Top 5 Tips for Planning a Successful Field Day

When I first started teaching 18 years ago, one of the biggest challenges was planning for my first Field Day.  Five years of college (changing your major your junior year will often extend your stay at a college) did nothing to prepare me for the planning and logistics of putting on a field day at my school. g 85591 field day tug of war rope Fortunately, my predecessor had left me some information for Field Day so that I could continue the tradition that she had started.  I inherited a competitive Field Day.  There were 10 stations and each student competed in 3-4 stations and tried to score points for their class.  Some activities were individual while others were team challenges/ relay races.  About three weeks prior to the Field Day, students would practice the events and then select their top choices.  After two years of dealing with poor sportsmanship (mostly by teachers and parents) and wasting instructional time to prepare for the events, I decided to scrap the Field Day plan that I had been using and re-think my approach to organizing and planning a Field Day.

Cooperative Field Day

I decided that a cooperative field day that focused on student participation and teamwork made more sense to me and better fit my philosophy as an educator.  As I began organizing this new plan, my biggest concern was how it would be received.  After completing a successful “new” Field Day, my concerns were put to rest because everyone loved the new approach especially my administration.  As the school expanded over the years, we split our field day into a two day event to reduce the number of students on the field.  Although the original plan has changed some from year to year, the all-inclusive, team concept has remained.

Below, you will find some tips that might give you some new ideas how to improve the logistics of your field day.

1. Use High School Students for Volunteers

Volunteers are a critical consideration.  Fortunately for my school, we are adjacent to our feeder high school.  Originally, I reached out to a friend who was the ROTC instructor at the school but a better fit for getting student volunteers turned out to be the lead guidance counselor at the high school.  She has been able to identify students with excellent academic standing who now serve as our primary volunteers.  It is important to note that in my state, Virginia, all students must now meet a volunteer requirement to graduate which makes using the students a win-win.  Another great source for volunteers over the years has been the military.  If you live near a military instillation, many of the personnel are encouraged to serve in the community as volunteers.  Working a field day is a great way to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to serve the community.  If these two options are not available, you can always use your parents (PTA/O) or reach out to local businesses in your area.  As a side note, it is always nice if you can provide your volunteers with cold water, a snack, or even lunch if your budget allows.  It is a real simple way to say thank you for making you look good by running all of your stations.

2.  Schedule Your Field Day as Soon as Possible!

Scheduling your date and time is very important.  Most field days take place at the very end of the year (many during the last week of school).  Getting your dates on the calendar as soon as possible is a good start.  Planning your schedule for the actual date(s) is important too.  Will all of the students be out at the same time or will you split up your groups?  How long will each group participate (1 hour, 3 hours, all day)?  We always scheduled at least 3 hours for our field day so that students would have plenty of time at each of our 10-12 stations.  Will your students travel independently or will they be grouped (by class)?  We always have our classes stay with their classroom teacher during field day.  We are able to track down student much easier because all the groups follow a station schedule throughout the field day.

3.  Base Your Field Day Games Off of a Theme

Field Day Activity

Field day games that are selected can impact the success of your field day.  Some schools have a Field Day theme each year which I think is a fun and engaging idea (Pirate Day, Survivor Challenges, Wipeout, the Field Day Olympics, Field Day Rodeo, etc.).  If planning for a theme, make sure you connect each field day game with your theme to create a cohesive field day.  Below are some additional tips to use as a guide when thinking about your activities.

  1. Be Creative – There are lots of ways to use equipment to mimic an activity so that the station connects with the theme.
  2. Keep It Simple – Due to time constraints, the station leaders may not have a lot of time to explain each station.  Keeping the activities simple will allow for maximum participation and fun.
  3. Collaborative vs. Competitive – If you volunteers are judging performances, you are putting them in an awkward position especially if they need to make judgment calls. Avoid this issue by involving all students and focusing on teamwork and collaboration rather than winning or losing.
  4. Safety Comes First – Safety should be the primary consideration when planning station activities.  I have been to field days where students were riding tricycles but were not wearing helmets or were wearing them incorrectly.  Protect yourself and your school from legal issues by thinking through your station activities.  If you are not sure about an idea, double check with your administrators.
  5. Water or No Water – Our field day is a three plus hour adventure that starts in the early morning.  Because of the time of year, it often starts out relatively cool but starts to warm-up considerably by 10 A.M.  Thankfully large sections of our field day area has some cover from the sun but having a few water activity stations helps cool our students off and refresh them throughout the 3-hour session.  We remind all students that they must wear tennis shoes the entire time (no flip-flops, no bare feet).  We also encourage students to bring towels with their names on them.  Before deciding to include water, make sure you consult your administrators and have some basic rules in place to make the activities fun and safe for all.

4. Schedule Breaks

Breaks are an important consideration on Field Day especially if you are planning to have all students active at each station.  In our master schedule, we include at least two water breaks for every class.  These breaks can be used to stop by our water station (drinking only) and snack breaks.  Some schools also sell snack and treat items during the break times as a way to fuel the students and make a little money to offset field day expenses.  Again, this is another discussion that should be held with your administrators prior to planning snack sales.

5.  Organization is the top key to success

Organization is the true key to success.  Plan your date early and make sure it gets on the calendar.  Plan your activities early to ensure that you will have the equipment you will need.  Set your schedule and make sure that it works.  There is nothing worse on field day than have three classes at the same station at the same time.  If volunteers are running your stations, activity task sheets with instructions will be very helpful.  If planning snack sales, coordinate with the individuals who will be selling early so that they will understand the plan.  Make sure you plan the “menu” and advertise it to the students early.  Prepare your field day letter for parents in advance and make sure it is reviewed by your administrative team.  Send the parent letter and schedule out in plenty of time for parents to plan to attend and watch their children.

Check out these Field Day game supplies to get started!

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