10. Before Approaching School Administrators, Teachers, or School Librarians | Readings

Anita R. Walz and Julee P. Farley

A significant amount of public information may exist regarding the school district you plan to approach. This section outlines potential sources of publicly available information and why understanding these contextual details may be helpful to know about before approaching a school district.

Learning Objectives

Learners should be able to:

  • Thoughtfully consider a potential conversation with a school district administrator. This is especially true if you do not have prior familiarity with the geographical area or its school system.
  • Be prepared with some practical, contextual information before meeting with school administrators or teachers. Being prepared in advance will save you time in the long run, and show that you are doing your part to inform yourself before asking for a meeting.


Gather practical, contextual information before approaching school administrators or teachers.

  1. Review the information types below and gather information relevant to the school district you wish to approach.
  2. Write up a no more than 1-2 page summary of what you learned.

Assignment Goals

  • Gather practical background information
  • Learn whether a previous relationship has existed with the district (and if it has been good or bad, from the perspective of one side of the partnership)
  • Identify some district or school goals to mention in your conversation
  • Be able to identify where your potential topic or project might fit within state standards of learning, next generation science standards and/or foundational skills for your area
  • Get the “vibe” by gathering practical and readily-available information

The goal is not to become an expert in the school district or particular school or to make a case for exactly where a potential project fits. While you have deep subject matter expertise, school administrators and teachers have deep expertise regarding the characteristics and needs of their particular contexts. The goal of this exercise is rather to gather contextual information about the school district and its context to get the “vibe” prior to approaching and meeting with a school district representative.

Information to Gather

  • General awareness regarding where the district is excelling;
  • General understanding of district goals;
    • Review the district’s strategic plan;
    • Any recent requests for volunteers in areas of need;
  • Basic demographic information (such as languages spoken, geographical notes, etc.);
  • Any current issues, events, or news (from local news/newspaper/social media, etc.);
  • District/school schedule (school breaks/link to calendar);
  • Types of schools in the district (public, private, special focus, charter, etc.);
  • Location and travel time between your location and prospective sites;
  • Contact information for the district area administrator and/or school’s principal and assistant principal;
  • Past partnership experiences with the district (positive, negative);


  • Review state standards relevant to your school district and identify where (or if) your topic or area of expertise might fit;
  • Think through foundational skills for your area of expertise. How might these be engagingly presented for audiences of different ages? Be ready to brainstorm.

Potential Sources of Information

  • School district website—look for strategic plan and budget request documents
  • Local news (newspaper/ news website)
  • Social media
  • The school’s website (may or may not be helpful)
  • People! Your colleagues may have worked with the school district or a particular school before
  • State standards (for example, Standards of Learning (SOLs) in Virginia[1][Archive site],[2] or Next Generation Science Standards[3])
  • Video: One researcher’s experience building a collaboration with an educational organization [museum]. By Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz [6:05-11:08] in (Feb 25, 2022) CENI Playdate – Connecting University Researchers to the Public Through Educational Outreach[4]

[Advanced users] If you need maps or statistics:

  • EDGE (Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates from the National Center for Education Statistics)[5]

  1. Wayback Machine. (2023 November). K-12 Standards & Instruction. Virginia Department of Education. https://web.archive.org/web/20231127235938/https://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching-learning-assessment/instruction
  2. Wayback Machine. (2022 November). Standards of Learning (SOL) & Testing. Virginia Department of Education. https://web.archive.org/web/20221129012302/https://doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml
  3. Next Generation Science Standards. [n.d.] https://www.nextgenscience.org
  4. Isaacman-VanWertz, G. (2023). CENI Playdate-Connecting University Researchers to the Public through educational outreach. Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology at Virginia Tech. YouTube. https://youtu.be/c8M2iCWXNIA?t=365
  5. National Center for Education Statistics. [n.d.]. Education demographics and geographic estimates. U.S. Department of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/edge/Home


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Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12 Copyright © 2023 by Anita R. Walz and Julee P. Farley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.