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Northgate School District

Implementation of Parents & Caregivers: New Maker Teachers

Parental Engagement







Target group
January 2024
Parents kept coming back and felt like they were contributing to the education of their kids and supporting the school district. They felt needed. They felt they were making an impact. And, they saw how much we needed them.

About the implementation

The goal of the "Maker Coaches" program is to engage parents in a meaningful and purposeful way. Parents trained and learned about maker learning. Upon completion, parents then assisted teachers in the classroom and helped teach students. Both parents and teachers found this program rewarding and they were able to see how their work together created a positive impact on the students' education.

What did you do in practice?

We created a maker teacher program in hopes of engaging parents in a meaningful and purposeful in the classroom. In three courses, teachers taught parents about maker learning, including the principles of making, the fundamentals of coaching creativity through making and operations of a makerspace. By the end of the training, parents became Maker Teachers and able to help teachers in the classroom. The benefits of this program have positively impacted the teachers, students and parents.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

We wanted to authentically bring parents into the classroom. Frankly, we needed help in the classrooms and we knew there was genuine interest from parents, especially those not typically engaged with us. This included parents of different backgrounds — nuclear engineer, professor, grandmother — who wanted to learn from their kids' teachers and become assistant maker teachers. We felt this would create a long-lasting bond and trust between parents and teachers while helping our students.


It was highly successful! Parents who previously weren't engaged with the school reached out to join this cohort. Parents felt they were making meaningful contributions to the school. Teachers were happy to have additional help in the classroom. There was a greater level of trust and support between teachers and parents. And most importantly, the students benefitted academically.

30 parents became certified maker teachers.
Parents kept wanting to come back, even when they had completed the session or program.
Another cohort of maker teachers was launched at the other elementary school.
Parents are now helping to train other parents to become maker teachers.
Every time we host a maker session, more teachers are getting involved.
New parents and caregivers are getting involved, like grandparents and fathers.

Learning Journey

Ideation: The mini hack "Games in the Park"
Through our empathy interviews, we learned that both parents and teachers felt we were stronger together. The idea emerged to get to know each other better through a fun event. For our first mini hack, we hosted "Games in the Park", an event for parents, students and teachers. We played fun games and even had an epic water balloon battle. Everyone had a great time and it started us thinking about how to create more sustained, long-term relationships between parents and teachers.
Developing the Maker Coaches program
We thought about how to create a way for parents to participate in a meaningful way that provided a long-term relationship with teachers. The idea of Maker Teachers was born. Teachers taught parents about maker principles, the importance of encouraging creativity and how to use makerspace tools. Parents liked the training because it helped them feel prepared to contribute in the classroom, and they had fun. Parents kept coming back for more courses, even after they already met the requirements.
The feedback all around was extremely positive. Teachers were happy to have additional help in the classroom and parents were happy to contribute in a meaningful way. Long-term relationships were developed and parents and teachers became true partners. Students gained additional support in the classroom and improved academically. One grandmother who trained to become a maker teacher shared she now had a better understanding of how to academically support her grandson at home.
Evaluation and New Ideas
The program has been a great success. And, we are continuing to support our maker teachers. A new cohort is underway at our other elementary school. And, we are expanding the training for parents through a partnership with Bots IQ and STEMcoding. The literacy teachers are also excited to incorporate Maker Teachers into their classroom for doing such things as capping off a literacy module on medieval times by engaging students to build catapults!


The Northgate School District is seven and a half miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh and encompasses a land area of 1.81 square miles of Boroughs of Avalon and Bellevue. The region is a diverse socio-economic area with a population just over 13,000.

Northgate School District