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A School Field Trip, For Parents!

Sue Stocker/Sun Sentinel
Olygin Roan, a Plantation Elementary School parent, participates in a craft project at Young At Art Museum in Davie. Plantation Elementary took parents on the daylong field trip as a way to increase parent participation at the school.

Faced with the issue of low parent involvement, Plantation Elementary decided to turn the field trip on its head.


On Monday it was the parents who climbed on board a school bus while the students spent their day in class.


I spoke to the principal of the school, Judith Pitter, about where she got the idea for a parents-only field trip.



Where did you get the idea for a parents-only field trip?

Well actually the idea came from my boss, Miss Haywood. When she was a principal years ago at Deerfield Park Elementary, she said she did it and helped with her parental involvement. So since I was in the same place now trying to increase my parental involvement, being a new principal here, I embraced the idea and that's where it came from.

How did it go for her when she tried it?

She said the parents remember it. It was an experience that day. So they remembered, and each time she got more people. Once the word went out for each time, there were more parents and she started getting more parental involvement in the school.

They get to get that one-on-one small conversation with them during that experience.  And they're more in their comfort zone, relaxed, and so they may realize that being supportive at the school and coming in the school is not as bad as they anticipated.

What did they do on the trip?

We actually started out here at the school site and they had breakfast. We sat around and had conversation. They had breakfast, which was provided by IHOP for us. And then and then we got on the bus and we went to the Young At Art Museum. We’re a STEM magnet school, so that's why we chose that museum, to let the parents see that tie in with our museum magnets.

So when we got there, the host at Young At Art,  she did some hands-on activities, sort of told them what museum entailed and they did a tour of the museum just like when you take your kids to the museum. A lot of the parents had never been there so they were very enthused about it. They really got into it like kids. One of the parents made the comment she felt like she went to school today. Because they really got into it and enjoyed and experience. And they're still talking about it.

How did the parents react to doing all these activities?

They were talking about their experience. They didn't know the museum offered so many things. The big piece was how the presenter there showed them art is everywhere. And you don't have to go out and buy stuff to help your child with a project or to help your child at home to have fun with art. You can use the q-tip, you can use a pencil eraser, you can use pieces of cord, thread, household items, pieces of fabric, all of those things to create a project at home to work with their students.

So that was an eye opener for them. It let them know they can do some fun stuff at home and it doesn't always have to be watching the TV. We sort of think that anything else is going to be expensive. But she showed them how everyday items that you have around your house can become an art project.

What do you hope this does for parent involvement?

I'm hoping the word will be out now. This next year I'm going to do it quarterly.

So hopefully with parents going out and seeing how their experience was from this first one, it will get more parents involved in the trip -- which in turn will show them my vision and plan for the school and their students, and how their involvement has a direct impact on student achievement. And that will bring them into the schools when we have other activities that are on the school site.

And they were like little kids when they were on the bus or even working on their projects that they had to present. Just hearing their conversations, they were like little kids. They had a really good time. Brio provided lunch for us free of cost. So it wasn't just the parents' involvement but also involving the whole community with them.

Parents just need to be aware that there are things that we can do at home that's going to impact our students and they will remember it for a lifetime. And that when our children are younger, they don't care how much money we make. As long as they see us and we're involved in their lives and involved in their school, that’s all that matters.

And, of course, when they get older, they just want our money. But first parents have to remember that parent involvement is a crucial part of the student's achievement. And it takes a village to raise a child. So we need everybody on board, the teachers, the parents, the community, in order to make our students successful lifelong learners.