Since the first Educate Together schools were opened in the 1970’s, parental involvement has been an essential part of what we do. Educate Together schools were the first schools to actively encourage parents to take part in their children’s education.
According to Educate Together:
Parental involvement in Educate Together schools can encompass all aspects of school life from formal structures like the Board of Management, the Parent Teacher Association, Faith Formation Groups and Extra Curricular Organisers through to more hands on voluntary roles within the school day. No Educate Together school could operate fully without the support and involvement of its parent body. (Educate Together website)
In RETNS we are fully aware of the value of parental involvement in our school and believe that this aspect of our ethos enriches the educational experiences we can give our children. Whether that involvement is in a formal way, such as on one of the committees, or in an informal way as individual circumstances allow, all of the many ways that parents become involved help to build our community and give the children a more fully rounded school life.
When asked recently what they thought of parents being involved in school, pupils were overwhelmingly positive and made comments such as:
‘It gets parents involved with the school community and makes the school a better place.’
‘It gives us more helping hands, parents can see their children working in school.’
‘It’s good to have more of an input by parents on how our school works.’
‘It helps us to interact with different people’.
‘It provides variety – we are not doing the same things every day.’
‘Children can learn from the parents and experience different things.’
All of these comments were very relevant last week when we had a fantastic response from parents willing to share their expertise in the field of arts education. This was of the ‘hands on within the school’ variety of parental involvement with lessons, demonstrations, talks and ‘show and tell’ in a variety of different arts media. Junior and Senior Infants had a talk by Beatrice, Daimhin’s mum, who spoke about her work as an artist and showed some of her work. Senior Infants also had a workshop with Jason (Daisy and Alice’s dad) who talked to the children about animation and aided them in drawing their own characters. The children are now creating their own comic strips based on the story “Traction Man”, using tips from Jason to draw their characters. Brian (Paul’s dad) also came in to Senior Infants and talked about the history of sculpture. The class then did some art work using stones and twigs.
In First Class there was some rock and pebble art and designing with Donal, Izzy and Alex’s dad, followed by a demonstration of rock balancing sculptures. On Wednesday First Class had their arts in the classroom session with puppeteer Niamh, where they made monster masks and did some Monster Shadow Making. Mairead (Sarah’s mum) gave a talk on sculpture, art and design in everyday life and did some work on the mould making process. The children then made moulds of their own thumbprints.
Second Class was blacked out for a morning as Britt (Sabine’s mum) created a camera obscura in the classroom. The children learned that this was the earliest form of photography and they worked together to draw a collaborative image of the wildlife garden as it was projected into the classroom. Parents were also involved in a recycling project in second class.
Donal Mooney facilitated an outdoor lesson on rock balancing with Third Class, then the children used pebbles and rocks to create their own designs. Third class also got creative designing their Write-a-Book covers and a team of parents came into the class to help with book binding. In Fourth Class David Beattie, artist, talked to the class about his art practice and specifically about the creation of The World Map from Plasticine, which has pride of place at the top of our stairs. Finn Van Gelderen (Hans and Sam’s dad) also gave an interesting talk to the class about film making., while the class also designed and created their Write-a-Book covers. In Fifth Class Megan’s Grandad Jim, a well-known Scottish artist, talked to the children about his art practice. Donal Mooney visited Sixth Class to work outdoors demonstrating rock balancing and helped the children to use pebbles, shells and larger stones to create their own designs. Nikki (Zoe’s mum) came in to the class on Friday to work on glass design.
Alongside all the expertise from parents there were many in-class projects going on, some of which which will continue over the coming days. Junior Infants had an Artist’s Chair, helping them to appreciate each other’s art work, and they looked at some of the work of famous artists. First Class did an art session where they responded to the W.B. Yeats poem ‘To a Child Dancing in the Wind’. Some of their entries may go forward to a wider audience in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth this year. Second Class children did a homework project based on a person of their choice involved in the arts, while Fifth Class learned about a quilling technique for cards and created their own beautiful Book of Favourite Poems, illustrated by themselves. In Sixth Class the children looked at the work of artist David Kracov and created a whole class piece of work inspired by his art.
Arts Week was a busy but very successful week in RETNS. The Images Art Exhibition of the children’s own art was very well attended and again became a community event with the provision of tea/coffee and Sandra’s yummy cakes organised by the Parents Association committee. To paraphrase the Educate Together sentiments, our Arts Week would not have achieved the same level of success and provided the same richness of experience for the children without the support and involvement of our parent body.
Student Council Career Day
Another comment from one of the children in the parental involvement survey was that they:
“would like to see more parents in classes telling about their jobs (especially if they worked with stars and planets)!”
The Student Council has taken this on and invited parents to come in for a Career Day later in the year to tell students about their jobs. So far they have had quite a few interesting responses and are looking forward to organising their day/days.
Anyone out there working with stars and planets…!