10 Tips to Strengthen Your Organization’s Impact in Schools

CIS community partner, Adler Planetarium, presents a virtual program for students at Saucedo Scholastic Academy.

1. Define clear goals for your program.

Create a list of what you hope students will take away from your program and any connections to the curriculum. Answer some key questions that a school would need to know before scheduling. These include: Who is the targeted audience? How long is your program? How do you plan on delivering the content? Presenting these details up-front will make it easier for school staff to see how your program benefits its students.

2. Find the right fit.

Once you have laid out the details, find a school community that is seeking your programming! At Communities In Schools of Chicago, our School Partnership Specialists collaborate with school leaders to understand the types of supports their students need. This information helps CIS Community Partnership Specialists identify organizations that meet those needs. Demonstrating value and gaining buy-in from teachers are ways that you can create a successful experience for both your organization and for the school.

3. Communicate effectively.

Schedule a time to chat with the teacher ahead of time and discuss how your program can better connect with what they are teaching. Ask the teacher about the classroom culture and student engagement, using a method of communication that works best for them. If anything changes with scheduling, make sure to communicate those changes as soon as possible.

4. Do the pre-work!

Familiarize yourself with the school community ahead of time and try to tailor the content to your audience. Are there authentic examples you can use that will help students make the connection between your program and their own experiences? Determine these ahead of time. Also, make sure to practice with any technology prior to the presentation.

5. Engage the students.

Include a variety of activities throughout the program that allow the students to put the content into practice. See what connections they can draw to their own learning. Also provide options for communicating and collaborating that are accessible to individuals with a variety of abilities and learning styles. Is your presentation longer? Consider places in the program where you can pause and add brain breaks or breathing exercises.

6. Let your passion shine through.

Demonstrate your area of expertise, but more importantly, show your enthusiasm for the topic. Your passion will allow you to build deeper connections with your student audience, and undoubtedly, stick with students much longer than the content.

7. Stay flexible.

Be responsive to the needs of the schools and students. Remote learning challenged us all in new ways and made us rethink how we share content with students. As students return to the classroom this fall, be open to exploring and reimagining program delivery.

8. Assess, assess, assess.

Evaluate your program’s quality, both in the moment and after the fact. At the end of your presentation, invite students to reflect on their learnings and ask any questions they may have. After the program, ask for feedback from the teacher. Our team at Communities In Schools of Chicago spent two years developing best practices for student-focused program design, delivery, and facilitation. These core competencies are shared with our community partners to maximize their program’s impact.

9. Follow up.

Thank the students and teachers for participating and hosting you in their classroom. Consider sending a recorded follow-up with review questions, authentic connection shares, or other extension lessons. This helps your organization develop relationships with school staff that are so important long-term.

10. Invest in professional development.

Explore opportunities to grow by investing in professional development opportunities. Communities In Schools of Chicago provides our community partners with workshops throughout the school year that allow them to build skills and learn from each other. Last year alone, we provided training to 127 community partners.

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Communities In Schools of Chicago

Communities In Schools of Chicago

Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.