Happy Year of the Dog! For those that don’t know, in many parts of Asia, it is currently Tet, or Lunar New Year. It’s a holiday that is full of tradition, fun, singing, family and celebration. In the past, my school has always chosen to host a large school-wide Christmas event. However, the weather is always bad that time of year, and most of our students don’t really understand the traditions surrounding the holiday.
As Tet marks the beginning of Spring in Vietnam, our school decided to embrace the holiday and have a Tet fair. Read on for the story of how my business partner and I came up with the idea, organized the event, stressed out over details and after a fun and tiring day, successfully pulled off the event.
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Organizing the Event
At this point in my career, I’ve had to organize and implement quite a few events and workshops. Perhaps my favorite part of organizing an event is conceiving of the idea and brainstorming. For my school, this happened about six months ago when Seb, my business partner, and I were taking a break and having a cup of coffee. We were making jokes about how we missed fairs and circuses from when we were growing up. This naturally led to the question, what if we put on a fair for the kids?
Luckily, there is a beautiful community center nearby that we were able to rent out. This community center had both indoor and outdoor spaces as well as a lovely playground. Our goal was to create ten or so stations where the students could do a variety of both hot and cold activities (just like a classroom). As students would be accompanied by their parents, they could go from activity to activity as they desired. To help facilitate this, we made a “passport” of activities so they understood what was on offer. If they completed all of the activities, they won a prize upon leaving the fair.
As an English center, the most important aspect of an event is that there is either some use of English or showing parents what the children have learned. So, we decided to create a balance of activities that were just for fun, and those that had an English learning component. Here’s what we had:
- Bubble Station (students make giant bubbles using different shaped wands).
- Monkey scavenger hunt (clues are in English, students gather all the letters to find the secret sentence).
- Field Day! (a series of outdoor racing games: egg and spoon race, wheelbarrow race, etc.).
- Bingo (with words associated with springtime).
- Kid Karaoke (kids sing, dance and play accompanying musical instruments to popular English songs).
- Dress the King (an obstacle course where students gather bits of clothing to dress a popular character from local mythology).
- Guess the word (students compete in games like Taboo, pictionary and gestures).
- Rainbow parachute (a series of outdoor games played with a giant outdoor parachute).
- Craft Station (here the students made a dragon or dog puppet).
- Jump! Jump! Jump! (a silly game where students need to hop to their goal in a rice sack and plant as many flags as possible).
The ideas for the above stations was a collaborative process with our teachers. Once we had solidified the ideas, the next steps were to make sure that each teacher had a clear idea of the steps to play their game. We did this by having them fill out a short form that mimicked a formal lesson plan to ensure that they had thought through their idea well before the event. Most importantly, we needed to know what materials they would need so that we could purchase them before the event.
What the Day Looked Like
At the moment, our school has over three hundred and fifty students. So, along with their parents, we were ready for a massive amount of people. To accommodate the numbers, we split our student body into three different times throughout the day. This allowed us to keep the number of people manageable as well as to have the students organized by age.
In fact, the afternoon group, which was made primarily of teens, had activities that were adapted just for them. For example, the scavenger hunt became a mystery with clues scattered around the community center. The kid karaoke became a singing competition. The craft station became an egg drop competition. The idea was to make the activities as enjoyable as possible for the age groups at the time.
I’m not going to lie to you, both the day before the event and the event day itself were brutally tiring. The day before the event was full of decorating and cleaning the facilities. We tried to set up every station as much as we could and got all of the banners hung up. That said, we were all back at the community center before 7am the next day to finalize everything, cut the fruit, and get ready for the storm of students.
The pay off for all this hard work was the look on the students faces as they did the activities. The students were all having fun and the parents were proud of their confidence using some English throughout the day. It was still a long day, but having the groups split into different times allowed us all some short breaks.
After the event, we all had a well deserved meal, and some drinks at a local hot pot and BBQ restaurant in the paddy fields. We shared horror stories and funny moments from the day, and our plans for the upcoming New Year’s Holiday. We all went home feeling that the year of the dog was full of promise.
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