Ten strategies to make your school a fun, nurturing space.

Lavender Hill High School, Grade 12 learners on their last day at school

Schools are exploring different strategies to involve parents and children in exciting, cost-effective ways that create a fun learning space for all the stakeholders.Initially there will be an investment of time and money, but these costs will fade in the background as you see the priceless rewards of a happy school.

Here are TEN proven strategies that are used by many schools, rich and poor. Why not try to introduce some of them and reap the benefits as well?

1. Plan a talk series for learners

At Sullivan Primary School, a series of motivational talks will be part of the Grade seven programme next year. Past students who have succeeded against all odds, have been invited to host 45-minute sessions once a month.

2. Link up with NGOs to arrange regular Parent workshops

Square Hill Primary School has linked up with an NGO to run weekly coffee shop sessions with their parents in the new year. The idea is to equip parents with skills to cope with parenting and other life skills. A few of the areas that will be explored are parent-child relationships, how parents can help their children with their school work and family support.

3. Use messaging services to promote good news

Schools in poor areas have to be creative when they want to use digital messaging services to communicate with their parents. Parents do not always have data or airtime on their cellphones. Using the SMS messaging service is the most practical form of communication, says another principal, Lameez Rabbaney. The message will be delivered although the parents may not be able to respond if they do not have airtime.

Lameez is going to step up her good news messaging next year.

4. Introduce music at your school

Steenberg High School actively pursued starting a Big band at their school. They sought sponsorship and today the school boasts a band that is invited to play at school festivals. According to Andre Kraak, he can see the positive influence it has created on children. Children's academic performance has improved and those learners who had behavioural issues, have transformed since playing in the band.

Harmony Primary school wants to revive their school choir and St Mary's R.C offers violin lessons.

Encourage teachers to play classical music in their classrooms or play music over your intercom system for the school to enjoy.

5. Paint board games in the playground at Primary Schools

Capricorn Primary school has board games and other games drawn on their tarmac areas. Children have so much fun playing these during their break times. You can give your own children the same fun experience. After the initial costs of paint, the joy of seeing children playing these games will boost your mood as well.

6. Ask the children and the parents for ideas.

The children and their parents will give you amazing ideas on how to make school a fun place to learn. Implement those ones that are practical, inexpensive, sustainable and empowering to all.

7. Recycle old school benches to create outdoor seating

Recruit unemployed parents to repurpose old school benches. These can be placed strategically around school playground so that children can sit and relax there during their breaks. I often see High school children sitting on their school bags as seats. They will probably still do so, but it would be out of choice.

8. Introduce a newsletter run by children's club.

Many high schools have their own student newsletter or school magazine that is printed either monthly or quarterly. Ocean View High School and Steenberg High School have interesting newsletters produced by their children. Many RCLs are also involved in producing their school magazine.

Children love such activity and since it is their space, they can decide on the style and the content of magazine they want to produce. Classes can be encouraged to submit work regularly so that there is a constant flow of information.

9. Host an Active Facebook page

Many schools have Facebook pages. The management of the page can be shared to minimize overload and to ensure currency. Sun Valley Primary School gas a very active, interesting facebook page and a basket of blogs. I believe different teachers are responsible to provide feeds for the facebook page. Whoever is in charge of a sporting activity, cultural activity or academic, regularly provides updates including pictures. I love the celebrations and the constant flow of newsy bits that I get as one of their page followers.

Do try using the #Sun Valley model if you are struggling with the administrative demands of keeping your Facebook page a real time source of information and a channel to communicate with parents, the children, the community and others who want to celebrate with you!

10. Celebrate Key school and public special day/month events.

There are many world special days like Youth day, International Children's Day, International Day of the Girl Child, 16 Days of Activism in our country, Women's Day, World Reading Day and so forth. Schools can use these days to explore a theme per month. Having these special days plus the school's own days like Founder's Day, provide a useful framework to have structured fun activities throughout the year.

All the various school clubs, societies, classes, parents, teachers and the broader community can be used to plan activities in advance. The workload can be shared equally and everybody can be assigned in advance. Here a school activity calendar ( like the Google online calendar) will be the ideal planner and guide.

These strategies are relatively simple, yet sustainable and all of them encourage collaborative actioning. We don't really have an excuse not to implement an activity that doesn't become a headache, do we?

Why not share a few of the activities that have worked at your school and that will help lift the wellbeing and inclusivity at other schools ? We would looooove to hear from you.


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