by Kathleen Fay, Family Engagement Commission Consultant
Research shows that students succeed better when the entire family plays an active role at school. That includes joining and being active in PTA. Today’s PTA leaders know that more and more men want to get involved. Making the effort to bring in dads, male adult caregivers and other father figures is not just crucial for full family engagement in your school community, it’s consistent with the PTA definition of family as all those who care for a child. If engaging more men in your organization is a goal you’re working on, it makes sense to consider some new activities that are more inclusive for every family member.
A great way to get ideas is to find out what other PTAs have done. More than 100 PTA leaders from across the state shared their best family engagement tips, tricks, and ideas at the 2022 California State PTA Convention during a workshop called, “Learn, Share, Grow.” Below are some of their best suggestions for activities and projects likely to be welcoming and interesting to PTA dads, grandpas, uncles, male caregivers and other father figures who want to support student success.
(Reminder: approve all events with your membership and check with your school and the PTA insurance guide before you start planning.)
Engage Men in your PTA! – Don’t overlook men when asking for new PTA members; invite them to join and encourage them to take on leadership positions, serve as campus volunteers, or head up an advocacy effort.
Hold a “Lucky to Have You” Dance – Kick up your heels and let students show appreciation for all the adults in their life! Include light refreshments, a fun dance competition, and a photo booth to capture the wonderful memories.
Enjoy a “Math Games” Night – Whether it’s playing Rummikub, Bingo, Yahtzee, competing with estimation jars, running a math scavenger hunt, or making string art or fraction quilts, you can build enthusiasm and support learning by holding a Math Games night! Children’s skills improve when families use math games to build their children’s essential math skills instead of just doing homework as usual. Teachers can provide families with useful, take-home tips for helping their kids with math; with guidance, all parents can support learning at home.
Tackle a new kind of PTA project – Let kids and families work together on a group project towards a common goal, such as setting up and planting a school or community garden, creating a new lost-and-found bin adequate to the task, running a science experiment, or building a classroom library. Remember that everyone brings some sort of special talent or skill to the table, and modeling good project planning and management will ensure that the finished project brings pride in contributing to a job well done.
Play Sportsball – Get kids together to play baseball/basketball/kickball with their mentors and families! Make the event grade-specific. Hold an all-purpose sporting event. Invite families to play games at recess. Conduct a sports clinic.
Create a Dedicated Group – The roles of fathers, male adult caregivers and other father figures have changed and diversified. PTA can facilitate formation of male-led groups to offer mutual support, provide a forum for interaction concerning parenting issues, identify and build strengths, and recognize their value and contributions as caregivers. If successful, these groups often continue to meet throughout the school years as kids grow up.
Holding a broader set of events that are attuned to the interests and skills of everyone in a family, including men and other male caregivers and father figures, sends a clear signal that your PTA is an inclusive organization. This approach to family engagement encourages all adults in kids’ lives to build connections with other families, interact with teachers, and connect with community and school resources. As relationships are established, trust grows, which helps to build a stronger school community in true collaboration to support student learning and development.