Last week, almost 200 members of our school community gathered to celebrate one very special thing: family!
Families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties, and this last event in the ’18-’19 Family Fest series was the perfect reason to come together and celebrate them all! I designed this program to highlight the diverse, unique, and sometimes unseen qualities that make the families in our community special. Following the unique Family Fest series recipe, the evening was broken into two portions: interactive stations for families to move through at their own speed followed by a community meal for everyone to gather and break bread together. The result was a night of educational, high energy fun, that had everyone smiling and feeling grateful!
In the weeks leading up to our big event, we had a blast in library class talking about what makes a family. Do all families look the same? Do you have to live in the same house to be a family? Do all families have the same last name? The kids had so many questions, and I loved sitting and listening to them take the lead and think things through. Our lighthearted and curious family conversations were inspired by reading books like A Family is a Family is a Family, The Great Big Book of Families, and The Family Book – all titles adored by our students that I highly recommend for any home or classroom library.
Family Fest events are designed to be hands-on and interactive for all members of the family to enjoy together. Registration is free and families of all students from pre-school through fourth grade are invited to attend. I dreamed of Family Night looking like one big book club: lots of stations for families to move through at their own speed, a wide variety of activities with opportunities for all kinds of learners to shine, at least one station for participants to create a work of art together, and the chance for everyone to sit down for a big community meal. I have found that the mix of art, physical activity, independence, and food are the perfect mix for our unique community – but you can add any sort of activity to make your Family Night work for you. I’d love to hear what kinds of activities and stations your community used!
Family Night was a great way for families to meet, spend time together, and celebrate the wonderful diversity of families on our campus. It was also the perfect night for pre-school students and parents to come to the main building (our pre-school is on campus, but in a separate structure), peek into their future classrooms, and feel like a part of our community. As a bonus, pre-school students got to meet many of the teachers that they’ll be learning from in the next few years.
Hoping to plan a Family Night for your community? Read on for details about our programming, our favorite moments, and tips to create your own evening event to strengthen and celebrate your school community.
Our evening included:
Family Celebration Stations:
The best people to help celebrate our unique and amazing families? Our unique and amazing families, of course! Three St. Anne’s-Belfield School families designed and facilitated stations filled with traditions and activities that bring their families together.
- The Zhang family shared favorite puzzles and games from China, as well as some balloon shapes and animals, which were a serious crowd favorite!
- At the Sohne-Johnston family, participants got to experience an amazing mix of foods, stories, and games from Ghana (mom’s home country) and Maine (where Dad was born). They even had an activity to teach you some of the connections and fun differences between the two.
- The Gulotta family knew from the very first moment what their activity would be… SLIME! These expert slime makers set up tables in the courtyard, complete with a slimy family photo collage, and allowed families to customize their own recipe of goopy goodness.
Every big event needs a quiet spot that’s perfect for taking a break. In the library, we filled the baby pool with our favorite quirky family books and invited families to pile into the tree house, relax in the tend, or curl up in a cozy nook with a book or two.
Free Family Portraits:
Through the generous grant I received with the Academic Innovation and Leadership Cohort, I was able to bring a special opportunity to families through this event. Everyone deserves a beautiful family portrait, and we are so lucky to have the amazing Jesus from Jesus Pino Aguilar Photography snapping free photos for participating families. (Fun fact: Jesus is a member of our STAB family, too! His wife, Señora Roth, is our K-4 Spanish Language and Culture teacher, and they are both fabulous dorm parents for both international and domestic boarding students on the Upper School campus.) Jesus set up a backdrop in the first and second grade hallway and shot family portraits throughout the evening. Check out a few of those gorgeous photos below – and find your family’s snapshots on the school’s SmugMug account. All photos are free to download in high resolution for sharing, printing, and framing!
My Family Is…. Wall:
No event is complete without the opportunity to create something! Señora Roth masterminded a communal art installation bringing families together to share what makes them special. Each participant received a bright paper brick featuring the words “My Family is…” with space to complete the sentence through drawing or writing. Once they finished, each maker added their brick to our St. Anne’s-Belfield community sign. This sign will be displayed outside the library for the rest of the month – stop by and take a closer look!
Board Game Room:
Is there anything better than settling in for a cozy night of board games with your family? Participants had the chance to play everything from Connect 4 to Sorry in the board game room, with cozy seating, lots of choices, and a nice quiet break from the joyful buzz in the hallway.
At the end of the event, a yummy dinner of grilled cheese, tomato soup, and salad was provided by our amazing cafeteria staff for all families to sit and chow down together. According to some very chocolatey smiles, there may even have been some brownies in the mix! Sharing a meal together provides our community an additional opportunity to spend time together, and providing dinner makes it easier for families to spend the evening out (all that’s left to do when you get home is get ready for bed!).
Thank you to all of the families that attended – especially our Family Celebration Station hosts, for inviting us into your hearts and sharing the wonderful things that make your family, a family. We appreciate you! Big thanks to Jesus Pino Aguilar Photography, whose beautiful portraits were the star of the night! (If you’re looking for photography in the Charlottesville area, I highly suggest Jesus, who is incredibly talented and so easy and fun to work with.) And finally, thank you to Stacey Gearhart, our fabulous cafeteria staff, and our Lower School teachers for all of your hard work to make this event possible.