The following is a guest blog post from Kanoe Naone, the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture (INPEACE), an UNCA member organization based in Honolulu, Hawaii. INPEACE works to educate and empower Native Hawaiian communities. Since 1994, INPEACE has emerged as a local and international leader in early childhood education, workforce development and cultural land stewardship. Read more about their innovative parent engagement model below!
It seems that recently everywhere I go; I hear about parent engagement. A few years ago I was at a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts when the concept of parent engagement was raised. My contribution to the conversation was that parent engagement as defined by the group was not sufficient to change outcomes in education in economically disadvantaged communities, that it had a distinctly middle and upper class application and appeal. Instead we need parent empowerment. We need parents who are empowered to be advocates for their children and those in their community.
At the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture (INPEACE) our Keiki Steps parent participation preschool program for families with children ages birth to five; is more than a parent engagement model, instead it is a parent empowerment model. Watch the video!
Located in socially and economically disadvantaged communities across the state of Hawaii, parents come each day with their child to preschool for three hours. Instead of leaving them at the door, they sit side by side with them learning and teaching. The Site Coordinators and Aides are facilitators of learning whose primary function is to show the parents how to do an activity of the day and share with them what the children are learning while doing the activity. Story time, outdoor learning including planting, cultivating, harvesting and cooking, music, dance, painting, and everything else you would see in a high quality preschool are all some examples of activities at Keiki Steps. The parent/caregiver replicates what they learn from the teachers with their child. In the process, parents learn about how children learn and optimal strategies for ensuring both the child and parent are ready for school.
We often hear the analogy of teaching someone to fish instead of giving them a fish so that they can feed themselves for a lifetime instead of a day. I see our Keiki Steps preschool as an example of teaching parents to fish instead of giving them a fish which can happen when they drop their child off at a preschool to be taught. By the time the children in our program move on to kindergarten, our parents and caregivers are so acclimated to being fully engaged in the well-being and education of their child, they not only continue to participate in their child’s K-12 experience, they demand it.
(Disclaimer: I do support center-based preschools when centers engage authentically with families and see it as a necessary option for many families. Over the years my husband and I have utilized center based preschools, parent participation preschools, family child care and home-visiting programs with our four children.)