SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood School District's Appleby School hosted its first Family STEAM Nights on October 3 and October 10. Each night included 12 different fourth and fifth grade families. STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The integrated educational approach has become an important component in school districts across the nation in recent years.

"Parents often look for meaningful involvement in their child’s education and may only lack the direction and support to become mentors for their own children," explained Appleby School technology teacher Paige Besthoff. "School STEAM becomes meaningful to parents through hands-on experiences with their children. Family STEAM can help parents integrate STEAM learning in the classroom with experience in daily life. It also highlights the role STEAM plays in today’s top career fields."

Each family received three challenges. The first involved an inventor kit where the participants tackled problem solving challenges that featured Samuel Morse, Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell. Next, the families took on Appleby's Wonder Workshop Dash Robots.

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"Each family had their own robot and iPad," said Besthoff. "Dash has multiple sensors such as sound, light and movement and interacts with and responds to its surroundings. Families had to program the robot on an adventure."

The first two Family STEAM Night challenges were funded through grants by the Spotswood Education Foundation.

Finally, families explored an engineering problem. The Silent Tower challenge had two families working together to build a structure from four foot dowels and rubber bands. Only hand signals and written directions were allowed between participants.

"The tower had to be large enough to hold the smallest person in their group yet be the tallest of them all," added Besthoff.

Bestoff along with Appleby second grade teacher Maureen McDonald hosted both Family STEAM Nights. Second and third grade families will have an opportunity to join in on the fun in May.