Meaningful Engagement of Families and Communities is an essential piece of any school success to be had. Having a transparent and open environment with stakeholders is an important piece to build the relations that need to be in place for a school to be successful. This reaches much deeper than a traditional community outreach event, including a football or basketball game. It goes beyond the twice a year parent teacher conferences. To have meaningful engagement with the family and the community, you need to invite families and community members into your school for other, more meaningful and academic reasons. As part of this, a colleague and I decided it would be an excellent idea to host a Family Code Night as an outreach event. This involved planning, promoting, and working to get some of our kindergarten through fifth grade families into our schools to see some more of the academic sides of things.
Family Code Night is designed to help introduce students to the computer programming and computational thinking. It also requires a significant amount of critical thinking. In the program, a parent and a student are paired together as a team and have to navigate a set of mastery-based challenges that allow them to progress. There is a gamification element as the student begin by navigating an “angry bird” to attack an “evil pig.” Throughout the evening, the students were presented with solving problems of increasing difficulty. It was amazing to watch the kindergartners light up as they mastered a puzzle and were able to progress to the next. The evening was 75 minutes with parents and students.
The purpose was to get our students and parents thinking about opportunities that are available to them. We are exploring the possibility of continuing the outreach over the summer as well with a coding camp backed up to our summer free lunch program. While the community was not directly involved, in many ways, the support from the parents will help spread the word in the community. Everyone had a tremendous amount of fun during the evening.
The real thing I learned was in the conversations with my superintendent during and afterwards. Over the past three weeks, our school district had done a tremendous amount of reach out to parents, hosting a literacy night, an early college night, and our Family Code Night. While each had various levels of attendance, they were all attended. Every journey needs to have a starting point. Each meeting had more than enough people to start something great. While we may not be at standing room only levels of crowds, we are in the process of building more trust with the community. It is a part of our revamped mission statement and strategic plan as a district. Over the course of the years, there has seemingly been a disconnect between the schools, the parents, and the community.
Regardless of the numbers, parents and community members in the building are essential. Simply beginning the outreach is a fantastic start. As time progresses, we will strive to get more stakeholders in the door, but we are beginning to reach out more and more. One thing that we are going to be planning in the coming months is a forum on the deployment of our Chromebooks. It is important that we continue to engage the community and strive for the best relations that we can have. We have to get the community into the buildings more to build a trusting partnership and ensure future successes for all our students. As I think about this from more of a leadership position, it would be my goal to highlight one program a month to continue to build the relationship with our families, community members, and other various stakeholders.