, and results and file photographs, graphs, and any other evidence, as well as their comments and personal perceptions of the activities performed. In addition, evidence of their progress and outcomes is collected through interviews and questionnaires designed to learn about their motivations regarding science and their perception of the school environment. We have recently embarked on the task of evaluating the impact this program has on the children’s attitude towards science and scientific activities. Meanwhile, the implementation of Family Science in 123 schools in the State of Nuevo León, México, has allowed us to advance in diverse areas that have an impact on the school administration such as the organized participation of parents in the academic area (they now support student learning and promote and participate in visits to museums). There has also been an improvement in school environment favoring the interpersonal relationships between the members of the school community, and we also see indications that the program has contributed to improving the social perception regarding science. Most important, a follow-up of some participants in the early stages of the program implementation suggests that it has also encouraged scientific vocation in children.