parent and student working

Chicago Heights School District 170's Parent Academy Program continued its successful "Going Beyond … Once Upon a Time" Literacy/STEM Programming events with activities held recently at Garfield School and, for the first time, at Kennedy School.

"We are excited to be able to include Kennedy School's kindergarten families in our evening Fairy Tale Literacy/STEM events. These special workshops are in addition to the monthly workshops that are part of the Parent Academy Program," said Parent Academy Program Director Jennifer Gorton.

"We have so many great literacy and STEM resources to incorporate into our curriculum, and we are happy to be using them with more classroom teachers, and their students and families."

Kennedy School Principal Artis McCann spoke glowingly about the evening's Literacy/STEM activities and the Parent Academy Program.

"What an amazing night for our students and parents and grandparents!" McCann said. "Our families were so eager to plan and test the houses they built together after listening to the different versions of The Three Little Pigs presented by the teachers, Ms. Dias and Ms. Garcia."

"The Kennedy Team (Ms. Dias, Ms. Garcia, Mrs. Gorton, and Ms. King) planned a fun-filled literacy lesson with problem-solving opportunities for everyone. Even parents and older siblings created and tested their houses!"

"I look forward to more opportunities to incorporate STEM as part of the Kindergarten Parent Academy, in our primary grades, and with the families of our students," she concluded.

These well-received and well-attended events continue to be made possible by generous grant funding from the Illinois Reading Council (IRC).

The events were among several planned for the 2017-18 school year explicitly designed to be an integral part of classroom-guided instruction and working in conjunction with the Parent Academy Program. 

According to Gorton, the program focuses on specific English language arts and math curriculum concepts to engage students and their families in a positive relationship that accelerates the possibility of academic success.

"The CHSD 170 Parent Academy Program is a family engagement initiative designed to empower families with specific grade-level curriculum content, instructional strategies, and learning opportunities that best support a student's continued academic and social growth both at home and in the classroom," Gorton said.

"We engage our school community with the opportunity of working with grade-level teaching teams and set high expectations for family participation," she added.

"We embrace the presentation of high-quality and relevant learning experiences that align with specific English Language Arts and Math curriculum standards that involve the home and optimize student success."

The Parent Academy Program is designed as a monthly in-school workshop that gives parents of students in grades K-4 the opportunity to work closely with their child's classroom teacher. During each session, parents work together with teachers to practice and reinforce new skills and concepts that their child is learning.

These recent "Going Beyond …Once Upon A Time" literacy initiative activities focused on the Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood fairy tales and incorporated a variety of events designed to encourage, inform and empower families with both literacy curriculum and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) problem-solving strategies for continued learning opportunities at home.

"The Parent Academy's Going Beyond…Once Upon a Time Parent-Student Workshops integrate participation among teachers, parents, and students in curriculum-based and standards-based math and reading content areas," said Caleb Valentin, a first-grade bilingual teacher at Garfield School.

"The endeavor provides parents with an understanding of the learning that takes place in their children's classroom, how that learning is aligned to the state standards, and gives parents hands-on practice with the materials their children use on a daily basis."

Valentin went on the stress the importance of such events in enhancing student learning while expanding the learning environment to include the pupil's home.

"These activities better prepare parents to extend their children's learning at home with the STEM activities providing a fun way for parents to work with their children on a facet of the engineering design process in a fun and entertaining way," he said.

"This clearly is a win-win learning experience for all parties involved."