Success! (On Program Planning)

by Scottie Kapel, Head Editor, INALJ Oregon


scottie kLast month I wrote an article about my worries as a first-time program planner. If you’ll recall, the event was Teen Read Week, and I’m back today to recap the week’s events and address if my concerns came to fruition.

What events should we schedule?

While planning the week, we weren’t sure how many events to offer and what kinds of events the kids would find engaging. We ended up having five events throughout the week. Two were specifically geared to middle school students, two to upper school students, and one to the entire student body. The school-wide event was a cardboard side table construction contest. Using Ikea-esque plans we found online and cardboard bike boxes graciously supplied by our friendly local bike shop, we tasked participants with creating side tables for the library. Because the tables proved to be a little more challenging to assemble than originally anticipated, we began giving out the plans and cardboard a couple of weeks in advance with completed tables due Monday of TRW. Students and teachers voted on their favorite table throughout the week, and awards went to the best decorated table and the best designed table. Monday we had a bulletin board literary trivia contest. I did a really fun Macbeth inspired bulletin board, complete with witches’ cauldron, fire, bats, noxious-looking fumes, and the quote, “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.” The students had to answer ten questions that included identifying the work from which the quote came, locating where in the work the quote is found, finding recent publications based on Macbeth, and so on. The quiz, which students had the entire day to complete, required them to use the Internet, the card catalog, and actually walk around the library. Tuesday we did edible books with the middle school students during their lunch period. We baked a bunch of rectangular sugar cookies and provided frosting, candy, and colored sugars so that the kids could recreate their favorite book covers using their favorite sweets. On Thursday, upper school theater students performed stories from Alvin Schwartz’s classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in the library. The week ended with a half day, so we held pop culture trivia in the library. None of the questions were literature related, but the students ended up having to use library resources to find the answers — let me tell you how old I felt when most of the students admitted to never having seen The Goonies.

How do we promote?

We promoted the week with posters that we hung up around the school, bulletin announcements, and word of mouth. We also had the calendar of events posted on the school’s website. If we decide to do it again next year, I think it would help to look at some other venues for promoting the week.

Will anyone participate?

Yes! Some events were far more popular than others, but I’d say that the week was a success. Monday’s bulletin board literary trivia contest was the event with the fewest participants, but in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to kick off the week with something so closely resembling schoolwork, especially since the students were coming back from Homecoming weekend. Had we planned the bulletin board contest for later in the week, I think we would have had more participants. Tuesday’s edible books event was a huge success, and we know for next year to bake more cookies. Thursday’s theater performances were popular with both the middle school classes whose teachers brought them and the upper school students who came in during their free periods to watch their friends perform. Friday’s trivia was a great end to the week. The students were eager to participate and many suggested we have Trivia Fridays weekly. Finally, in the biggest surprise of the week, the cardboard table contest was wildly successful, and we got many really fantastic entries from individual students as well as classes and advisories.

All in all, my concerns proved to be unnecessary, but I think it’s good that I had them. Because I had these concerns in the back of my mind, I planned and over-planned, so when Teen Read Week finally arrived, there was little left to do other than enjoy the week’s events.