Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fun Candy Experiments for Christmas Break Camp.

The site Candy Experiments has some great ideas for things to do with Candy Canes.  If you buy the canes after Christmas you can get them way cheaper and the kids don't care, cause they are candy! 
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 11:04 AM PST
Whether you need a way to keep kids entertained during the holidays, or a way to use up all those extra candy canes, here are some Christmas classics from

Monday, December 10, 2012

Free Holiday Activities for Various Grades

I know how crazy things can be as we wind down the school year before Christmas.  The most important thing to do is to keep the kids EXTRA busy with fun activities. is a great place to find holiday tips and activities.  Some of the thousands of contributing teachers have put together packets with teaching ideas and activities to use.  These are mostly meant for classrooms, but blend well with After School Programs and Winter Break Camps as well.

2012 Winter Holidays Teaching Tips and Freebies: Grades 3-6 Edition
2012 Winter Holidays Teaching Tips and Freebies: Grades 1 & 2 Edition
2012 Winter Holidays Teaching Tips and Freebies: Grades: PreK & K Edition

I hate to see kids participating in a full day or full week camp and only have 5-6 different coloring sheets to pick from the whole time.  There is no reason we can't keep them occupied and secretly learning as well.  Don't make a million copies of these, just make 5-6 and keep a master copy in a notebook.  If kids liked one specifically and want to do it again, just get it out a make a few more copies. 

Nothing will tick off a school secretary more than seeing her school resources squandered by there being a ton of Christmas coloring sheets in the recycling at the end of Winter Break.  Be conservative with paper, be green, and keep a good relationship with your secretary!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fun Christmas Activity - Milk Carton Graham Cracker Houses

One of the favorite Holiday activities over the years has been Gingerbread houses.  They are lots of fun to make and the making is tasty too!

We have done one large house that goes home with one student at Christmas time, or individual houses.  Of course the individual houses are the most popular, but it depends on your budget and your ability to be okay with a big mess and lots of sticky fingers!!  :-)

Little "Gingerbread" Houses

  • Save milk cartons and clean them out so that you have enough for every child.
    • Keep a few extras because more kids always seem to show up on a day when you are doing a big project.
  • Enough Graham Crackers for each student to have 6 pieces to cover all surfaces.
  • Royal Icing, the kind that hardens.  You can use regular containers of frosting you buy at the grocery store, and add powdered sugar to stiffen it.  If you do that you have to glue the the graham crackers because they won't stick.  Hot glue works well but they won't be edible.  Kids mostly want to eat the candy anyway.
  • Miscellaneous candies to add to their house.
    • You can also be creative with snack left overs.  Raisins, nuts, carrot sticks, thinly cut celery pieces and more, work for add ons.
    • If you are working on a tight budget, ask parents to bring in a candy add on.  $2 per parent isn't too much to ask.
      • Give them a list of acceptable candies. 
  • A paper plate for each student.
  • A boat or bowl for their candies.
    • You know they will eat some and put some on, so give them individual pieces to avoid extra germs.
       The grown up part
  • Clean single size milk cartons well to avoid sour milk smell.
  • Glue or staple the top together.
  • Glue, or use royal icing, to adhere the graham crackers to the milk carton.  Squares of graham crackers fit the sides of a milk carton perfectly!
  • Use frosting to cover the milk carton at the edges.
  • The fold sides are a little trickier.  Either cut graham crackers to fit over them or add candies and frosting to hide the writing.
       The kids part
  • Give kids a clump of frosting, a plastic knife, and an assortment of candies and let them go!
  • It might also be a good idea to keep napkins or hand wipes to keep the mess in one area.
  • Cover the table in a long plastic cover from the Dollar Store.  That way you don't have to spend lots of time an effort cleaning up after this huge mess.  Just fold it up and throw it away.
    • I don't usually advocate throwing a large amount of plastic away, but the stickiness of this project is a big clean up and it still seems to be sticky the next time you try to use it!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making the Best of Recess Series #2

To see all posts in this series click here.

Everybody knows the rules 
  • Your group should never go out on the playground without first having a good grasp on the playground rules.  They could be different during school and you should not assume that they know the rules that you want them to follow.
    • Make sure everyone knows if there is a rule change. 
        • It’s okay to change the rules if you need to, but you cannot give consequences for a new rule without making sure that everyone knows it and understands the reason behind it.
    • Give rules refreshers
        • It is ridiculous to think that you can tell a child something once, and they will know it forever!  You have to repeat yourself, possibly quite often.  How many times have you said, “How many times have I told you …” If you have to say that, then the answer is, not enough times.
        • If there is a particular issue that has been re-occurring, stop recess, bring everyone into a circle and talk about it.  Yes, use their recess time to refresh on a rule that gets broken often.  They don’t need a big lecture, just a simple, “We are having trouble remembering this rule…..”,  “The reason for this rule is………”, “The consequences will be……….” And let them return to their playtime.
Following the Rules
  • We all have different ways of dealing with discipline.  But certain changes may need to be made to that during recess. 
    • Students should be taken out of an activity if they are being overly aggressive or competitive.
      • Because we have different ages of kids after school, we need to be ultra sensitive to the fact that older children can be a bad example, or even hurt younger children.  Giving a student too much leeway could result in a serious injury to a younger child.
    • Cheating should not be tolerated.
      • When a student cheats it ruins the fun for everyone.  Students who knowingly cheat should be removed from the game for the rest of the game.  Students should realize that there are serious consequences for cheating and therefore will not want to cheat.  Not giving serious consequences sends a "It's okay to cheat." message. 
        • Of course concessions can be made for little guys and students with special needs who may not understand following rules.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nature Scavenger Hunt - Perfect for Fall After School

On a nice dry autumn day, what a fun way to get kids engaged!  I found this great FREE sheet to help out. 

FREE - ABC Nature Walk for any group of Kids
  • Separate kids into groups with mixed ages. 
  • At least one or two older kids to write. 
  • A Clipboard and pencil. 
    • Older kids can write the labels and younger kids can draw a few pictures.
  • Send them out to search around the playground, or around the school (with an adult). 
  • Ask them to leave nature in nature, and to just observe.
  • Afterward, have them tell about the most interesting thing they saw.
Check your area wildlife preserve or National Forest for FREE classroom presentations.  These are usually available to after school programs and summer camps as well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Good School Relationship Is Key

     It is so important to have a good relationship with your school.  Some schools love the after school program and include them as part of their community, and others don't.  I have worked for both types of schools. 
     There are sometimes reasons why a school gives the after school program the cold shoulder.  Maybe the last site supervisor didn't do such a great job.  It's possible that some people at the school resent the fact that you are using their time, space and resources.  In any case, there are things you can do to get a better reputation with the school, or keep the great reputation you currently have.

  • Volunteer Students to Help After School
    • I don't mean that you should pawn students off on the custodian to get them out of your hair.  Students should ONLY be sent to help teachers once you have offered OR they have been requested.
      • Some students will badger their teachers to let them come in and help, and that actually puts a burden on the teachers.  If students ask you to help in a classroom, first make sure the teacher requested them and they DID NOT ask the teacher.
    • Students can go around with an adult and pick up recycling from all of the classrooms once a week.
    • Students can go around the playground and pick up trash once or twice a week.  They should be with an adult and wear gloves in case they come upon anything dangerous.
    • Decorating or organizing for PTA, or school events.
    • Students can complete projects for teachers including cutting, coloring, removing staples from a bulletin board, shelving library books, light cleaning or even correcting papers.
      • Make sure you have the right student for the job.  Students who play around too much or aren't very serious, should not be sent.  Young students cannot do most jobs and will be more trouble then help. 
  • Volunteer your services.
    • Go on a field trip if enough parents haven't signed up.
    • Volunteer to help organize, decorate or clean up after a school event.
    • Help facilitate school activities.
  • Be a Positive Force In Your School
    • Say hello to teachers and staff and engage them in (appropriate) conversation.  Being friendly can give you major points.
    • Make friends with the secretaries and custodians.  These are your best allies in the school. Bring them a treat and remember their birthdays.
  • Think of Others
    • Keep students quiet in the halls.  Teachers are working on their lesson plans and grading and they need a bit of quiet.  If you come down the hall with a bunch of wild monkeys, it won't be appreciated.
    • Make sure that everything you use is returned as neat as you found it, or better.  Gym equipment should be in good shape and returned neatly.  Computers should be logged off or turned off, and chairs pushed in in the computer lab.  Tables should be washed, and floors should be swept.
     One of the things that I did to help out at a school was to spearhead a Whole School Visual Incentive for the Canned Food Drive.  We used Turkeys with feathers to show how many cans of food each class brought in.  I had the after school students help make the turkeys.  They went around to get totals from the teachers each day and added feathers to the turkeys on the main display.  It was a fun project and the school ended up tripling the amount of Canned Foods we brought in for the drive.

     I have made a Canned Food Drive Whole School Incentive Pack with a Turkey theme.  It is up for sale for $2.50 at However, if you are willing to help with the project at your school, just drop me an email at and I will send you the pack for FREE. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

You must love ART!

He is a swell guy!  He must have been to have all of that creative stuff named after him.  ;-)

Great Blog with lots of Art Ideas.
Finding My Marbles 



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Making the Best of Recess Series #1

To see all posts in this series click here.
I'm a big fan of using every teachable moment as an opportunity.  Recess is no exception.  Recess provides students with many important things.  I don't want to innundate you with all of my thoughts and so I will break up the Recess posts into a series.
            Surprise!  Recess is not a time for you to take a break.  While the kids are getting a much-needed break from the day, you have to be more on your toes than ever. 

  • Why do we have Recess?
    • There are a few great reasons why we have recess.
      • Recess gives the kids a mental break from the day.
      • Social and character development are improved.        
        • Children have the opportunity to interact with others without supervision, which is important. They need be able to find their own voice and way to communicate with their peers.
      • Develops motor skills both fine and gross.
      • Exercise.
Recess can be spread far and wide, depending on the size of your playground, and it can involve lots of different groups of kids doing risk-taking activities.  There are a few ways that you can keep recess fun and safe for your students.

  • Keep moving       
    • Walk around to each activity in progress and talk to the kids.  Engage with kids who are just walking around talking, or spend a few minutes with someone who is wandering around alone.  Stand by the sidelines of a game happening and cheer them on or make a few positive comments before you move on.  Try to make it around to everyone or every group at least once.
    • If you aren’t staying in one place and they know you will come around to them, they also know that this isn’t a time when they can get away with things. 
      • Recess is often the time when bullying happens, if you regularly make the rounds you can decrease some of that behavior.
More on this topic next week.....


Monday, November 5, 2012

Starting up!

I am so excited to start a new blog about After School Programs.  I have spent 15 years working for after school programs as a site supervisor and a program director.  I spent, what feels like, millions of hours developing curriculum and management tools for my programs.  I finally decided that it's silly to keep them to myself.  I'd love to share them with you.  Please feel free to comment or share Ideas of your own.  I'd love to have guest bloggers!

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Some of my curriculum items will be available on TeachersPayTeachers, which is a great resource for ideas.  Yes, many are for pay, but there are literally thousands of free items as well.

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