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I thought I'd start a sharing thread in regards to how we all try to involve our parent and community groups within our classrooms? Besides the usually memos, phone calls, conferencing, Edline online programs, volunteering, does any one have other ideas (creative ones always welcomed) about this topic?
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Great idea to start this thread! Now that I am finally teaching science (yeah!), I am interested in knowing more about getting community involvement as well. I teach a very applicable course (AP Environmental Science) and I am working to get guest speakers in the classroom and outside. I am interested in finding parents in the env.sci field, stakeholders in the school community, and others from UH-Hilo and NGOs to talk to the students about the new developments in sustainability and renewable energy, conservation, and STEM. I hope to get community leaders to help with field trips and outdoor labs as well.
I think that getting community leaders into the middle school classrooms would be beneficial as well to help students start thinking about different careers rather than basic doctors, scientists or engineers. There are so many facets to what a degree in "science" can bring you nowadays that the opportunities are endless!
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So often the thought of involvement is $$$$ or time (that people don't always have). Simple things to involve the community or families can be as simple as collecting items you might need in the science lab. Plastic bottle that can be used for tornado models. Film containers (some people still use them). The list is really endless and once they warm up to the simple requests you can kick it up a little especially if their children become excited about what you are doing and talk about it. I frequently write a brief list of materials and directions for some activities on Edline so students can repeat the activities at home with their families. They love this and again this is a way to show everyone at home what we are doing to create interest and excitement.
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Rochelle, Whitney, and Elaine:
Two additional resources that you might try are the Science Supervisor or Science Specialist for your district (if your district has one) and contacts through a neighboring university. People in science education (especially) at a university have many community contacts and resources that you could tap into. From my experience, these two sources were very helpful.
Another idea is to have a Science Night, where students bring their parents, and together they “do” science. By having your students working with their parents, you’ll increase your students’ interest and excitement as well as increasing the parents’ understanding and appreciation of how their children are learning science. Also, by having students working together with their parents, you’ll create a forum to interact with the parents and to get to know them.
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Kathy you stole my idea! But I loved having Family Science, Family Math, or Family Technology Nights in my building. I actually started a student science club and they ran the programs with me as supervisor (and I think referee!). It was a great way to reach out to both families, and in our case, incoming students since we invited students from not only our school but from our feeder elementaries.
If you are an elementary, you could have a science fun day. I put together a collection of articles on these ideas from the Learning Center and a handout from a presentation I did with links to resources for Family Science and Family Engineering programs and articles on Science Fun/Community Days. And we always invited guest speakers - for Valentines Day one year (and Halloween another!) we invited people from the local Blood Bank to speak about donations, we had a parent come in and talk about electrical safety, etc.
Family Involvement with Science Collection
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At our school we also have a Science Night. It is actually coordinated by our Parent Community Networking Center (PCNC) coordinator. She invites local businesses to set up stations that show how they use science. In west Kauai we have several seed companies so they often attend. We also have a shrimp farm and a military base that showcase how they use science in their work. Not only do the stations promote science but they also gives students a chance to consider careers.
I also will often ask guest speakers to come into class. Taking a field trip is valuable, but when we can't bringing in guest speakers brings the field trip to us. I have had speakers come and talk to students about Hawaiian migration (a voyager who actually sails on a canoe), monk seals (protection agency), and electricity (electrician). This year I am looking forward to having a retired teacher's husband talk to the students about endangered Hawaiian birds. He is a photographer who takes pictures of the birds so he will be a wonderful resource.
I just realized that I often take the responsibility for figuring out who to invite. Perhaps I should extend this responsibility to the students. I should ask them who they think would be a good resource to teach us about a particular topic. Then I could have them write letters inviting these speakers to come. This way, students have to think about who would be right for this particular job. It is a great way to get students into the habit of figuring what resources will help them and empowers them with a way to access them! Sometimes we as teachers do too much...
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I think this is a forum. There are many great ideas to get involved in the community and have the parents involved as well. I see so much benefit from this. I will have to remember incorporating these ideas when planing science in my classroom. Thank you.
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I've always thought that it might be fun to start a school garden where the students and parents work together to farm this garden so that the school has healthy food options for kids. I know that that fall under the volunteer realm, but I thought this might be something different that parents can do. Once the garden is going, the teachers can work with parents so that the parents can help teach science and gardening all at the same time. Again, this might be a little more volunteering than the creative outlet you were looking for, but I wanted to start this up at my school and thought I would share.
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I definitely agree in having a community garden at the school. It's a great way to have students learn about plants and share with the adults in their lives.
Another great resource I recently found was code.org. This would probably work better for students who are a bit older but the website has an area where you can find specialized volunteers in your area, (https://code.org/volunteer/local) . All of the volunteers registered have a STEM background, usually computer code or engineering related, and are happy to visit the class and show students how to code or speak to the students about what they do. It's a great way to introduce students to an area of science that may really spark their interest and allows them to see members of their community who interact with the subject matter they find so interesting.
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When I start teaching I want to make sure that my students' families are involved because I know how beneficial that can be. Any suggestions besides the usual (phone calls, e-mails, classroom newsletters, etc.) that I can do to achieve my goal?
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At my school we had the local community college chemistry club come and show our students different experiments. The chemistry club created elephant tooth paste, magnetic play doh and slime. Reach out to community colleges they are a good resource for science since they have different departments and clubs that are happy to share their knowledge and joy of science. As for parent involvement, we have a parent club that works with the teachers to create different events that encourages parents to participate in school activities. This month they are asking parents to donate garden supplies since the school is planning to create a school garden. Parents are involved in different aspects of the planning process from design, and soil and plant selection.
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