Back-to-school: Volunteer Hobbies Skills to Help School Says LSU AgCenter Family Expert

Karen Overstreet  |  4/19/2005 10:28:34 PM

News You Can Use For July 2004

As you prepare your children for going back to school, take a closer look at the physical facilities they will be using. Many schools find themselves short on funds for improvements, but many of these needs can be met with a coordinated effort by the parents and community, according to LSU AgCenter family resource management specialist Dr. Karen Overstreet.

The school may need something as simple as paint or find that extras such as nature gardens, play equipment or additional classroom materials are simply too costly.

"It’s often easier in smaller systems for the school and community to work together, because the teachers, students and their families usually know each other," Overstreet says, explaining that same sense of working together is important in all schools, but it just takes a little longer to develop in larger systems.

Children who see their parents involved in their school may do better academically. Parental involvement says to the child that education is so important, "that I’m willing to invest my time or resources in it."

Involvement in your child’s school doesn’t have to mean big projects, the family expert says. You many be part of a master gardener program that can design a nature trail for the science class. Or, you may enjoy raising fish as a hobby and want to donate an old aquarium to your child’s class.

Have lots of leftover paint in a great color? Check to see if a classroom needs a fresh coat. Teachers of younger children often like to have floor pillows for reading corners or curtains to brighten the room. Supplies such as paper towels, tissues and hand wipes are often appreciated.

Before starting a volunteer effort, check with the school to find out what is needed and the best way to assist. Don’t be upset if the principal doesn’t want the classrooms painted the week before school starts. Work with the faculty to develop a plan if you will be making any physical changes such as painting, installing bookshelves, hanging curtain rods, etc. There are often teacher work days or student breaks during the semester that may be a better time for working.

Keep in mind when donating plants or animals that upkeep is required. Ask if it’s necessary to provide food for classroom fish or animals or if a periodic work day is needed to keep an outdoor science lab looking good. These can be good projects in which to involve student organizations. 4-H or scout troops may want to adopt the nature trail as a project.

"Don’t forget to involve students in your volunteer efforts," Overstreet advises, adding, "Learning to give back to their community is part of learning to be a good citizen."

She points out that students have great ideas for what they want, and incorporating the ideas into plans when possible gives students a sense of ownership. Students also take pride in what they do and are much less likely to damage facilities they have helped to develop.

Overstreet says school is an important part of a child’s life, but the community has a responsibility to ensure that the experience is a good one.

For information on related family and consumer topics in family, housing and nutrition, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst

/Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/
Source: Karen Overstreet (225) 578-1425 or Koverstreet@agcenter.lsu.edu

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