Engaging Families for Student Success

From College to Career With Middle School Families

May 8, 2015

This spring, families from Hart Middle School and Kramer Middle School joined TTP for two special off-site Community Nights, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Howard University. These field trips were an interactive way to encourage students and parents to explore possibilities for postsecondary education and careers.

Night at the Museum

geologist speaking to families in theaterIn early March, TTP continued a two year partnership with the National Museum of Natural History and brought families to the Q?rius Exhibit for a “Night at the Museum” to expose families to career opportunities in the STEM fields.

The evening began with an engaging panel and Q&A session with scientists from the Smithsonian and the National Health Institute. They had the opportunity to hear stories from Dr. Mike Wise, Geologist, Division of Mineralogy at the NMNH; Dr. Linda Cole, Museum Specialist, Invertebrate Zoology Staff at the NMNH; Cristina Castillo, project coordinator for the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), who studies deep ocean reefs and biodiversity; and Carla Easter, Chief of the Education and Community Involvement Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Each scientist shared their career path and encouraged students to pursue science in college.

boys at microscopes in the fieldAfter the Q&A, students and parents explored the Q?rius exhibit. In “The Field,” our panelists provided families with opportunities to experience their research firsthand by sharing their specimens, teaching mini-lessons about the differences between rocks and minerals, and helping students and parents track some of their own genetic traits. Meanwhile, families in the “The Collection Zone” examined hundreds of real artifacts under microscopes, getting a close-up view of everything from insects to stuffed owls, all carefully preserved in glass cases. Finally, in the “Forensics Lab,” students and parents handled real bones from the Yorktown Archeology Site and helped solve a murder mystery.

At the end of his visit at Q?rius, a Hart student reflected, “I learned that there are many scientists and that there can be a million things you can learn and study about.” Other students shared what they would study if they were a scientist, such as “a cure for diabetes, Astronomy, Geology, rocks, fish, fossils and bones.”


College Night

Hart group on tourAfter exploring possible career pathways with scientists at the Natural History Museum, Turning the Page families from Hart and Kramer Middle Schools experienced a slice of college life on Howard University’s campus – our second college trip this school year. On a beautiful April evening, students, parents, and teachers toured the campus with trained Howard Ambassadors, who shared what it’s like to live and study at Howard.

panel and howard students close upNext up, a step team from Carver Hall, the recent winners of Howard’s ResFest dance competition, opened the panel discussion with a performance down the aisles of the auditorium. Families then heard expertise and insight on the college process from our assembled panelists: Calvin Hadley from the Office of the President, Precious Smith from the Center for Academic Excellence, Maisha Challenger from the Office of Federal Student Aid, Tamara Wilds Lawson, the DC Director of The Posse Foundation and Al-Malik Forrest from the Howard TRUST Society – a current undergraduate student. They all reflected on their own journeys to college and offered families advice about financial aid, how to get ready for college starting in middle school, and what colleges look for in prospective students. Our Howard DC Reads mentors and other enthusiastic Howard students then joined the panelists to share their firsthand experiences with college life. This field trip was a special opportunity for families to get an inside look at one of the Nation’s top rated Historically Black College or University (HBCU), talk to students coming from similar life experiences, and see themselves reflected in the student body.

Howard mentors and studentsAt the end of the night, we asked the middle schoolers what they would study if they were college students. The answers ranged from math to law, music to business. “I would study everything…just because I would like to stay at Howard!” wrote one Hart student enthusiastically. And one Kramer student summed up the spirit of the evening, stating simply, “If I was a college student I would study every day for my family so I can achieve something in life.”


Turning the Page has facilitated countless family learning experiences over the years. These hands-on field trips continued that tradition, while encouraging middle school students and parents to explore the possibilities of college life and STEM careers. Whatever the future holds, we hope these memorable events will inspire families to dream big as they prepare for high school and beyond.