by NATHANIEL NELSON
In a hallway at St. Stan’s Elementary School, more than a dozen parents wait near rows of lockers as children scramble back into their rooms. These parents aren’t there to bring their kids home –– they’re there to help their children learn.
Every month, the third-grade classrooms at St. Stan’s host Connection Day, a day devoted to bringing parents into the classroom to be with their children and learn, play educational games and complete activities tied to the students’ coursework.
Lisa Ratz, a third-grade teacher at St. Stan’s, was the impetus behind the program, which kicked off in September. She explained that early last year, she was brainstorming ways to bring third-grade students closer to their parents. “Over the summer, I wanted to find a way to get parents more involved,” she said.
And so she came up with Connection Days, where parents are invited into the classroom to work on themed activities with their children once a month.
“We believe it’s important for kids to have a connection with their parents as teachers and in the classroom,” Ratz said. “The goal is to have the parents come in and have a better relationship with our school and our students.”
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The kids are always so excited for our Connection Days,” she said.
Greggory Olcott was visiting his daughter Jocelyne, playing a game of Boggle, where players take a mix of letters and create as many words as they can. The theme for the day was literacy, with activities including vocabulary, alphabetizing words, and games like Boggle and others that connect back to the curriculum.
“It’s good to see what they’re doing, see what they’re learning, and let them see that we care,” Greggory said, adding that the games are a fun way to help the students think critically.
Wendy Vafaei and her daughter Parisa also enjoyed playing games together on Connection day, and Parisa was excited to be able to hang out with her mom in class.
“I like that we get to spend time with them and play games,” Parisa said.
Wendy explained that she seesthe program as a good way to spend time with her duahgter in an unconventional way.
“It’s nice to join in and have a better understanding of their day-to-day,” Wendy said. “Kids are excited for us to come into school –– typically, kids don’t get their parents in the classroom. It also groups us up and lets us meet more of their peers and their parents.”
Each month, a different third-grade teacher takes the reins and plans out the activities for the day, with wide-ranging themes. In addition to literacy, the program has also covered service projects, math, board games and other subjects as the categories shift each month.
“All games and activities are connected to the students’ learning, and fit within [state] standards,” Ratz said.
This year has been the first time Connection Day has been implemented, but Ratz said they are planning on continuing it year after year. The only problem they’ve found has been the sheer number of students –– 60 this year, with growing class sizes on the way –– and making sure groups are proportioned correctly. But that’s not a bad problem to have, Ratz said.
“It gives them pride to show parents the different things they do in the classroom. If you look around, it’s all smiles,” Ratz explained. “[Parents] love it; they love seeing their kids and their daily lives, and the different ways they can bring [the learning] home.”