Morning Workshops Build Community at Texas Elementary School

In March of 2017, ATPE member Katie Landaverde and her team at Lake Dallas Elementary won the Rather Prize, setting off a chain reaction within her school, district, and community.

Landaverde’s winning idea was simple—teachers, community members, and high school students would teach short morning workshops designed to help students explore a new hobby or interest.

The workshops, which the school calls “the Rather Project,” have not only helped students explore new interests, they’ve given community members, parents, students, and staff a new way to participate in the school. Read more about this exciting new program in the Winter 2017 issue of ATPE News.

Wondering if you can make morning workshops work on your campus? Here’s how Lake Dallas Elementary does it:

  1. School employees volunteer to be on the Rather Project Committee. This committee oversees the day-to-day functions of the project, including assigning students to workshops, securing the necessary supplies, helping mentors work through their curriculum, providing additional support during workshops, and checking in students. Lake Dallas Elementary tries to make sure staff members with different interests and abilities are on the team to assist community volunteers with lesson planning.
  2. The district promotes the program among all the schools, with parents, and across the community to encourage volunteers. Since your school’s program won’t have the backing of the Rather Prize, you can also ask your community to pitch in by contributing supplies needed for the workshops.
  3. At the beginning of the year, students sign up for an interest category. Lake Dallas uses the following categories: STEM, fine arts, sports, movement, language, leadership, and culture. Categories can be determined based on the feedback you get from potential volunteers.
  4. Community members, teachers from all of the district’s schools, and high school students submit course ideas, and staff members assign each course to one of the broader interest categories.
  5. Students are assigned to courses that fit their interests. To make sure classes run smoothly, they are broken into two age categories—kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade.
  6. Students and parents are notified of their assignments. Let them know at least a couple of weeks in advance because parents will need to make plans to get their kids to school early on the week of their workshop.
  7. A few weeks before the workshop begins, staff members check in with the mentor to make sure he or she has a solid plan for each day of the class.

To learn more about the Rather Prize, see ratherprize.com.

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