Connecting freshman to their interests is a ground game of nuance, knowledge, and need. The freshmen enter high school, a field of opportunity, that is often so overwhelming that survival necessitates ignoring scores of opportunities.
Enter the Activity Fair. Four times a year we provide our freshmen the opportunity (and requirement) to select one of 10 activities, clubs, sports, or special presentations. All four events are different and all four happen on Fridays during what we call their study/lunch. Students have a half-hour study hall before they go to lunch. It’s during this 25 minutes that we hold our Activity Fairs.
The day before an Activity Fair, students receive a menu of options. Here is an example of one from October of this school year: Activity Fair Example
Here are a some examples:
Talk to a Cop
Smart things to do on Facebook and Snapchat
Track and Field
Past 10 Days
National Honor Society
They read over the list, which includes a brief paragraph explaining the activity, and rank their top three choices in the column provided. These sheets are then gathered by the study/lunch teacher and brought to our meeting room.
Taped in a line down the center of the conference room table are the titles of each presentation. Teachers place each student’s sheet in the stack with the student’s first choice. Once that is complete, we look at slots. Generally, these presentations take place in a classroom. We have two teams of freshmen each lunch period so each team gets half of a classroom, or about 15 students per presentation.
Teams look at each student and filter the freshmen’s choices through what they know about the student. What would be good for this freshman to learn about Washington High School?
All piles are brought to 15 students or fewer.The selected presentation, which includes the room number, is highlighted on each student’s page. Almost all students get their first or second choice. Less than 15% receive their third choice. A few students are pigeoned holed into a presentation that they didn’t select but that teachers felt they needed to attend.
The study/lunch teachers take their pile back to their classroom. At the beginning of study/lunch on Friday, they hand each freshman their sheet. The student looks at the highlighted room number and off they go. This sheet will serve as a hall pass to get from their classroom to the selected presentation.
The teacher in each study/lunch acts as a guard at the door. All students are released but only those students having that room’s number highlighted on their sheet are allowed in. We are able to move about 225 students in three minutes from their room of origin to the room that is highlighted. Almost all students make this transition well. A few need a nudge and the process works in such a way as to not disturb other classrooms.
Once the students are in the classroom, they receive information on their selected interest.
After the presentation, the back of their sheet has a place to mark the level of interest each student has in the presentation. There is also a place for an email address or phone number so the presenter can get in touch with the freshman at a later date.
One of the most demanding parts of this process is lining up presenters. Because a Freshman Academy teacher is in each classroom, the presenters can be student leaders. For teachers and for student leaders, it is good to remind them about some of the basics of a good Activity Fair presentation:
Prepare about 15 minutes of material
Tell the story of how a freshman gets involved in the activity and what they can expect during the school year because they are a part of this group.
Student leaders can tell about the benefits to them personally, socially, and/or academically.
Be sure to explain why this organization exists.
What are the freshmen missing out on?
What’s next in the process to join this group?
Too many freshmen don’t get involved because they aren’t shepherded through the first couple of steps of the process. Activity Fairs do that! We find that Activity Fairs do a great job of educating and connecting freshmen to opportunities in our building, which is a big part of what we are called to do as a Freshman Academy.