Archive for the 'Engaging parents & families' Category

Monitor Elementary in Springdale, AR, expands winning family-outreach program with Keep the Dream Going Grant

Monitor ES bilingual books

Springdale, Arkansas is home to the largest community of Marshallese families outside the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. At Monitor Elementary, Principal Maribel Childress and ESL Specialist Julia Crane used funds from a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream Grant to organize a series of Marshallese Academic Achievement Nights to make parents feel welcome, and to involve them more fully in their children’s education.

The initiative was so successful that this year, with funding from a 2013-2014 Sharing the Dream–Keep the Dream Going Grant, the school started a similar program for Hispanic families. Families read books together, work on projects, and are trained in using mini iPads pre-loaded with educational apps that they can “check out” on weekends to support learning at home.

“Nearly 300 of our students are from Mexico and El Salvador, speaking Spanish as their primary language,” Julia Crane said. “Many of our students are migratory, as they move with the family in order to follow work. Parent involvement has been such a challenge for us.”

Monitor’s Family Digital Literacy Project was introduced to families at a school-wide evening academic night in February and parents were quick to sign up. “At least one participation form has been turned in daily,” Crane said.

She believes, “Successful schools with high numbers of English Language Learners have one key component in common: parental involvement. Adding the Latino parent class this year will allow us the opportunity to build trusting relationships with these families as we learn from each other how to celebrate their culture and the academic success of their children.

“Hearing that we won a Keep the Dream Going Grant for this new facet of the program was an exhilarating moment for us!”

Example of Parent Session: Picture Walks

–Julia Crane, ESL Specialist

Our parent classes focus on techniques and strategies that are supported by current research. For example, it is suggested that parents are taught specific strategies that they can use to help support their children with school-related learning.

In a recent class, parents observed a lesson taught in a classroom, where the teacher covered all of the words in a book, only discussing the pictures with the students by asking questions such as ‘what do you notice?’ and ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’

The teacher was able to clearly demonstrate to parents that reading a book was about more than words on a page. After visiting the classroom, I guided the parents through an exercise doing these ‘picture walks.’ The parents then partnered up and practiced this new skill with each other, walking through a book asking simple questions to engage one another in the story.

The object of the lesson was that parents did not need to be able to read in English, or any language for that matter, to facilitate comprehension of the story and enjoy reading with their children.”

For Massachusetts students, global art exchange paints a picture of cultural identity, connection

paint for lowell articleLowell Community Charter Public School, in Lowell, MA, welcomed families back to school with an International Potluck, kicking off the school’s Global Lowell Program, a year-long exploration of culture through the arts, funded by a 2013-2014 Sharing the Dream grant.

Lowell’s students have ties to 23 different countries, and 60 percent speak a language other than English at home. “Ensuring that our curriculum and enrichment projects are culturally relevant to our students and community is one of our top priorities,” said Trent Ramsey, the school’s director of communications and development.

Through OneWorld Classrooms, Lowell students will exchange original artworks with children in 10-12 other countries that will be displayed at an exhibit for parents and the community on April 17, 2014. Sixth graders, who are being trained as guides, will lead guests through the show.

Lowell was introduced to OneWorld Classrooms last school year, when a parent sponsored an online art exchange. “It was inspiring because many of the art pieces that our students viewed from other countries were the art of their home countries: Brazil, Africa, Cambodia,” Ramsey said. “This year, we wanted to expand the reach of the project and involve the community.”

Along with working on art projects for the April exhibit, students are taking Google Earth tours; interviewing family members about their own immigration stories; participating in workshops with an artist-in-residence; and learning about the history, music, family life and customs of Cambodia, Puerto Rico, Ghana, Kenya, Brazil and other countries.

Lowell is also hosting OneWorld Classrooms’ Boston 140 exhibition in March 2014, featuring artworks by K-12 students from Greater Boston and 38 countries.

“For our school, winning a national grant for such an important project was a milestone for us,” Ramsey said. “Thanks to Sharing the Dream, we are able to give our students a unique hands-on way to connect and share with each other about individual cultures, as well as learn about parts of the world they haven’t experienced.”

A Home for Every Culture at J.S. Clark Elementary

JS clark school

At J. S. Clark Elementary in Shreveport, LA, pre-K–6th graders studied the currencies, weather, geography, art, literature, music, food and governments of Mexico, the Philippines and Africa — selected because a majority of the school’s students and staff identified with those cultures.

Activities included a field trip to an international market, Spanish language instruction, multicultural read-alouds, and an International Festival for families featuring student projects, a quiz bowl, and international foods.

J.S. Clark Elementary’s America: A Home for Every Culture project was funded by a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream Grant.

Families travel the world at Rees Elementary’s multicultural festival and bazaar

Rees elementaryStudents at Rees Elementary in Houston, Texas, learned about art, global traditions, economics, marketing and supply and demand while making cultural handicrafts that were sold at a Multicultural Mosaic festival and bazaar for families.

More than 200 families attended the May 30, 2013 event featuring international food tastings, cultural performances, a global market, and a display of dolls dressed in traditional clothing made by students to represent their cultural backgrounds.

Students’ “passports” were stamped as they visited interactive booths showcasing cultures around the world. “I got a lot of stamps from different countries. I’m a world-class traveler!” one third grader said.

Proceeds from the Multicultural Mosaic marketplace will fund supplies for next  year’s bazaar, making it self-supporting.

Rees Elementary’s Multicultural Mosaic project was funded by a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream Grant.

Students investigate issues facing seasonal farm workers and families

hinsdale photo

Students at Hinsdale Elementary in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, probed the global issue of poverty and its effects locally and around the world through art, writing and drama, and discovered how art can be a creative outlet that can uplift individuals and communities.

Using Skype, children interviewed a migrant dairy farm worker to ask why people leave Mexico to work in the U.S. and why farms in New Hampshire hire migrant workers.

Artists-in-residence from the Beehive Collective—an international group that creates artworks around social, justice and environmental issues—inspired students to collaborate on a mural and song to express what they had learned about poverty, agriculture, seasonal farm workers, and fair wages, which they shared at a family arts night.

“Instead of just learning about these topics, I can actually do something!” one student said. “Shouldn’t we be helping these people? Workers need to be paid more.”

The school launched a website to document their Poverty, Art and Justice project that features lesson plans, videos, and photos.

Hinsdale Elementary’s project was funded by a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream grant. To apply for a 2013-2014 grant, click here.

Whitney Young Jr. Elementary’s World Cultural Diversity Day Fosters International-mindedness

Whitney Young dancing

This guest post is by Cabrina Bosco, Primary Years Programme Coordinator at Whitney Young Jr. Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky.

“You didn’t put it up right! It is upside down! Why is it like that?” students exclaimed when they looked at the giant world map posted on the wall.

The map, from WiseGuyMaps, was right side up but had a different perspective of the world with south oriented toward the top. One of the goals of hosting an International Potluck on World Cultural Diversity Day on May 21st at Whitney Young Jr. Elementary was to remind us that there are many ways to look at the world and to rethink our presumptions about who we are and where we all come from.

Whitney Young Jr. Elementary is a magnet school for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). It is an urban, Title I public school that serves a population of ethnically and linguistically diverse learners from across the wide school district of Jefferson County.  As an IB World School, we strive to foster international-mindedness in our community by acknowledging and celebrating commonalities and differences. This also goes hand-in-hand with the district’s cultural competence initiative to encourage awareness and relationship-building between staff and the families we serve.

This project made possible by NAESP and MetLife Foundation’s Sharing the Dream grant program was realized through the efforts of the school’s School Culture and IB Design Committees who collaborated to plan the event and make certain both in-school and community-based groups took part.

The committees considered the transportation issues of many of our families. Many children do not get home until after 5 p.m., so instead of having them trek back to school at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. (which would have also meant a late night for all involved), activities were planned to occur directly after dismissal. Over 90 students stayed with parental permission and rotated through various interactive sessions including three types of cultural dances, crafts and food.

Students were taught European and Latin dance steps by other students and visiting dancers. Teachers and parents led craft stations where children decorated Dia de los Muertos designs, made tissue paper flowers for table decorations, tasted escargot and made guacamole for the potluck.

“My favorite part was seeing how people from all the different countries dressed, how they danced and what they did for fun. I also liked the different types of food! I’m used to eating my mom’s food, but I liked trying different types of food to see how it tastes,” said 5th grader, Amanda Castro Diaz.

Between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m., families arrived to a colorful, decorated cafeteria for the International Potluck bringing with them tasty dishes reflecting a variety of cultures. To begin the evening, our principal, Mary Minyard,  addressed the families (with translation devices available) and brought awareness of the need to be appreciative, tolerant and accepting of cultural diversity.

“Tonight we are here to commemorate World Cultural Diversity Day,” Minyard said. “Young Elementary exemplifies cultural diversity. It is one of our strengths. Students at Young strive to exhibit the IB learner profile, which includes being communicators, open-minded and risk-takers.”

During the event, participants were encouraged to visit and talk with community groups at informational tables, look at cultural displays about various countries made by students, and to decorate a fabric square to be assembled into a Community Quilt.

All in all, based on the attendance of more than 220 participants and their responses, the event was a huge success. The Young Elementary community embraced its diversity and united in a celebration of the richness of its cultures.

Muller Elementary Students’ Sculptures Inspired by the Seven Continents

Muller sculpturesFifth graders at Muller Elementary, a performing arts magnet school in Tampa, FL, showcased what they learned about regions and cultures of the world by creating full-scale totem poles for the school’s Global Garden, a Sharing the Dream-funded project.

The sculptures, constructed from 2-liter plastic bottles, glass, empty paint cans and other found materials, are decorated with plants, animals and natural scenes inspired by the seven continents.

“They are all very different and unique,” said Muller Elementary’s principal, Wendy Harrison.

The eye-catching sculptures were recently exhibited in a district-wide recycled art show, before being installed in the garden, which is divided into seven areas, each representing a continent.

muller sculptures 2

African daisies and Birds of Paradise have been planted in the African section, and planting is underway in the European section. A “living fence” of Sweet Viburnum hedges has been planted around the site of a future outdoor stage for students, families and community members to gather around to watch music and drama performances.

The school has held four family gardening events since the beginning of the school year, with up to 60 people pitching-in to plant, mulch, weed and water. At one event, lead teacher, Kathy Dimitriezki, noticed one dad hanging back as his kindergartener worked.

“I said to myself, he’s gardening in his heart. He’s taking it all in.”

She left for a moment to cover the African plants in preparation for an overnight frost and, “by the time I got back, he was next to his son, digging holes. To see a parent get involved, who at first wasn’t participating, was awesome.”

muller sculptures 3

“Everyone, from families and students, to teachers, are taking pride in our garden,” Harrison said. “Students have told me they care about the environment and their school. It brings tears to my eyes.”

Now she and Dimitriezki look at every patch of green space as a potential spot for vegetables and flowers.

“The Sharing the Dream grant has helped us spread the garden to different corners of the school property,” Dimitriezki said. “We have tomatoes growing around the parking lot!”

Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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