Boosting Family Engagement in a Nature Explore Classroom
“The more families become involved in the day-to-day experiences of the outdoor classroom the more their level of excitement deepens.” – Keeping it Growing: Sustaining Your Outdoor Classroom
Families come to us with a wealth of experiences and interests. They are their child’s most lasting and valuable teachers. Programs that find ways to work with parents and other relatives to make decisions and support all children see great returns in family engagement. They develop relationships with enthusiastic parents who are ready to share their time and resources.
Our Certified Nature Explore Classroom network shared some of their best family engagement ideas with us. This is just the beginning of a long list of ways a Nature Explore Classroom can enhance the lives of families and encourage program, community and family connections.
- Host an event in your Nature Explore Classroom. The Child Development Center at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida holds an annual fall open house. Families are invited to take a stroll through the Garden Area or build a castle in the Building Area. During the event, families learn about each other, meet their children’s teachers and see — first hand — the great benefits of playing outdoors.
- Develop routines with families. Dimensions Early Education Programs in Lincoln, Nebraska schedules part of their outdoor classroom time during drop off and/or pick up. Families are encouraged to spend time with their child as they transition into or out of school activities. Some parents even make time every day to water a special plant or tidy their child’s favorite play space.
- Highlight nature in the community. St. Francis Episcopal Day School in Houston, Texas established a Families Club as a way to connect families to nature and build community. They have grown a strong pool of parent volunteers who are eager to help with construction and ongoing maintenance of the outdoor classroom.
- Keep communicating. When programs share stories of children’s powerful learning that is happening in a Nature Explore Classroom, they build an appreciation for nature and the outdoor classroom itself. Highland Plaza United Methodist Preschool in Hixon, Tennessee uses their website, newsletter and Facebook page to highlight experiences and share information. Informed parents provide support. They help children arrive with appropriate weather gear, donate supplies and volunteer their time. They are also more enthusiastic about the program and can be counted on to tell their friends and neighbors about the program.
How have you fostered family engagement in your school, program or center? What ideas have helped parent engagement soar in your Nature Explore Classroom? Please share your thoughts in the comments.