When I was a Program Director at the Henderson Unit, I loved to come up with different ideas, activities, and events. I still do, but as a Unit Director, you don't get to engage in that kind of creativity as often. Luckily, I am surrounded by super creative people so I still get my fill.
I love to come up with themes, OK? Like we are having a party? THEME. New school year? THEME. We are going to a meeting? THEME. Someone has to go potty? THEME. At the Sertoma Unit, we have several themes:
Project Learn Theme of the Year: The theme our decor and words of the week revolves around. EXAMPLE: Children of the World
Project Learn Theme of the Month: A more specific theme that fits in the year theme category. EXAMPLE: Children of Africa
Project Learn Word of the Week: A word that fits under the month theme category. EXAMPLE: Mbube Mbube (a traditional African Children's Game)
Project Learn Safety Topic of the Week: A safety topic for members to learn about. EXAMPLE: heat safety, park safety, etc.
Club Characteristic of the Month: A characteristic we look for when recognizing members for awards. EXAMPLE: Respect, Trustworthiness, etc.)
All of these are listed on our monthly calendar and on the first Monday of every week, staff discuss the themes and teach members new things during Project Learn! I love themes for the following reasons:
They organize your weeks
They provide additional learning opportunities for members
They give staff a chance to offer new material each week
They encourage fun
They help your Club change its feel every year
Big Takeaway: Themes are amazing. Also, the theme of the year is really important and can serve as an umbrella for a lot of activities at the Club. Wait til you see the collection at the end of the post...but first, a story...
A couple of years ago I visited the Stalnaker Unit, another amazing Unit in Springfield. I was walking around and looked inside the Pre-Teen Center window. I say two scruffy lookin' dudes. They looked like they were engaged in a super deep conversation. Turns out, these little muffins were Tony and Blake. At the time, Blake was the Pre-Teen Coordinator and Tony was the Gym Coordinator. I later found out, their conversation was about how to make the Club a better place: programs, activities, clubs, dances, everything! They did that often; had meetings about ways to make the Club even better. They still have these meetings today. Now, Blake is working for the YMCA as a School Age Services Director and Tony is a Program Director. They have used their passion for helping kids to help them become leaders in our field. They are some of the most creative, passionate people I know. While I spend the majority of our interactions making fun of Blake's hairy face or Tony's business degree, I have learned so much from them!
While we all have the same goal in mind (to provide a safe, fun place for kids), our means for achieving that goal varies. Sometimes Tony, Blake and I will talk smack to one another about how our programs are better or our staff are the best or we are the coolest, etc. But when we have the opportunities to share ideas with one another, it is wonderful.
A couple of weeks ago I get a phone call from Tony. He said, "I have the best theme for the school year and you are going to be so mad."
He was right. His theme idea for the upcoming Fall was creative, smart, intuitive, and engaging. If kids don't care about the theme or information you want to share, you're not going to have participation. His idea made me feel so excited and so ready to see how kids would respond. As most of us know, Pokemon Go is huge. Everyone loves it, everyone plays it, everyone is annoyed by it. Tony decided instead of fighting member's need to play the game, that he would incorporate it into his Club. The theme is called BGC Go and you can click on the link below for all the details!
Here are some other great Project Learn Themes for your school year! Click on each topic for a sample!