Through the review of family engagement research and interviews with STEM Learning Ecosystems, the following points have been stressed again and again. Our Neighborhood is pleased to offer a few key take-aways for your ecosystem to consider as you build strong partnerships with families for a thriving community.
- Include the whole family. Family is a broad term and must include aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, neighbors and the larger community. STEM is for everyone, not just students and parents and family is loosely interpreted to include those who can positively impact a child.
- Leverage your assets. Nothing effective happens in isolation. Involve all stakeholders at all levels. Tap into the expertise of regional partners to build trust and expand impact. Collaboration makes access and understanding easier for families too.
- Build Trust. A single conversation isn’t enough to build a relationship. Leverage trusted community leaders to get the work done.
- Take all opportunities to engage families. Use program pick-up and drop-off times as ways to chat with parents and offer resources.
- Family engagement starts early. Make connections to what families are doing at home already and support families along their child’s academic trajectory with information about academic transitions and career pathways.
- Language counts. Make sure families have access to resources and materials in their native languages and provide opportunities for families to master English.
- Location matters. Think about the places where programs are being held. Are they accessible for ALL families? Are they in places that are most comfortable for families? Ensure your programs are offered at easy-to-reach locations that are both familiar and culturally responsive.
- Tell your story. Own your narrative. Connect your story to relevant things in the community. Show how your work will advance the greater vision of your organization or other organizations around you. The work can be complicated sometimes, so tell the story of how investments are able to move students through complicated systems.
- Focus. Whether it is a particular age group or deepening your efforts in one initiative, staying focused allows you to measure impact to scale your efforts.
- Listen to the community. Include diverse stakeholders on your planning teams.
- Get feedback from your community often. This might take significant manpower and a fewtimes to get right.
- Know your audience and align your messaging accordingly.
- Measure and track everything you do. Both qualitative and quantitative data reinforces your story and compels business to invest.
- Always offer food during events and programming. It sets the tone of the event and creates a more welcoming atmosphere that encourages engagement.
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