One of the best parts of out of school time programming, in my humble opinion, is that we can have SO MUCH FUN!!! Even though we obviously want to support what our youth are learning during the school day, because we aren’t bound by state standards or set curriculum, we can be endlessly creative in how we spend the time we have with young people.
When I was Education Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Smoky Mountains, I’d use a mix of programming, including BGCA programs like Healthy Habits and MyFuture and programs from other organizations like Teaching Tolerance, but I was always sure to mix in some fun one-off activities that kept things fresh and exciting. I won’t lie, it takes a bit more work to do it that way because you have to search out or write the activities, but I developed some shortcuts that I hope you will find useful!
One of my favorite go-tos was to celebrate wacky holidays or use historical events to base activities around. I’d literally sit down with my planning sheets each month and first plot out the BGCA programs I was using, then look up monthly celebrations or the history of random days to see if those sparked any ideas to fill in the blank session spaces. I’ve already linked to one list of Oddball Holidays, and you can browse the Holidays tag for some others. But throughout 2021, I’ll put some lists together like this that give some overall ideas for a couple of months at a time.
And if this is something you already do? PLEASE PLEASE SHARE YOUR FAVORITE IDEAS! I want to share them!
International Creativity Month: This can be applied to any vast number of ideas. Browse the Creativity tag on the ClubX Blog, or consider using quick creativity challenges as energizers, such as
- Write down the names of 10 foods. Tell how each of these foods is like a person you know.
- Explain one freedom from the Bill of Rights using only movements of your body (no words).
- Think of 20 uses for a screwdriver other than driving screws.
- The 30 Circles Challenge or Can You Save Fred
National Soup Month: Obvious connections if you have access to a kitchen for culinary activities, but also a chance to read the folk tale Stone Soup.(And a treat for you- as I was looking at videos for Stone Soup I came across this clip of Dolly Parton sharing her family’s recipe!)
Hot Tea Month: Learn about tea ceremonies from around the world, and/or taste test different kinds of tea with a prepared rating sheer to compare, contrast, and describe the different flavors.
Braille Literacy Month
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January): Schools often mark this day also, so consider focusing on an age-appropriate service project to bring Dr. King’s values to life.
January 19 Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday: I used to do a very dramatic reading of The Raven with all the lights off except one spooky flashlight because of course I did, or you could do pass-around stories with scary prompts.
January 27 Electric Lightbulb Patented: Make Lemon-Powered Lights for a fun STEM activity
African-American History Month: Find lots of activities from the Library of Congress here. With teens, consider an exploration of how African-American musical traditions has influenced the modern hits of today.
Chinese New Year (dates vary, 2021 is February 12): This new year’s celebration lasts for 15 days, so you can incorporate many activities. 2021 is the Year of the Ox!
February 14 Valentine’s Day: Get lots of ideas in this post from the archives.
February 18 Thumb Appreciation Day: A fun art activity is to have youth make thumb prints using an ink pad all over a piece of paper, and then use fine-point markers to turn each print into a character or creature with personality and create a scene.
February 21 First Public Demonstration of Morse’s telegraph in 1838: Here’s a Morse Code printable using a decoder ring youth create, or you can find just an alphabet list and then write and decode messages.
I hope these spark some ideas!