Since parents of school-aged children are our target audience, alliance with the schools is essential. Schools are the center of most children’s lives, and therefore events that are school-based take on more importance. Parents care a lot about what their children are learning. Learning about climate change increases student concern, and this in turn increases the concern of their parents. Similarly, learning about ways to address the problem, such as saving energy, increases energy-saving action at home.
In addition, especially at this point in time, young people need to gain confidence in their ability to solve problems related to climate change, so that they do not emerge as helpless and despairing and can instead become empowered, active citizens.
Exhibiting ways to save energy at a fair provides an ideal venue for students to showcase and communicate their problem-solving skills including research methods, what they’ve learned, and recommendations for action. The positive response that they receive from peers as well as the adult community, gives students a sense that they can make a difference, and likely leads to more problem solving in the future.
The schools have a dual role in making a Cooler Community Fair successful. They educate students to create well- thought-out exhibits for the Fair. Equally important, schools are key to attracting large numbers of families to attend.
“Student-delivered messages about conservation and climate are often taken to heart by the adults in our community. We saw the Fair as a new opportunity for teachers, students, parents, and community members to learn more and take action.”
Probably your most essential allies, school leaders can make the fair a priority for their school district, promote it in their communications to parents, encourage teachers and students to participate, provide continuing education credits for teacher participation, and provide a host facility and equipment for the event.
Superintendents, School Committee Members and Principals who are well regarded are opinion leaders in their communities, and what they say carries weight.
The Cooler Community School Liaison provides support and manages activities with schools, including school exhibit coordination and communications.
In Agawam, the School Liaisons were two retired teachers who knew the content, as well as the other teachers in the district. Because they knew the teachers and how to get things done in the district, they enlisted 16 teachers to exhibit. Outstanding Result.
The Superintendent of Schools gathers the support of Principals and the School Committee. It’s a good idea to meet with the Superintendent regularly to strategize and to encourage participation.
Working Groups at participating schools may include:
- The Principal, who encourages school participation, establishes working groups and make key decisions regarding school involvement.
- 1 or more teachers, who work with students on energy-related exhibits
- Parent volunteers who help with classroom projects and spread the word
- Students, who build exhibits and conduct events to advertise the fair.
- High School Volunteers, who promote the fair via events and social media
If you can, find a few highly motivated students and give them independent study credit for the work they do on the fair.
Parents want to see their kids projects and students need to see that what they’ve learned matters! One exhibit/school is a great accomplishment-more is even better!.
See the next section for exhibit ideas! TIME SAVER
Bundling energy conservation with a fun and educational family events seemed like a good way to get harried parents to focus on their footprints.
When parents were asked in focus groups what would cause them to attend an energy fair on a perfect play-in-the-snow weekend, they told us they’d come if:
- Their children’s work was displayed
- Their kids wanted to go
- Fun activities/child care was available for young kids
- Healthy (but tasty) snacks (or meals) were available
- With respect to the energy-related exhibits, busy parents wanted it to be easy and cost-effective for them to take energy-saving action
Research suggests that people are motivated by goals and incentives. A contest gives schools a specific goal to work towards, and fosters a bit of fun competition. This doesn’t mean everyone can’t win-they can and ideally they will!
“Our biggest fear was a low turnout!
We brainstormed how to get parents to ATTEND, and this is what we came up with in Concord: Schools were given a challenge: If 20% of parents attend the fair and commit to energy-saving action, your school can earn $1000.”
~ Concord Team Leader
“Parents, kids, and teachers from all 5 schools rallied and met the goal!
As a result 1000 people were in attendance. Our team raised the contest prize money from local businesses. Schools used the money for additional sustainability projects such as reusable tableware for the lunchroom. “
Contests based on attendance may not be the right fit for every town. Giving teachers continuing education credits for attending, giving students extra-credit or community service points, and having raffle prizes also help increase turnout.
We know you’ll come up with other strategies. Please share your ideas for increasing attendance!
A memo or request to parents from a principal is much more likely to get read, so it’s best to have fair communications come from the principals office. Try not let the communications get buried in a long list of events!
Communications from Parent Groups and Students also have sway.
Here are some sample communications to adapt:
Parent Newsletter: Save the Date
Enthusiastic Principal Encourages Attendance
Sandwich Board (Giant Outdoor Poster) at Each School
Letter to the Editor from H.S. Green Team
Home energy surveys, wear all Green events, facebook posts, letters to the editor from students, and handmade invitations are all methods schools use to “Create a Buzz” and encourage parental attendance. Each of these methods does more than providing information only.
Teachers are given continuing education credits for attending, and students are given community service credit if they volunteered. It’s absolutely worth the time to come up with a mix of strategies.
How else can you get people to attend??? Brainstorm other ideas with your team and let us know what you come up with.