Connecting with families over the summer

Child exploring what happens to wet chalk on blacktop.At the end of the school year I gave each preschool student’s family (about 58 of them) a note and a self-addressed stamped envelope in the hopes that they would write to me to let me know about any explorations their child experiences over the summer. Any exploration—deconstructing chalk on the driveway, blowing bubbles on the back step, discovering an anthill in the park, or digging for “fossils” at a museum—because the information will be useful to other families, and a record of what young children can do and learn about human-made and natural places in the world.
By asking them to fill out the following information and mail it to me, I hoped to inspire the parents to talk with their children, and have the children reflect on their experiences.

Summer Exploration Passport Page by _____________________________
Where did you go? List the name, address and website for this location, or just let your child describe it.
What did you see, hear, smell and touch? Write and draw about your experience.
Is there anything you would like to know? I would like to find out….________________.
I put the pages in a notebook for all families at this parent-run cooperative preschool. It’s a way of collecting family natural science experiences as told by young children to share with, and inspire, others.
So here it is, a month later, and I have two entries:
One child (dictated to a parent) said that she went to a Market in the city and saw cool hats and sunglasses, lots of dogs, held her nose when she went by the “really bad smelling fish”, saw pretty flowers and ate good hot dogs. She advised that one should wear a hat because it gets hot.
A dried flower with seeds.The other sent a flower, wrapped up in tissue, for me to help her identify. Unfortunately the flower body had dried and crumbled. Other than looking very pale in color I had no clue. Fortunately, there were seeds. So I planted them, wrote back suggesting that she check a flower identification book at the library to see if she can find her flower, and that I would let her know if anything grows.
I wonder if any other families will send me a page describing their explorations. Do you think an email letter halfway through the summer would get more responses? Should I send an email with a photo of something interesting I’ve seen this summer and ask adults to share it with their children?

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5 Responses to Connecting with families over the summer

  1. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Here is what happened with my end-of-school-year project to connect with families over the summer. Only two families used the stamped envelopes to send in their child’s descriptions of a summer exploration of any kind. I’m disappointed not to have a whole notebook of ideas for summer science explorations to share with the school community. But now I know what works. In mid-summer I had a question about the age at which a child learns the word “icon”, so I queried the entire school community via email and got back 9 (out of about 50 possible) short responses from the parents. School starts next week and I’m sure the children will be eager to tell about a meaningful experience they had over the summer.

  2. patty born selly says:

    I love this idea! I wonder how it could be made *easier* for families to engage in this. perhaps a website, or a school blog parents could post to? Hmm….

  3. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    I’m glad SOMEBODY likes the idea : )
    What I found out is, the preschool parents were communicating all summer long using the school’s Facebook page to share their interesting events and outings. It’s good they are connecting, and now I will too.

  4. Sarah Christensen says:

    I liked this idea too. Maybe next year, something that might be more effective would be a round-a-bout idea. You could prepare a blank book with two or three pages per child (maybe the pages should include envelopes or plastic baggies for things like that flower), then pass the book to the first family. After they’ve recorded something, they can pass the book to the next family, and so on, and the last family sends it on to you. You could keep track of the book on Facebook too so that you knew whether or not it was working.
    Sarah @

  5. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Nice idea Sarah, it sounds like the very effective and well-loved teddy bear and journal that the class for 3-year-olds uses. The class sends “Teddy” home with a different child each day along with a journal. The child does an activity with Teddy, such as eats dinner, and draws or takes a picture, and dictates about all happenings to a writer, all to be shared when back at school.
    I’ll definitely try another notebooking idea this year.

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