Parties and plays better than committees for building school support

Fostering grassroots involvement leads to tighter community bonds

FREDERICTON, NB, May 30 2011 /CNW/ - A study in a Saskatchewan bedroom town shows there's a disconnect between the way people want to support the local school, and the role authorities want them to play. This new research suggests more people might become involved with the school if authorities let people find their own way.

The study was carried out by Jane Preston, an analyst with the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. It is being presented at the 2011 Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

To learn more about how social relationships in a bedroom community affect community involvement in the local school, she studied a community of about 400 people that was located just outside an urban area. Though the town had rural origins, the vast majority of residents worked in the nearby city, and also turned to the urban area for entertainment and socializing.

When interviewed, residents said they were ready to support the school through activities that could be termed traditional-for example, reading to Grade 1 students, fundraising and going to drama night.

However, Preston said government policies tend to encourage communities to support their local schools through more formal mechanisms - for example by sitting on committees and getting involved in politics. Preston said that approach overlooks the community-building that happens when people interact in social settings.

Community-building is particularly important in bedroom communities because a large number of the people come from elsewhere. Involvement with the school, she said, is a particularly effective way for people to form bonds. And once the bonds are formed through getting to know each other at, say, the school's Christmas party, she says residents will be more likely to take their involvement to the next level and sit on committees.

"If you want to get to these more formal levels of community involvement, you need to give more traditional involvement opportunities to community members," she said.

"I don't think we can get there unless we push more of the things people want."

Get more from the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together scholars, graduate students, practitioners, and policy-makers to share groundbreaking research and examine the most important social and cultural issues of the day. This year's Congress is co-hosted by the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University and runs from May 28 to June 4.

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SOURCE Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

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