Connecting with Students' Communities

Learn about students' communities to create a stronger and more culturally responsive classroom
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About This Strategy

This strategy provides teachers with the opportunity to learn about and value the richness of their students' communities and support students as they identify ways to contribute to their communities. Spending meaningful time in students' neighborhoods and inviting community members into the classroom provides educators and school staff with the opportunity to learn from those they teach as well as those who care for their students and support their communities. In addition to experiencing an increase in student engagement, teachers will learn more about their students' caregivers and communities. This will create a stronger and more responsive school community.

Implementation Steps

  1. Develop an understanding of the benefits of community walks by reading the articles linked in the resources section below.  

  2. Make a list of the ways that engaging in community walks will help you to meet the goals of your Family Partnership Plan. To learn more about this consult the "Creating and Implementing a Family Partnership Plan" strategy.

    • For example, you might say, "Engaging in community walks will let my students and their families know that their community is important to me, that I am invested in partnership, and that I view my students holistically."

    • Include this list in your partnership plan.  

  3. Set aside time in class to ask students for places in the community they would like you to explore such as landmarks, a local library, a community center, a restaurant, a shopping center, or a place of worship. Also ask students if there are local leaders and community members they would like for you to connect with and why. Make a list of those places and people, and reach out to them to set up a time to visit or connect. You could gather this information by providing students with time to add this information to a Google Doc.

  4. After engaging in a community walk and/or connection with a community leader, reflect on what you learned, what partnerships you were able to begin, and share your learnings with your students and their families. Set up a schedule for continuing to engage in community connections throughout the year (i.e., plan to attend a local festival, musical performance, or celebration).

  5. If you engage with social media, you may want to consider following the social media pages of community organizations so you can stay informed about community events.

Consult the resources below to learn more about the importance and effectiveness of Community Learning Walks.

Questions to Consider

  • What might be some barriers to engaging in community connections? What are some ways to overcome those barriers?

  • Are there colleagues at your school who would also be interested in learning more about students' communities? If so, reach out to those colleagues and plan to engage in establishing community connections together.  

  • How can you respond to those who might discourage you from engaging in community connections?

Funds of Knowledge Theory

The article Tapping into Community Funds of Knowledge by Michael Genzuk explains the Funds of Knowledge theory. It shares an example of how a teacher partnered with the father of one of her students to design and implement successful teaching strategies (this was based on his automotive knowledge) and explains how the teacher capitalized on the student's cognitive strengths and interests and increased engagement in critical academic areas. The article also includes four activities to help teachers identify areas where families can contribute to classroom learning:

  • What is Culture?

  • Culture in Your Home

  • Classroom Culture

  • Ethnographic Study

Community Asset Mapping Workbook

The Community Asset Mapping Workbook published by The Community Outreach of our United Villages resource provides information and tools to identify the assets and resources in a community, including the local economy, culture and spirituality, employment, recreation, social services, government, people, open spaces, and others.