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Unlike the Captain Underpants book series which made lunch ladies famous (The Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space), room parents have a decidely less glamorous or villanous role in the typical elementary school. They are often responsible for everything from collecting money (teacher’s birthday or holiday parties, for example) to acting as a photographer to maintaining classroom lists.

Go paperless. Typically, paperwork is frequently sent home for parents, but it’s often misplaced or goes unread. Collect email addresses for all parents (be sure to update the list throughout the year). The room parent can help the teacher circulate information, collect permissions and establish two-way communication with all of the students’ parents without generating more waste.

Evolve events. A classroom bash can often turn into too much trash. Reconsider options for holiday parties, special parent-teacher events and teacher birthday parties.

  • Be Food Sensitive. With various food allergies and special dietary needs, make sure that everyone in the classroom can enjoy refreshments. Click here for suggestions.
  • Make a Memory Book. Take photos, tickets and souvenirs and create a lasting memory book for the teacher. Handmade gifts with remembrances from each student involve the children in honoring their teacher.
  • Bring a Cheetah to School. Some clarification needed here: the cheetah doesn’t actually live in the classroom, but the class can chip in to support wildlife and learn about endangered species at the same time. Visit the World Wildlife Federation or your local zoo to adopt an animal.
  • Replace the Party. Sugar-fueled holiday parties can be scaled down or replaced in favor of adopting a local family to help them through the holidays. Check with local shelters or charities that will provide the class with a list of the family’s needs or coordinate a monetary donation. Involve the kids in selecting special gifts and use the opportunity to talk about topics like kindness and giving to others.
  • Teachers Don’t Want More Trinkets. Find out if the students can plant a tree in the teacher’s honor on the school grounds. Too cold? Indoor plants like lemon trees or orchids add beauty to the classroom and last a lot longer than cut flowers or hand lotion.

Bring the action. Look online to find download free fitness activities and logs to keep kids on a healthy track. Here are two fitness sites that offer ideas: The President’s Fitness Challenge and Kids Health.

The compost pile ate my homework. Is there a place on school grounds safe from kids where the school can create a compost area with food, newspaper and organic waste? Making your own compost keeps worms happy and makes great plant food.

Start a class garden. Devise a chart where each child can choose from a few varieties of flowers and enlist parents to help dig a garden plot. Look online for basic tips—helpful sites include www.growinggreat.org and www.kidsgardening.comGardening with Kids by Catherine Woram and Martyn Cox (Ryland Peters and Small, 2008) is a book packed with gorgeous photos of kid-friendly garden projects.

New to you. Organize a swap meet or school-wide yard sale to trade in gently used clothing, toys and books. Entice volunteers by letting them pre-shop the sale. Raise money for the school by charging all ‘vendors’ for their space. Promote goodwill by asking the vendors to donate all leftover goods to charity.

Raise awareness and cash at the same time. Think outside the box for fundraisers and make them something original and fun that will entice everyone to participate. Open the forum for ideas from your audience and find out what they would really like to sell or do to raise money.

  • Find experts (photography, dance, self-defense or Pilates) in the community who can donate their time to teach night or weekend classes. Set fees so that it’s affordable, but still helps you reach fund goals.
  • Look beyond material goods for auctions. Link up with local companies who can donate landscaping, home organization or interior design advice.
  • Find more great ideas here.

Hall monitor. Room parents can watch the school too. Are the cleaners green? Are recycling bins used? Does the school buy recycled paper products? Be keen on green and to help and spread the word about greener options.

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