Envision 100+ students and community members coming through your gym one evening to support physical education, health, and physical activity programming. Hear the sounds of joy as students share what they have been learning in school as well as challenge their families to some active fun. This can and should happen with a school open house. One of the best ways to build partnerships and connect with your families and community is by hosting a Family Fitness Night. Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have time” or many of you have been doing this for years and are championing this call to action. The bottom line is you can’t afford NOT to do this. It’s an effective way to promote our profession and show its impact upon student health AND academics.
10 Tips for Hosting a Family Fitness Night
Save the Date
Select a date with your administrator and get it on the school and district calendar ASAP. May is a good time as it wraps up the year, gets families to think about summer activity plans, and it is also National Physical Education and Sport Month.
Get your faculty on board. Ask for volunteers and those willing to help promote the event. Have a grade level attendance challenge to get more students to the event.
Get to a Parent Support Team meeting ASAP. This group of superheroes can delegate tasks to gather volunteers, booths, donations, snacks, contact the media, arrange for pictures, and more!
Invite local media. It’s a great photo opportunity and story. Ask for a pre- and/or post-event promotional article regarding the value of physical activity and physical education. Use resources from SHAPE America such as their “How PE is Critical to Educating the Whole Child” as a guide for talking points.
Capitalize on partnerships. Contact local groups using a booth sign-up form. Provide a free table/outdoor space where they can showcase their family-friendly health and fitness opportunity (youth sports clubs, parks and recreation, fitness and swim centers, boy scouts, golf course, etc.). Many may offer an activity at their booth. For example, our youth golf program had a putting challenge and the lacrosse club had a shootout so kids could try the sport. It was a blast! These folks also contributed to giveaways.
Advertise & Promote
Send a letter home in report cards, post the event online, use social media and your chamber of commerce, send out a postcard reminder before, and have the media help advertise the event.
Invite your school board, superintendent and any other local celebrities (mayor, city council, legislators, athletes, etc.). It’s a great opportunity for them to connect with their constituents.
Use a station punch card or simply use an open event ‘come and play’ theme! Offer simple activities students know well. Adult volunteers or student leaders can assist at stations. We had an event punch card that was marked off for each visit to a booth or activity station. Students visited a minimum number of booths and activities to qualify for giveaways.
Music & Pictures
Be sure to play upbeat music in the background. Play a running slideshow of P.E. pictures or videos compiled from the year.
Ideally, the event should be free and should have minimal to no operating costs unless you want to add more. For those who want additional funding, check out Fuel Up to Play 60 or seek local grants from banks or clubs to support snacks or other event materials.
From the simple to the more complex, these ideas will help you put together a great event and ensure your professional message has made its way HOME…where fitness and health habits must continue for students to succeed. A Family Fitness school open house will celebrate quality physical education (“it’s not your grandma’s gym class anymore”) and connect parent and student through physical activity and encourage them to make a physical activity plan they can do together.
My challenge to readers:
- If you’ve never hosted an event, its time! Remember to keep it simple.
- If you host an event regularly, get another area teacher on board and help them get started.
For Reader Comments & Questions:
What kinds of family fitness night events or activities have been successful for you? What other tips do you have to make these events successful?
Hi Jessica, my name is Donna Culicerto and I have been teaching for 31 years predominately at the high school level. I am interested in putting on a family fun fitness health and PE event at my school. I am very nervous about taking on such a big task for various reasons. Not to mention the tremendous amount of time, preparation and organization, but the simple fact of the worry of will people come? What are your thoughts? Any helpful advice or tips you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
Hi Donna, thanks for reaching out! I commend you on your idea to have a family fun fitness event at your school. It is a worthwhile investment and great way to make connections with families and community partners. Your questions and concerns are a normal and part of getting started. I always encourage folks to keep it simple and start small. Maybe start with a simple open activity family & friends night and build up from there. My department has been doing one for several years now, adding a bit more each year as we feel comfortable. I like to keep it simple and casual. We have now expanded ours to become part of a school-wide family night. A highlight is having community health/wellness partners come in to share their opportunities: a local Karate group gave demos, a yoga company came in, gymnastics center, and Public Health. I simply provided them a table and space and they did the rest and visited with folks who attended. This is a also a part of our Fuel Up to Play 60 program so we have some goodies/giveaways provided by this grant program for those who come by. It’s a great grant to look into. Again, great question and good luck!