Teachers' pets. Volunteer parents put spin and spice on their children's classroom studies
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Other examples of parents' contributing their expertise: For a unit on local ethnic groups, one parent showed slides of her trip to the Soviet Union. Another brought in foods traditional to his Greek homeland. A third created games to play with the children that would increase their sense of black awareness.Skip to next paragraph
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For an insect unit, a parent with an interest in entomology brought in part of a university insect collection and a microscope so that each child could look at different parts of the insects under magnification.
For a music unit, a parent who plays a stringed instrument performed for the children. Then the parent showed how the instrument worked and the range of things that could be done with it.
For many parents working outside the home, coming in during school hours is simply impossible. Volunteering on an occasional evening or weekend can be equally valuable.
``I couldn't pull off our annual nature center overnight without help from parents,'' says third-grade teacher Marion Rosenbaum.
``Parents who don't do anything else throughout the year bring along their younger children, cook supper with us, and spend the night,'' she continues. ``Their giving just this brief amount of time makes possible one of the most popular events of the year.''
Refurbishing playgrounds, assembling new equipment, sprucing up classrooms, helping with a play, and serving at the teacher's breakfast are some of the once-a-year events that couldn't happen without volunteers.
Helping from home
In a study on parent involvement conducted in 600 Maryland schools, Epstein found that 70 percent of all parents never went to the school building in any volunteer capacity.
``In many places it's impossible for parents to get there. They should be able to see that, with some guidance from teachers, effective school volunteering can be done at home,'' she says.
``Even something as simple as sending in snacks a few times a year shows a child that you recognize what he does in school is important enough for you to want to contribute to it,'' says kindergarten teacher Pat Cordery.
``The child who brings snacks feels so good about himself,'' she adds. ``You can tell the difference it makes from the children who never bring it.''
Other things parents can do at home:
Mount displays of children's work.
Make additional copies of games and other classroom materials.
Type children's stories, class lists, curriculum materials.
Collect pictures from magazines.
See that the school board agenda is published in the local newspaper.
Buy small needed items, such as pencil grips for the special education program.
Provide child care so that another parent can volunteer in the classroom.
Recruit other parents to participate in special events.
Arrange for field trips by contacting local businesses and other places of interest.
Invite the class to tour your work place.
Collect recyclable materials, such as egg crates, lids, spools, 35mm film cases, paper rolls, buttons, corks, coffee scoops, fabric scraps, and the like.
``We believe that parents are an important ingredient in the educational process both in school and at home,'' says Nancy Berla, director of casework for the National Committee for Citizens in Education. ``Their involvement can take many forms. Volunteering is only one of them.''
For more ideas, call the NCCE's toll-free telephone number: (800) NETWORK. From Maryland and Alaska, call (301) 997-9300.