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How to Start the (After)School Year Off Right: Special Events!

Those in education say it every year: "How does the summer go so fast?"

For those of us on the East Coast, we have about a month until school resumes. For schools in the Midwest and West Coast, you have mere weeks!

Many schools and CBOs love to end the school year with large scale event—graduation celebrations, field days, end of the year parties—and why not? These events are great ways to celebrate the school year's successes, thank our communities for their endless support and de-stress after a long school year. However, this time of year is also when we tend to be the most burnt out and putting together an event is no small task. My suggestion: Put on more events at the beginning of the year, to start off fresh!

Here's a guide to some fun ideas for events, to start your program off right.

Parent and Staff Mixer
Sounds much more fun than "Afterschool Orientation Session," but can function the same way. Parents get to meet each other and program staff, and learn all the ins and outs of the program, and what activities their students are engaging in. Parents can also sign up to volunteer for future events.

Pro Tip: Offer mini lessons of student programming. Parents can circulate and do 10-minute sessions of each club.

Kickoff Carnival
Pinterest offers a plethora of ideas for creating low-cost games and booths. Students and clubs can even help to create and craft things. In addition to games, slime making, arts and crafts, photo booths, and food stands are also great activities for carnivals. And have multiple face painters: It's always the most popular attraction!

Pro Tip: Charge a small fee for tickets, which will be used to participate in games and activities. Then, the event becomes a fundraiser!

Fall Art Festival
Art Galleries are great final presentation forums for Art Clubs, but Art Festivals are also a fun way to start the year. From crafting tables to jewelry-making to sip-and-paints (with juice, of course), art fests are fun for the whole family. Be sure to have varied projects, so little ones and older students can enjoy something.

Pro Tip: If you work in a school, coincide this event with a PTA Meeting or Parent-Teacher Conference, so parents can come to these functions without worrying about childcare.

Staff Talent Show
How do you get your students excited about afterschool programming? Why with a Staff Talent Show, of course! Showcase the awesome artistry of your staff: Music teachers can perform a song, dance instructors dance, martial artists can showcase their moves, et cetera. Not only will this event be fun for all, but it can also serve as a recruitment strategy, which is especially crucial for middle and high school students. Students can sign up for clubs directly following the performance.

Pro Tip: Have returning students perform with their instructors. It fosters student leadership and they'll feel special that they get to perform with their teachers.

Whatever event you choose to start off the new (after)school year, always remember these three key points for success:

  • Plan backward. Work from the date of event and go backward to the current date. It's the best way to schedule milestones of when things need to be accomplished by.
  • Delegate tasks. Planning events isn't the only thing you're doing—you also have your day-to-day duties. Delegate aspects of the planning to trustworthy staff, parents and even older students. It's a great way to allow folks to step into their leadership!
  • Make sure everyone has fun. That includes you and your staff, as well as the event participants. Make sure to schedule staff breaks and that everyone has water at their station. Yes, putting on an event can be stressful, but it should also be fun for the whole community.

Have a great start to the new school year and good luck with your kickoff event!

Written by Meaghan Cross, Program Manager, The Leadership Program.