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West Jordan Journal

Families strengthened by school activities

Oct 23, 2018 03:56PM ● By Jana Klopsch

The Gilleland family plays a game of UNO to hone their math skills. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

Heartland Elementary School administration and staff strengthens their students by strengthening their families. Several times a year, families are invited to participate in family-centered activities hosted by the school. 

“There is research that absolutely supports when you have parents involved in the educational process and working as a partner with the teachers, you can see the increase of learning for the kids,” said Principal Shelly Davis.

At Math Night, held in September, parents learned games and creative activities to help their child practice grade-level math skills at home.

Game ideas included UNO, multiplication bingo and dice games adaptable to any skill level. Teachers of younger students introduced crafts, such as making a bracelet beaded in colored patterns to help them practice basic counting skills.

Families went home with supplies for many of the games and crafts.

“We want to try to make activities that will reinforce the concepts they’re learning in the classroom and help them carry it home,” said Orla Davis, an instructional coach. “It makes it more real for them—a real-life application.” 

Orla believes when parents are aware and involved in what their child is learning, it translates into student success at school.

Janiece Atwood, whose children are in first, third and fifth grades, enjoys playing the math games with her children. She said it helps them have a positive attitude about learning because it is fun.

“My kids will ask to do it,” she said. “I don’t have to force them because it’s homework that they don’t realize is homework.” 

Heartland regularly hosts school activities that support student learning and that strengthen the feeling of community at the school. The principal’s goal is to help parents feel a part of the school and to realize it is an open environment—they are welcome to come in at any time.

Right from the first week of the school year, families were invited into the classrooms to observe their children’s new teachers and to get familiar with their classrooms.

“They have an opportunity to see their child in the environment and get a feel for what environment their child is in all day long,” said Orla. “That’s good information to have because it gives parents confidence in the school and in the teachers.” 

When parents are comfortable with the teacher and the way the classroom is run, they are more willing to volunteer to help in the classroom.

Shelly said parents often don’t know what they have to offer until they are in the classroom. They see the teacher is busy and that they do have the ability to help by simply helping individual students with classwork or listening to them read. 

And working alongside the teachers, parents form a trusting relationship with them.

“It’s nice that they get this time to get to know who the teachers really are,” said Shelly.

Orla said some parents didn’t have good school experiences themselves, which could negatively influence their student’s performance. However, when parents see their child actually having a better experience than they did, it can change their perspective.

“They have a more positive attitude about school, which trickles down to their child and gives the kid a better attitude,” she said.

In addition to Math Night, Heartland instructional coaches and teachers host regular activity nights that focus on Literacy, Science and Culture. There are also social activities, such as Dads and Donuts, and Moms and Muffins, held during morning hours to accommodate the varying schedules of Heartland families.

Atwood believes it is a good sign when a school values the idea of strengthening families. She believes in supporting such school events. She said when there is a school event, it takes precedence over her children’s Scouts and sports activities.

 “It shows my kids that school is a priority,” she said. 

Shelly appreciates families’ support of the school’s activities. She knows they overcome many conflicts with work, transportation and time to be able to attend. 

Upcoming events at Heartland include Science Night in October and Literacy Night in November.