Our makerspace was a learning area that had come about through considerable effort, and we wanted to make the most of it to benefit student learning. The real need for more adult support was a natural fit for Parents as Allies. It would be a win-win to engage parents in this hands-on learning model, acquaint them with its potential and also create additional resources for the school.
Initially our plan was for parents to serve as supports in the makerspace. But on rethinking, it was lead coaches we needed. A pathway to that role is what the team designed. Our goal was to have the coaches work in pairs with 12 students at a time in our makerspace.
For each training, there were 3 sessions offered. Coaching sessions were designed with an emphasis on collaborative fun. During each session we either began or ended with the families working together. For instance, during Course 1 we opened with a creativity lesson involving play doh and in Course 2 we concluded with the families creating a marble run by creating a "spinner of constraints." The spinner helped the parent-school learners consider obstacles in a fun way.
The upshot is that we designed the course around an authentic need for students. Making it fun was a bonus. All participants had a chance to experience learning in a creative and exciting way, and with a payoff that was meaningful on many levels.
We wrapped up our first coaching cohort and had 10 parents ready to launch pilot sessions in November 2022 with a full school rollout in January 2023. All courses have been offered multiple times and as of December 2022, 23 parents had been trained as lead coaches. Interestingly, this opportunity has appealed to a new audience for us - dads and grandparents, some of whom have returned time and again, even after completing the courses.
Further, we continued our trajectory by inviting a team of parents to join our teachers and Curriculum Director in a partnership with Bots IQ and Stemcoding Lab to create K-6 programming. Both are nonprofit companies based in a local hospital in our school community and they will provide material and training resources.
We have created a playbook that we can make available. Contact us. The secret is creating an authentic connection, something sustainable because it's valued. And don’t be satisfied until you reach beyond the sphere of influence and the faithful participants. Keep asking, who aren't we reaching...the dads, the grandparents, community. members?