Category Archives: Games

Part 4: {fun!} Games to train your brain

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

This is part four in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses. Comment to win a $20 School Box gift card.

Here are a few tips for sharpening children’s cognitive skills using everyday items, as shared by Kristen Thompson, LearningRx owner and former teacher.

  • Work on critical thinking with learning-geared computer games, like Disney’s Where’s My Water, that require critical thinking to solve a multi-step challenge.
  • Improve logic and reasoning by identifying patterns. Set out blocks in a certain pattern (red, blue, yellow, yellow, red….) and have children continue the pattern. For more pattern ideas, click here.
  • Build mental processing with a deck of cards. Tell the child to shuffle the cards thoroughly, then sort the cards into four piles as fast as he/she can. Note: no need to put the cards in order, focus on speed.
  1. Pile 1: RED cards Ace through 10
  2. Pile 2: BLACK cards Ace through 10
  3. Pile 3: BLACK face cards
  4. Pile 4: RED face cards
  5. Now, add difficulty: Next time count by 2’s out loud as you sort the cards. Then, count by 3’s out loud as you sort the cards. After that, sort again, and each time a face card is added to a pile, call out the name of the card (Ace, King, Queen, Jack). Do not say anything when adding other cards. Finally, each time an even numbered card is added to a pile, call out the number of the card (2, 4, 6, 8, 10). Do not say anything when adding other cards. Click here for more card ideas.
  • Improve memory…with your refrigerator! Open the refrigerator door and ask your student to look inside for 20 seconds and try to remember all they see. Then, shut the door and ask the student to write down everything they can remember. Open the door together and count to see how well they did. Now, add difficulty: Same 20-second peek as above, but this time ask your student to recall the items one shelf at a time and remember as much as possible from that one area at a time. Open it up and see how well he or she did.
  • Get moving! Physical activity is good for the body and the mind.

Kristen Thompson owns the LearningRx Brain Training Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. Call 770-529-4800 or visit www.learningrx.com/kennesaw for more information. Activities featured here are from www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Games

10 Ways to Fight the Summer Slide, Part II

This is Part II in a two-part series on keeping skills sharp during the summer. In Part I, Kristen Thompson shared five stellar (and easy to apply!) ideas. Here are five more that are sure to make keep your child happy…and learning. 

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Five More Ways to Fight the Summer Slide

by Kristen Thompson

Tips one through five were shared here. Here are five more ways to keep your student on their toes (and lovin’ it) during the next couple months.

  1. Utilize Summer Programs. Take your children to summer library and bookstore programs. Most will post them online, but you can also request a calendar of events. Many libraries really crank it up a notch during the summer and hold fabulous, free activities and book clubs for students.
  2.  Be Choosy about Summer Camps. Consider registering your child for summer camps that encourage kids to use their minds on science projects, exploration, creative writing, music and art.
  3. Train the Brain. Use the summer to strengthen your student’s cognitive skills through one-on-one brain training to improve memory, visual and auditory processing, attention, and logic and reasoning. A core of strong brain skills will help them head back to school with the tools to succeed at learning in any subject. Unlike tutoring, which focuses on academics, brain-training addresses the root causes of any learning struggles. (For more information on brain training, see www.learningrx.com.)
  4. Get Musical or Lingual. Encourage your child to learn an instrument or another language. Studies have shown a strong correlation between “Arts” and “smarts.”
  5. Pick the Right Books. Learn how to choose age-appropriate books for children and teens. Reading is Fundamental has a great brochure that offers basic tips on what to look for. Your local librarian can also help you select books for your child’s interest and reading level. According to Scholastic Parents Online, reading just six books during the summer break can be enough to keep a struggling reader from falling behind.

A Final Note of Wisdom

Research shows that ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in your Child (www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com). “Think of it like this: The brain is like the body. If you exercise it, you improve it, but if you let it sit idle, it’s going to lose ability.”

To avoid the summer slide, Gibson recommends brain games and exercises that build cognitive skills, the underlying skills needed to learn.

And don’t assume that your kids will roll their eyes when you suggest ideas to keep their brain skills strong all summer. More than half of students surveyed say they want to be involved in a summer program that helps them keep up with schoolwork or prepare them for the next grade. Besides, unlike abdominal crunches, exercise for your brain is actually FUN!

Kristen Thompson is a parent, former teacher, and also the director at LearningRx Kennesaw, a center that specializes in helping learners of all ages and stages reach their full potential. LearningRx is located at 3420 Acworth Due West Road, Suite B, Kennesaw, GA 30144. 

Parents can request a free five-page Summer Slide Guide from LearningRx that includes dozens of brain-building games and exercises, as well as tips on how to incorporate brain building into daily activities. For the free Summer Slide Guide, simply call the Kennesaw LearningRx center at 770-529-4800 or the Atlanta-Buckhead LearningRx at 404-252-7246.

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Filed under Academic Success, Art, Games, Music, Summer Learning

Creative Dr. Seuss Birthday Ideas {It’s March 2!}

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

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One of my favorite sayings comes from my children’s favorite author. Seriously. Consider the wisdom of Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Truth, plain and simple.

Every March 2, libraries and schools around the country celebrate the birthday of this beloved childhood muse. So why not go beyond simply reading his timless tales and bring them to life? Here are some creative ideas to take you from snack time to craft time to recess.

Fun with Food

With a smidgen of creativity, Dr. Seuss’s books become veritable cookbooks! Favorite yum-o ideas:

  • Create a stack of pancakes with strawberry filling to look like the hat of The Cat In the Hat
  • Eat cake in the bathtub at home, like the cat does in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (do it while holding an open umbrella, if you’re truly talented)
  • Hand out multicolored Goldfish crackers to illustrate One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Drink pink ink (strawberry Quik-flavored milk) like the “pink yink ink” in One Fish, Two Fish
  • Of course there’s green eggs and ham. Of course.
  • And check out these adorable Thing One Thing Two cupcakes, shown right, from Go Graham Go!

Dress Up, Seuss-style

Keep the fun going by helping kids dress like their favorite (or original!) Seuss character.

  • Look for tall pipe-like hats at the craft store and decorate them with red and white stripes (or make your own from poster board).
  • Wear socks on your hands and feet to resemble Fox in Socks.
  •  And if your dress-up box is a bit more on the wild side, let children layer on the funny furs, feather boas, ears and snouts to create their own silly Seuss-like character! Older children can then write rhyming stories about their original character to share with a younger class.

Tim Tebow Storytime

View the animated webcast recording of football phenom Tim Tebow reading Green Eggs and Ham. Great reading role model! Just click “watch now” and then enter the little information it asks for (city, state, etc.). The video is adorable.

Cat-y Crafts!

Looking for something to do? How about some help from Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Let kids create two paper bag hand puppets of the Things with this adorable template from obSEUSSed.com. In addition to a printout for each student (provided on the site), you’ll need two red paper bags (or white bags colored red), scissors, glue/double-sided tape and crayons or markers. So stinkin’ cute!

Get Movin’

Balance Silliness: Recreate some of the fun from the Cat in the Hat by letting children try their hand at carrying and balancing a variety of items, cat-style, while walking across the room: balance a book on a child’s head, hold a stack of books with a ball on top, and hang a curved-handled umbrella over the crook of the child’s arm. Make it into a contest: Have every child in your class try walking with the same items. Mark each child’s stopping point (how far they get before things topple) on tape on the rug, labeled with their names. The child who walks the farthest wins!

Kite Race: Recreate another activity from the Cat in the Hat by letting kids race kites outside or in the gym at school. Keep things safe by spacing children at least 10 feet apart from each other and shortening their kite strings to under 10 feet. They’ll end up dragging the kites the whole way, but it is hysterical!

Lego Cat Hat: Looking for a simple activity? Have kids sort out red and white Lego blocks and see who can build the tallest ‘Cat Hat’ quickest. Make sure to have a timer and ruler ready to see who wins!

After a Seusstacular day, your students will be saying, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

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Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Games, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Writing

Toys that Teach: Christmas Gifts that Go the Distance

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card…just in time for Christmas! 

I recently sat down with my 4-year-old son to craft a Christmas wish list. Two hours and about 40 items later, we were done. And he’s only 4!! I didn’t even know he knew half those toys existed!

As his mom, I obviously have a more realistic idea of the toys he will actually play with beyond Christmas afternoon. My job is to sort through his list and pick the items that won’t be quick to become toy box fodder. To help me (and hopefully you) find toys whose impact and interest will last longer than the egg nog, I consulted with Chris Persson, mom of two, former teacher, and co-owner of The School Box along with her husband Dave.

“The best gifts,” says Chris,”are those that blend fun with learning. The toys we carry at The School Box are highly engaging, but allow kids to learn while they’re playing–often without even realizing it!” It’s like sneaking applesauce into the brownie mix: something good for your kids, incognito.

Here, Chris shares her top picks (and The School Box’s top sellers) for holiday gifts.  

1. Hands-On Science Kits, $14.99-$26.99

What child (or adult) wouldn’t want to build a robot out of an empty soda can? Or make their own slime laboratory? Or create a doorbell from electromagnets? As gifts, these kits are just plain cool.

What Kids Learn: “These kits bring science to life while reinforcing critical thinking skills,” says Chris.

 2. Games Galore, $10.99-$29.99

The School Box’s unmatched game selection is the perfect red herring for undercover learning. my new fave: Cartoon It!, a fast-paced memory game with an artistic twist. Younger kids will love Maze Madness, where they guide a ball through a twisty-turny maze. Game on!

What Kids Learn: “Games promote memory, strategy, fine motor skills, fair play and more. Plus, they’re fun!” Chris asserts.

 3. Froggy Ecosystem, Price: $19.99

This funky gift is an annual best-seller. It’s two little frogs in a plant-filled, self-sustaining ecosystem: no cleaning required. Much lower maintenance than a puppy on Christmas morning!

What Kids Learn: “They learn all about habitat and lifecycles,” says Chris, who notes that these fly off the shelves during the holidays.

These gifts have me thinking that The School Box may be as sly as those applesauce-laden brownies. Perhaps they should really call themselves The School and Toy Box: where your kids will learn without even knowing it. And, as for my son’s list, I think there may still be room to add a froggy or two.

 Need more gift ideas? Visit www.schoolbox.com to order online or find a location near you. Or stop by any School Box location for Super Saturdays, where kids make a (free) craft! Second and fourth Saturdays each month, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

This article was adapted from Little Black Dress|Little Red Wagon Magazine. 

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Games, Holidays, School Readiness, Science

Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!

Extensions

  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!

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Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

Empire: a Great Game for the Last Week of School!

by Kelli Lewis

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are chosen each month.

Here’s a game your class will enjoy during the last week of school! It’s a great way to celebrate the community you’ve built throughout the year and get to know. The whole class can play: the more people you have, the better. And it will work well in many grades: upper elementary, middle and high.

Game Name: Empire

Roles: Guessers (unlimited number!) and Reader (1 person, preferably the teacher)

Materials: You don’t need much! You only need one slip of paper and any type of writing utensil per Guesser.

How to get started: Guessers will write a name on a piece of paper. The name should be of a person that everyone would/could know–such as the name of a well-known famous person, a person from history (this could be a requirement if you’re playing this during history class), cartoon characters, movie characters, etc. Students should keep their name slip a secret and not tell or show anyone.

Goal of the Game: Guessers will try to match the famous names with the correct classmate who wrote each name. This will show how well they know each other!

What to do next: The “reader” will then collect all of the names and read each name aloud. Read all the names aloud a total of three times through. Everyone else should listen and try their best to remember as many names as possible.

Let the guessing begin! Decide who should go first; the student with the birthday closest to today’s date is always a good way to decide. One student will go first and try to guess who wrote a particular name. Each student’s turn after the first will be determined by the game’s outcomes. The first student’s turn will consist of them guessing who wrote a particular name. For instance, Guesser #1 may ask, “Sally, did you write Johnny Appleseed?” Sally will then have to answer to that Guesser whether or not she wrote “Johnny Appleseed” on her slip.

Guessing RIGHT: If Sally did write “Johnny Appleseed,” Sally then becomes a part of Guesser One’s empire/team. Guesser One then gets another guess, in which Sally can assist, since they have now become a team. Each time a student guesses correctly, the student they guessed (as well as anyone else in their empire with them) becomes a part of the correct guesser’s empire/team.

Guessing WRONG: If Sally did not write “Johnny Appleseed,” then it becomes Sally’s turn to guess and ask who wrote a particular name. Each time a student guesses incorrectly, the student they guessed incorrectly then gets a turn to guess someone.

This continues throughout the entire game until one person has every single player on their team (a winning empire). That student is the Emperor!!

Remembering the Names: If students have trouble remembering the list of names you read at the beginning, you can have them write down as many as they remember on a piece of paper, which they can refer to as they play. To further simplify the game for younger players, the Reader could also write all of the names on the whiteboard after collecting the slips of paper.

Happy End of the School Year, Everyone!

For more games, check out these awesome (educational) options from The School Box.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a frequent contributor to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Classroom Community, Games, History

The {Very} Hungry Caterpillar

by Kelli Lewis

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Here’s how to use this classic tale by Eric Carle with Pre-K and Kindergarteners to review sorting, beginning sounds, counting, transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, and making connections to the story.

Before participating in the activities below, begin by reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

1. Sorting

Provide items that are included in the book, such as apples, pears, strawberries, watermelon, pickles, lollipops, etc. I suggest that you use plastic items or some type of pre-made laminated cards. Allow students to sort the items together with ones that match the other. For instance, group all of the apples together, all of the pears together, etc. For students who need more advanced tasks, challenge your students to group them together using other attributes, such as size, color, shape, taste (sour, sweet, etc.), or even by seeds and no seeds or healthy and unhealthy.

2. Beginning Sounds

The hungry caterpillar eats different items on each of the days of the week. You can use this activity to review calendar concepts and days of the week. Have students try to remember what the caterpillar ate each day. Use the book to look back and find out or check with their guesses. Then, have students help you write two sentences for each day. The first one will state what he ate on that day, and the second one will list other foods that start with the same letter as that food. For instance: “He ate an apple on Monday.” You would write this very sentence. Then, students would try to think of other foods that start with “a” since apple starts with “a”.

3. Counting

Look back at the book. How many apples did he eat? (one) How many pears did he eat? (two) How many plums did he eat? (three) How many strawberries did he eat? (four) How many oranges did he eat? (five) And how many desserts did he eat? (ten!)

4. Metamorphosis

The hungry caterpillar made a cocoon around himself and went to sleep. Two weeks later, he woke up, and what did he turn into? Discuss this process, called metamorphosis, with the students and allow them to make a butterfly using paper and tissue paper pieces to make it colorful.

5. Making Connections

The hungry caterpillar eats many foods on his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly. What do you eat when you are very hungry? Have students write a sentence with the foods they eat when they are very hungry (“When I am very hungry, I eat ____.”), and then draw a picture to match their sentence.

To view a really cool Very Hungry Caterpillar board game, click here!

These creative ideas were shared by Kelli Lewis, a graduate student at The University of Georgia.

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Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, comprehension, creative writing, Games, Math, Phonics, Reading, Science, Writing

Hop, Skip…Read?? Adding movement to your reading lessons

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post for a chance to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are selected monthly!

Are you looking for ways to incorporate action into your reading lessons? Sometimes reading and grammar can be dull subjects for students…especially when we ask them to sit and listen to us talk. Here’s an idea to mix it up a bit!

A Book

Recently, I did an activity with a book called Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins. This clever book is about a hen that outsmarts a fox by trickily walking around her farm. The book is filled with prepositions and scenarios that are hidden in the pictures. Your students will enjoy acting out the scenes and looking closely at the pictures to find out how the hen is tricking the fox. The book is fun all by its lonesome, but want to know what’s even more fun? Acting it out!

An Activity

To act out the book, you are going to need to set up your classroom so that students have room to move around. Here is a list of some of the prepositions in the book and a couple of ideas for how students could demonstrate them:

Across

Put a tape line down on the floor and ask your students to “walk across the tape.”

Give a student a pencil and ask her to “pass the pencil across your desk” to another student.

Have your students “walk across the sidewalk” on the way to the playground.

Put a book on the floor and “walk across” the book.

Around

Now, scatter books around on your floor and ask your students to “walk around the books.”

Ask half of your class to pick places on the floor to sit, and then ask the other half of your class to “walk around your classmates.”

Over

Once again, place something on the floor such as a textbook and ask your students to “step over the textbooks.”

Create several parallel tape lines on the floor and ask your students to “hop over the lines.”

Past

Expand student learning even ask you travel around the school building by asking your students to “form a line past the cafeteria” on their way to lunch.

Before your students can start playing at recess, ask them to “walk past the swings” before they start talking or running.

Through

Invite your students to use their brains and ask them things that they can “walk through.” They should come up with ideas such as walking through the door to get into the classroom.

Under

The students will really enjoy “under” if you allow them to “crawl under their desks/tables.” This is something that we usually discourage students from doing, but they will be able to remember prepositions if they are able to act them out!

Your classroom might end up looking like an obstacle course and your students might feel like they are in P.E., but they will really enjoy being active during reading and grammar! And, they’ll be prepared to outsmart a fox…lest they ever meet one.

For more help teaching prepositions, check out these charts and games from The School Box.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia.

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Filed under Academic Success, comprehension, Games, Language Arts, Reading

Educator’s Day!!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Okay, so you just have to know about this event: This Saturday, January 29, is the biggest sale at The School Box all year. Did you hear that? ALL YEAR, ladies and gents. I am more than a little excited.

But, wait, don’t tune out if you’re not a teacher. The School Box is also the PERFECT place to get craft supplies, kiddie room decor and furniture, the best book titles for all ages, tutoring & extra practice materials for home…and (my personal fave) birthday and baby shower gifts. Have you seen their awesome toy and game aisles? Quality stuff sans the lead paint (like Melissa & Doug). And now it’ll all be ON SALE!!! “Stock up” is the golden rule for a balanced birthday budget.

The Details:

Date: January 29, 2011

Where: At *every* School Box location. To find one near you, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Discounts: Available for parents, teachers, home-schoolers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins twice removed…everyone! Draw an apple at checkout, and the apple will determine the discount on your total purchase (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%).

Oh Goody Goody: The first 40 customers will receive special goody bags.  Drawings will also be done for $50 prizes, and one lucky duck will win a $250 Gift Certificate!!!

This is one of the best (and most fun!) sales for quality children’s games, supplies and the like. Just thought you should know about it!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Critical Thinking, Free Stuff!, Games, Geography, History, Holidays, Parenting, Phonics, Reading, Science, Study Skills, Teacher Inspiration

Celebrate the Season with a Fall Festival!

by Rachel Stepp

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As fall starts, fall festivals begin to pop up around the community. They are a great way to gain community support, fundraise, and have a good time! Here are a few ideas of events and activities that your school or class could incorporate at your fall festival. And…these ideas work just as great in the backyard at home! Wouldn’t your kids LOVE a Family Fall Festival?!

  1. Carnival Games
    Small, fun games capture the attention of children of all ages! Create a classic with rubber ducks—Bring in a baby-sized pool full of water and rubber ducks. Put special markings on the bottom of certain ducks that signal ‘winners.’ Allow students to pick up one duck at a time; if they choose a duck with a winner label, they win a small prize! You could even put different numbers or symbols on the bottom of every duck so that every child is a winner. Prizes can be bought from companies such as The Oriental Trading Company, where they can be bought in bulk. You could also use candy as prizes!
  2. Spooky/Fun House
    For the thrill seeker, create a spooky house inside the school building in a classroom or gymnasium (or in your garage or under a large tree in the yard). This can be done using an abundance of black tarps and glow in the dark objects. You can create a simple maze through the dark hallways. Remember, small children should not be scared! Keep it fun and lighthearted. Make sure that you have a guide leader that can take groups of children through the maze.
  3. Arts and Crafts
    Have local vendors come to sell their arts and crafts. This will be a great way to invite community business to your fall festival. Collect a vendor fee or a percentage of profits from the vendors. It will also give parents something to look forward to while their children are playing games.
  4. 5k Run and 1 Mile Fun Run
    For the athletic members of your community, host a 5k race and a 1 mile fun run. There are local companies available that help set up and manage a race. People love to run in the fall when the weather is just right! Offer the 1 mile fun run or even a dog walk to encourage all types of participants.
  5. Community Helpers and Heroes
    Children love to learn about the heroes in their communities, and it is important for community helpers to visit children and schools to teach children about safety. Invite your local firemen and police officers. You can schedule events like fire truck tours, police car rides, police dog petting, fire truck water sprays, and more. Contact your local service men/women for ideas and availability. They’ll probably be honored you asked them to be a part of the fun.

Here’s to a fun and festive fall, whether the festivities are organized at your school…or a free-for-all in the backyard!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is brimming over with creative ideas to share on A Learning Experience. And aren’t we glad!

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