Coming out of the pandemic, schools were able to not only resume in-person classes, but also in-person events and activities. Particularly for private and/or smaller schools, which may not be as known as surrounding public schools, events are key to community engagement and recruitment. Though virtual meetings may have the perk of a couch location, they don’t have the same effect as a gathering which invites current and prospective students and families together to experience, participate, and view your school’s culture.
Whether you work in your school’s communications and enrollment offices or participate in a parent organization, it may be part of your role to plan school events. And if you’re reading this, you are likely in the brainstorming phase and looking to spice up the typical family bingo night or to stand out to prospective families touring multiple schools. Luckily, we’ve got you covered below with some ideas.
Bring in the bookworms!
Book fairs aren’t an original idea for many schools, but that’s not to say they aren’t an effective way to connect with community members. Those who went to school in the 80s, 90s, or early 2000s may remember the excitement of going to the in-school book fairs and filling out a wish list catalog for new novels and cool school supplies.
Despite our increasingly digitized world, the potential of a book fair is not outdated. In fact, it can be exciting for anyone of any age. Instead of limiting the fair to just Scholastic and students in school, open up the fair to all community members and use it as an opportunity to spread sustainability by holding a book swap. Ask the school and outside community to bring in books they’ve already read, which may otherwise be resting eternally on their shelves, and swap with another donated book.
Aside from bringing in community members and offering affordable book prices, you will be fostering community, sustainability, and literacy.
Open gym time
A great way to bring in prospective pre-k and elementary students and families is to offer them something free and fun. This is an idea that offers a couple of solutions many parents of young children face, like finding time to connect with other adults while also devoting attention and energy to entertaining the kids, finding affordable ways to entertain your child, and making friends with other adults in the community.
Hold a free weekly open gym time for current students and their caregivers and invite them to bring friends with young children. Offer one to two hours of gym time where children are let loose to play and parents can mingle. You can even plan a fall kick-off with coffee and snacks.
Bring the local community together by celebrating your differences. Showcase your school’s value of diversity and further community building by offering opportunities to educate and embrace local history, marginalized groups, and various cultures. Invite all members of the community to offer and share in enjoying local cuisine, art, entertainment, crafts and storytelling at a cultural festival and fair.
What better way to bring people together than sports? ‘Tis the season for football, hockey, or basketball by hosting watch parties during playoffs for fans. Though school sports offer a time to cheer together, national sports viewing parties bring in a new level of fan energy. Show off your school’s spirit by streaming games on a large projector like a drive-in movie. Invite students, parents, and friends to root together.
Unite some “Swifties”
Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour has sold out stadiums across the country this year. Many fans weren’t able to get tickets due to the high demand. However, this hasn’t stopped the Swifties from gathering by the thousands outside some of her concerts to listen together in parking lots. Though she’s been around for a while, Swift isn’t just a sensation for one generation. Young kids and adults alike enjoy her music.
On TikTok Taylor’s popularity has risen as brands go viral posting videos showcasing their appreciation for the artist and identification as a “Swiftie.” Join the movement and offer an opportunity to the fans who may not have been able to get tickets to a concert, but who want to dance and sing along to her lyrics with other fans. Concert attendees have been dressing outfits and costumes representing their favorite album or “era”, so invite those at your event to do the same.
You can do this for any type of artist your students and community are into. For example, our founder’s daughter is 11 and plays in a rock band. Her music school will often host events featuring songs from the White Stripes, Queen and Joan Jett – favorites among her crowd. We’ve also seen some schools partner with community organizations like a YMCA to host drive-in movie nights, encouraging children to dress up in their favorite character from the movie.
Again, the point is to tie into your students’ interests and encourage community-building outside of school in unique – but not difficult to pull off – ways.
Support local businesses
As the nation knows, the economy hasn’t been great in recent years. Small businesses have taken the brunt of this more than others, so the need to support the vitality of this community of business owners is more important than ever.
Facilitate support from near and far for these groups by organizing a market showcasing local vendors. Market the event on social media, create online event pages, send invitations, and ask participating vendors to promote it as well.
2023 is a time when guardians are paying more attention to the search for a school they feel comfortable sending their child to. Hosting events that bring people together in a positive way, promotes your recognizability and elevates your reputation as a school, which doesn’t just care for its students, but for the community at large.
Need a hand promoting your events? Click here for free resources and templates!
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Brand Journalist Gabby Esposito is a student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in journalism and philosophy. As a Brand Journalist with School Comms Lab and Holdsworth Communications, she works to tell the stories of brands and businesses, including schools.
Her articles are an organic form of PR, branding, and marketing. She is passionate about sharing the stories of others—big or small—and learning about lives and ideas that are different from her own. She has written for publications including Her Campus and UConn.
Gabby is from Connecticut and enjoys spending time with her family, dog, and two cats. Aside from writing, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching Tik Toks, and listening to podcasts.