Fall Curriculum Night engages CNE Elementary students, parents
By Dick Maloney
Schools are in session for less than half a day, but learning continues long past the final bell. The Clermont Northeastern Elementary School staff recognizes that and is working to increase its engagement with families in order to make the most of the time parents have with their children.
The school hosted a fall curriculum night in October for kindergarten through fifth-grade students and their families. This event was an expansion of a similar family night that was held for kindergarten through second-grade in the spring of 2019.
Principal Tonya Schmidt reported that more than 500 people attended the curriculum night. While the spring night focused on reading, the fall night included math, science and reading activities. Teachers Stacey Ciraci and Trina Farrell, CNE’s reading specialists, and Diane Fetter, the school librarian, helped organize the activities.
“The goal is for it to be a combination of events that focus on fun and learning. We also model simple learning activities that parents can do at home with their children,” Schmidt said. “We had all kinds of events, from making popcorn and candy corn witch hands to read-alouds, slime making, dissecting owl pellets, and also a bookwalk where winners are able to pick a book of their choice to take home.
Tents were set up in the school library, where scavenger hunts were conducted. Every family who attended the event received a ticket for a raffle in which gift baskets donated by the school’s PTO were raffled. The PTO also supported the event by providing and serving dinner. Parents also donated snacks such as Oreos, Goldfish and juice boxes. A Kona Ice truck was on site and proceeds were given to the Clermont Northeastern Foundation.
“We put together raffle baskets with donations and help from some of our amazing parents,” PTO President Ashley Ledbetter said in an email. “We also set up a station to teach families about the BoxTops for Education app. We collect box tops to help raise money for school.”
“The entire event was free to our families. It is always great to be able to provide food for our evening events so families do not need to worry about providing dinner and can just come out and enjoy the fun,” Schmidt said.
CNE Elementary is also working to reverse a trend that shows kindergarten students coming to school in the fall less and less prepared for school both academically and socially. A new initiative, “Ready Rockets,” is funded by a grant from Dollar General. The initiative has led to the school scheduling parent programs, the first of which was Sept. 24. Kindergarten staff, reading specialists and others, including Schmidt, her assistant principal, Kendra Young, and the school psychologist, Amy Ellis took part.
“The Ready Rockets program for Kindergarten students allows teachers to provide learning and fun activities to do with the students so that parents are free to participate in programs with staff or with special guests. At our first event, parents learned about the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment as well as our school-wide behavioral support and reward system, PBIS (Positive Behaviors, Interventions and Supports),” Schmidt said.
Upcoming “Ready Rockets” programs will feature an informal presentation by the school’s mental health personnel, a visit from an Ohio State nutritionist and information from the Owensville Library. Parents will also have opportunities to observe teachers modeling learning activities that parents can do with their children at home.
“The goal is to build strong partnerships with our parents and get them engaged earlier in what we are doing with their children here at school. We want our families to feel more and more comfortable at school and more confident and armed with tools that will enable them to teach their children,” Schmidt said.
In January, incoming kindergartners (fall 2020) will be invited to participate in the Ready Rockets. The goal of this second phase of the program is to try to further impact the outcomes for our youngest students.
“The format will shift to a parent training model. We’re going to spend our time modeling for parents how to read to their child and how to use questioning strategies to impact comprehension. We plan to teach parents simple things they can do to begin working on math, literacy and social skills,” Schmidt said. As a part of the initiative, parents will be given books and physical teaching tools (manipulatives) they can take home and use for simple math games, to talk about letters and letter sounds, as will as other early numeracy and literacy activities to help increase the chances of kindergarteners coming to school with the skills they need.
“We’ve been striving to provide more opportunities to get parents into school, and we want to make sure we’re not only having fun events, but also engaging parents in the curriculum as much as possible,” Schmidt said. “I always love an opportunity for teachers to engage the parents and the students outside of the regular school day. I think parents need to see the bonds that have been formed between the students and the staff here.”
“There will be another K-5 curriculum night in the spring, perhaps focusing on science and social studies activities. We are trying to think of other ways to engage our families and get student activities and learning tools in front of our parents,” Schmidt said.