family involvement in school community outreach program
January 19, 2017 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm working with the social worker at my kids' school to get families more involved in the students' annual community outreach program. Looking for more ideas of how to do that.

In lieu of celebrating Valentine's Day, my kids' school does a "We Care" week that week. Each grade level is assigned to a different community organization. They collect donations (money, clothes, pop tops, food, etc) and then have a field trip to visit the organization and see the work they're doing firsthand.

Parents chaperone the field trips and sometimes help their kids get the donations together, depending on what they are. The school social worker is interested in getting them more involved in the week, maybe having a component of the week that's done with the whole family.

So far, we've talked about doing a canned food collection from kids' neighbors, or making something as a family to contribute. I'm having trouble coming up with anything and was hoping you all might have some ideas!

The list of organizations for this year hasn't been announced yet, but here are some we've worked with in the past:

Ronald McDonald House
Humane Society
food bank
public library
a thrift store run by a hospice organization
retirement home
nearby police station
a community center that runs a preschool and lots of programs for teens and older adults.

Thanks for the help, metafilter!
posted by gerstle to Education (7 answers total)
The kids could help make collection bins for the parents' workplaces and/or hobby groups and/or favorite coffee shops (etc.), and then the logistics of getting permission and promoting the drive at that location could be more on the parents but with a strong suggestion that they involve the kids as much as possible.
posted by teremala at 7:16 AM on January 19, 2017

This event was very successful. Essentially, the organizers set up a very constrained way for community members to make art - an 8x8" canvas on which they could paint anything that included a heart. People also contributed stained glass, sculpture, photography, collage, etc. -- but it absolutely didn't have to be "good". Just something cool, small, with a heart. There were a few artists, but also random museum members and a few local "celebrities". I think they gave them a couple of weeks to do the art, well in advance of the final event.

They posted images online, then there was a big party with a silent auction. They raised a lot of money.
posted by amtho at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2017

Are you looking for ideas of what kinds of activities to so or of how to increase participation?
In my kids’ schools, mostly I saw that the same families would participate regardless of the activity. They were the families who valued that kind of thing and were able to make the time for it.

I very rarely participated. I had a special needs kid, wasn’t friends with other parents at the schools, had half the income of most of them, and was a working single parent. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t a priority. I also targeted my donations in ways that I felt were most effective and did the most good; money for clean water in Africa rather than canned goods a food pantry could buy more cheaply itself or uniforms for a softball team.

The school fundraisers I DID participate in were:

A huge community day that had lots of kid activities. I went (and paid admission) because it was super fun for the kids. Instead of being work for me, it made my day better by giving me something my family actually wanted.

A pizza sale. Kids made unbaked pizzas with donated ingredients; they were cheaper than regular pizza and could go right in the freezer.

A rummage sale. I value environmental conscientousness, so I volunteered to sort donations and shopped the sale.

So basically, there was nothing you could have done that would make me want to participate out of the goodness of my heart. If you want me to participate, it needs to make my life easier.
posted by metasarah at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

I came to say what metasarah said. If you want to increase participation I think the key is to make it easier, not harder.

I like the pizza sale suggestion and that's something that could be a family activity - come to the school, make the pizzas together, pay, take them home.. I would hate having to go around the office for yet another fundraising thing. I have also enjoyed a family night of science challenges or other activities related to learning and would show up with a contribution for those. For example, a sorting exercise with cans could teach place value.

I honestly get annoyed with our school failing to teach its academic curriculum but having time to celebrate every. freaking. holiday. in ever-expanding ways. I end up standing over my child teaching math concepts that the teachers didn't have the means/time to teach properly while he goes on fundraising drives that may or may not reflect our values.

So to get my participation the activity needs to be meaningful and make my life better. Sorry to be a downer but I think that a lot of school social workers and well-meaning teachers contribute to alienating parents without realizing it.

If you just want to raise more money, make it super easy for parents to give and make a good case for support.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:02 AM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

My older daughter's school has a great program to help kids that come from less-advantaged homes. They make it super easy. Twice a month, they have a drop-off food drive in the carpool line for things like bagged snacks, fruit, peanut butter, etc. (The kids get a weekly bag of snacks.)

In addition, they also run competitions twice a year for each grade to bring in a certain type of food (condiments, cereal, canned goods). Whatever grade gets the most donations gets a free-seating at lunch.
posted by heathrowga at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: Sorry, haven't finished reading yet. But to clarify: I'm looking for a new activity to add to this week, probably something they do together at home, that involves families more than we have in the past. Not specifically suggestions for increasing participation.
posted by gerstle at 9:52 AM on January 19, 2017

Have the family work together to make an ad for the organization. Have them make a thank you card to give. Have them interview eac other about giving and what it means to them. Have talk about a time someone helped them out and how it felt. Read a story about a community coming together to make a difference. Do the math exercise: you have 1000 dollars- what would buy with it to help others?
posted by SyraCarol at 7:09 PM on January 19, 2017

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