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Together Program Unites Kids and Parents for Learning


Because of the Together Program, parents developed greater respect for teachers and administrators; and they were more willing to listen when suggestions were offered with respect to the importance of going to the library and to reading to their children at home, Fran Hertzberg told Education World.

And as an added bonus, "several parents eventually took the next step by becoming school volunteers, Hertzberg added.

Located in a high-poverty area of New York City, P.S. 280 held monthly sessions called the "Together Program" for kindergarten and first grade students and families from 10:00 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. Hertzberg, the assistant principal, designed and conducted the workshops with the help of classroom teachers. She developed the agenda for each session to ensure that the theme of each hands-on session was an extension of the learning that was taking place in the classroom.

"When parents began to ask for folders for friends, and children whose parents had not been present asked for materials to take home, I knew that I had achieved my goals."

The children learned math and literacy through music, dance, art, cooking, and storytelling. Attendance varied, but a core group of parents attended every session. The adults present worked with their own children and other students who shared their table.

"Active and engaged parent participation brought a greater sense of community to the classroom," reported Hertzberg. "Parents and children enlarged their circle of friends. They became more keenly aware of how and what their children were expected to learn and master, and they felt more connected to the role the school plays in the emotional/social, physical, and educational life of their sons and daughters."

Hertzberg knew that the program was "working" and connections had been made when with each session it became more difficult to end the activity in order to be on time for lunch. She was thrilled when parents and students asked for the date of the next program before it could be determined. For each session, she prepared a folder of related activities for use at home.

"When parents began to ask for folders for friends, and children whose parents had not been present asked for materials to take home, I knew that I had achieved my goals," Hertzberg recalled. "My objectives included getting parents involved in the education of their children and making learning fun so that children looked forward to coming to school to expand their horizons. The children's first-grade teachers related that many communication skills had been retained, giving the children a learning block upon which they could build."

The Together Program was a "reincarnation" of another activity called "Cook-Up-A-Storm" that Hertzberg had initiated earlier in a kindergarten classroom and carried through fifth grade. It integrated cooking and trips with every subject in the curriculum. Eventually, the students published and distributed a cookbook that contained all of the recipes they had used at school. The program fostered a camaraderie among the participating parents that was unique and special. As the curriculum coordinator of the nonprofit Summer Super Stars, a division of the Gifted Child Society, in Glen Rock, New Jersey, Hertzberg plans to construct the next version of the Together Program.

"The program was successful in its various forms because the teachers and I wanted it to succeed," Hertzberg explained. "We talked it up to the students and sent home very welcoming flyers. I invited classroom teachers to participate, knowing that those selected would take some ownership of the program and therefore go all out. I also knew that they, and ultimately their students and parents, would benefit from intensive but fast-paced one-on-one coaching in subject matter and delivery of material, all designed to engage every student."

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