Squeals of joy run rampant through the school cafeteria. No, it’s not a food fight (sorry kids) or an impromptu flash mob performing to Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller” on Halloween. It’s Family Science Night, an event held by numerous parent-teacher organizations (PTO) around the U.S. every year.

UL joined forces with School Family Media in 2012 to bring Family Science Night to schools across the country. Organized by parent groups in K-8 schools, the events are designed to bring kids, parents and teachers together for an educational and fun night that sparks an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). And, educators are finding it beneficial that the experiments complement the Next Generation Science Standards in Physical, Earth and Space and Life Sciences.

The experiments and hands-on activities are designed for adults and kids to work and learn together. There are 23 experiment/activities to choose from with new ones added every year. The PTO decides how many activities they can handle during the event, which is usually set up in the largest available area of the school, such as the cafeteria, gym or library. Some of the favorite experiments are Code Making and Encryption; How Germs Spread; Energy Sticks: Making Potential and Kinetic Energy; Engineering Your Own Hovercraft; Wind Energy; Buildings and Earthquakes; Building Bridges; and Build a Catapult and Test It.

“When kids investigate and experiment, they come to their own conclusions through trial and error instead of being told what will or what should happen. That’s empowering, and that’s what happens at Family Science Night,” says Ginger Sommer, program manager for education and outreach with UL.

Family Science Night is a turn-key operation – event leaders receive a step-by-step guide that walks them through the entire process. All planning and promotional tools are available online along with the 23 experiments, journal records for each experiment, invitation flyer, letterhead, Facebook graphics, printable photo booth props, and even printable “mad scientist” gift basket tags. A clickable summary chart that outlines each experiments complexity to set up, supplies and materials needed, time to complete, and even which experiments are better for young children is also available.

As Sommer concludes, “the smiles on their faces are just priceless,” spotlighting the value that one night immersed in family and science can bring to a child.

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