School programs, if done right, can do wonders for student engagement and education. Imagine bringing in STEM role models, or putting on a school-wide demonstration of some truly awesome technology. This post will explore how you can organize successful school programs, even on a low budget.
An article published by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) titled Low-Cost Programming for Any Institution, by Melissa Mayard, covers a lot of what goes into a successful, low-cost event. Here’s our summary:
Remember the Goal
Mayard mentions how it’s so easy for people to get hung up on the idea that the event has to be overly spectacular. There’s no reason to hire some famous singer or performer to entertain students. You just need to understand the “where, how, who and what” of the program to make it engaging. Anything can be an event, from hosting a paint night to bringing in an expert to speak, so long as you remember the basics.
Consider where students can interact with each other and guests. This not only includes the physical location of the event (classroom, lounge, outside), but also takes into account certain features of the event, such as whether there will be a question and answer session or if the setting is right for conversation.
This is the aspect that will vary the most from one event to the next, as there is rarely a predetermined way of planning events. However, some things to always keep in mind are the budget: how much will it realistically cost; timeline: how long the event will take to organize and the order in which day-of events occur; and availability: supplies, speakers, etc. Also be cognizant of the “who” when considering the “how”, with the goal being inclusiveness for all students.
You should try to make your event as appealing to everyone as possible, within reason. A STEM event probably won’t be of as much interest to a non-STEM student, and that’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring for them, either. This is an incredibly important point when considering different grade levels. Creating a beginning of the year event will attract many first-year students, but probably won’t foster much interest in the older students. Always be willing to consider who your audience is and take steps to help engage everyone’s interest.
Mayard asks you to consider whether you’d attend your own program. If not, then it’s doubtful that your students will want to, either. Try to offer an experience that students can’t simply get at home. It has to be worth their time to spend an evening out after a full day of classes. That’s not to say it can’t be inexpensive, but something like a board game night may not be enough of an incentive.
Planning events doesn’t have to be daunting. There’s no rules saying how much you have to spend or which famous person you must invite. Your school program can be simple and yet engaging. If you’re careful to consider the where, how, who, and what of your program, it’ll likely be a success!
For more information on extracurricular events, check out our blog on 3 Must-Haves for Your STEM Afterschool Program.