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Are You Using the Experts in Your Own Backyard?

Over the last week, I've answered a significant number of competitive STAR Events questions.  That's perfectly fine - that's part of what I do! But some questions come to me that honestly, I don't know what the correct answer is.  (That's when you get the "I don't know but I'll find out" reply.)  Often I refer questions to the national FCCLA office, but there are questions that they, too, are not necessarily able to quickly answer.  The kinds of questions I'm talking about are not about dimensions, or page content, but the ones about very specific content knowledge in the areas of interior or fashion design, culinary arts, or food science.

Each of us has our own area in which we are more skilled and proficient, but many family and consumer sciences teachers don't have the luxury of teaching one or two areas each day.  Many of you teach six (or more, yikes) preps a day - each in a different content area.  One hour, you're teaching about birth defects and pregnancy risks, and the next, you're working with students to research consumer rights and responsibilities.  It can then be really frustrating when a student working on a STAR Events project has a specific question and you don't have a ready answer.

Cheryl Lefon, a member of the DESE state staff, has a great suggestion to help your students get the expert help they need.  She recommends that no matter what the STAR Event, that local community "experts" be invited to mentor students as they prepare their competitive event projects.  This mentoring would not necessarily have to be face-to-face, it could be done over e-mail, phone calls, or video conferencing.  (Check with your administration to find out what local policies might apply in this situation.)  It's okay to let your students know that you don't have all the answers.  But you can help them find out who does have the answers they need.

So what backyard experts could you "tap into" for STAR Events?  Is there someone from the local financial institution that would be willing to look over an Entrepreneurship business plan?  Would a local hotel manager be available to answer Hospitality event questions about front or back of the house?  Is there a furniture store in the area that employs a certified interior designer who could answer the questions for the Interior Design event?  Would these same individuals be helpful as potential members of your program's advisory committee?

Keep in mind local doesn't have to mean within the city limits - think about how far many of the families in your district drive for medical appointments, shopping, entertainment, etc.  And with technology, it's just as easy to contact someone next door as it is across the country. 

These "backyard' experts can not only help your students, but they can also become valuable resources to teachers as you seek their input to help validate or change curriculum to meet local needs.


  1. Excellent, if I do say so myself - The community mentors that I have known have found it a privilege to help a young person wanting to "Be Like Them" What an honor you can do for the members of your community to impart to them the opportunity to feel important!

  2. Backyard mentors and "experts" are a untapped resource that we should all be using more often. Not only do we get answers to our questions, we also get the opportunity to involve the community in the classroom. This is valuable for both parties!