Game On!

jack o lantern

Before I begin today’s Game On post, I’d like to amend the list of people you should consider adding to your  circle of  FACS supporters from yesterday’s post.  Your circle should include any and all FACS educators in your district or region.  That would include the FACS teachers in surrounding school districts as well as instructors that teach FACS-related content at community colleges, private schools and universities.  These fellow FACS educators can be an invaluable source of support and information!  Sorry that I didn’t think of them yesterday!  If your county still has a 4H program, the program coordinator and parent volunteers are also potential sources of support and information.

cheerleader 

Today I want you to think about the concept of competition.  If I were to ask any one of you what’s the most recognized and supported program in your school, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that almost every one of you would say athletics.  If your community is anything like mine, attending the high school football or basketball game each weekend is the most popular event on the community social calendar.  We all love to go out and support our team, right? 

This national passion for competition has elevated our sports programs above virtually all other programs in our schools, making it very hard for programs like FACS to compete for student contact time and funding.  If you lose the competition in these two vital areas, it can spell disaster for your program. 

So how does the savvy FACS teacher fight back?  By staging a FACS competition, of course!  Putting your students’ skills and knowledge to the test is a great way to showcase your program and also to encourage your students to perform at the peak of their ability.  There are already some wonderful competitive programs in place through FCCLA.  BTW—If you don’t already have a local FCCLA chapter, you should absolutely start one today!  Go to http://fcclainc.org/ for everything you need to know to start a chapter. 

Staging your own competitive event is another option.  Cooking competitions can be a great experience for students contemplating a culinary career.  Holding the event in a public forum or in conjunction with a large community event will get your contest noticed and your program recognized.  Doing a web search for staging a cooking competition will produce many examples of guidelines that you can use to plan your event. 

You will want to keep your competition as professional as possible.  I suggest that you invite food service professionals to act as judges and that you set and maintain strict standards for participation.  You should also make every effort to provide prizes that will serve as real incentives for your students. 

Finally, publicize the event in advance and make a big deal of announcing the winners following the event!!  Make sure that you repeat all of the information about the event—name of the course, your name, etc.—in every announcement!  Don’t assume that people reading your press release know who you are and what FACS is all about.  To get the most benefit for your FACS program, the link between the competition and your FACS program must be established and emphasized.

guy cheerleader

Competitive events for other FACS content areas might require a little more imagination and creativity, but are certainly possible.  A Project Runway-style event for a clothing and textiles class or a competition based on an HGTV or DIY format could be fun.  The goal is to provide an opportunity for students  to demonstrate their FACS skills and to showcase your program to your community. 

After you’ve gone to all the effort of staging a successful event, don’t neglect the follow-up publicity!  Your students need the recognition and so does your program.  Marketing, my friends, is  vitally important!!  SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!!

“I hope I am winning a way which others will keep open.”                                       Ellen Swallow Richards

Time to Circle the Wagons

Judging from the reaction (or lack thereof) to my suggestion that you surprise your students by assuming the persona of FACS founder, Ellen Swallow Richards for Halloween, I’ve failed to convince many of you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.   I’m really disappointed that  more of you didn’t at least download the FREE classroom materials I developed for you to use for the activity, but that’s the way it goes. 

Just let me say that I think that keeping an open mind and being willing to take risk are essential keys to saving FACS.  As long as we keep doing what we always have done and maintaining a low profile, it’s very unlikely that we will be able to change the public perception of our profession.  Anyway. . . .

Today’s suggestion involves the utilization of social media to garner personal and public support for FACS.  A few years ago it was very common for FACS programs to form what were called advisory boards within their communities.  The purpose of these groups was to serve as a liaison between the teacher and the community.  The sharing of information ensured that the community was aware of classroom activities and could offer support for both students and teacher.  Through personal interaction with community leaders, the teacher was also able to assess the communities reaction to projects she might be planning for her students.  If the FACS teacher was wise in the selection of the members of the advisory board, the group played a very valuable role in planning and instruction.

Very few FACS programs are supported by advisory boards today, unfortunately.  However, the need to dialogue and raise awareness of just how broad the FACS curriculum has become has never been greater.  We’re back to the concept of networking and marketing again.  (FYI–We will revisit these two topics many times during this series.)  You must be PROACTIVE in getting the word out to your school, your administration, and  your community that FACS is valuable, relevant and essential.  Trust me—the world is not going to come knocking on your classroom door to tell you what a wonderful job you are doing!  You have to sell yourself and your program and social media can be one of the most effective tools for getting your message out.

So where do you start?  You start with the people who are already convinced of the value of FACS.  I used the image of circling the wagons in the title of this post to refer to two very powerful social media tools:  Google+ Circles and Facebook groups.  I’m not going to waste space telling you how to use these tools because there is an abundance of information about their use available on line.  I’ll provide a couple of informational links at the end of this post.  The most important thing I want to communicate to you about these circles is that who you select to be a part of your FACS-friendly circle is critical.  If I were forming such a group, here are the people I would invite:

  1. Parents of students who actively support your program.  The parents of FCCLA officers would be a good example.
  2. Former students who were successful in your classes, particularly those who went on to pursue a FACS-related career.
  3. Fellow staff and faculty members who are friends of your program.  One of the custodians on the staff where I taught was an avid baker.  You can bet Joe would have been invited to join my circle!
  4. Local entrepreneurs whose businesses are FACS-related.  Ex. Owners of restaurants, day care centers, retail clothing stores, furniture stores and interior design firms, etc.
  5. Community leaders who are active in youth programs. 
  6. School administrators and school board members.

I’m sure you can think of others who should be added to the list of potential circle members.  Make a list and start checking to see which social media format will provide you with access to the most diverse and influential group of supporters then send out those friend requests.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Go for it!

Once you have your circle established then the really important work begins.  You have to SHARE all the wonderful things that you and your students are doing every single day!  You have an audience!  Use it!  Send out photos of you and your students at work in the classroom!  Share important points from your lesson and a summary about a guest speaker or field trip.  One caveat is that you will want to run this plan by your administration so that they know what you’re doing and why. 

This new circle of supporters that you create can be a very powerful tool in establishing the value of your FACS program.  A strong online presence is a must for credibility in our highly media-driven society.  Use it your best advantage!  It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s vital to the survival of FACS.  #Save FACS!!

For info on creating social media circles go to:

http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/circles/

https://www.facebook.com/about/groups/schools

Happy National Candy Corn Day!

Play Dress Up to #Save FACS

playing dress up

Welcome to day 2 of our #Save FACS series.  If you didn’t read my first post in this series, let me summarize my plan for this blog from now until FACS Founder Day, December 3.  I plan to share a suggestion each day for capitalizing on the recent support that’s been given to the “bring back home ec” movement.  It’s probably a little early to use the term movement to describe what we’re experiencing, but we’ll call it that for lack of a better term.  If you haven’t already read the #Save FACS post, I hope you’ll do so.  It contains some important background and context for our future discussions.

If you came to this blog expecting all of my suggestions to be very serious and profound, you will probably be a little surprised by today’s post.  During my 32 years teaching FACS, I found that nothing got my students’ attention any better than doing something unexpected.  In fact, I still hear from former students that one of the things they liked best about my classes was the fact that they never quite knew what to expect when they came to class.  That philosophy is behind what I’d like to suggest to you for this Thursday, which just happens to be Halloween.  Don’t be afraid, it’s going to be fun!  Trust me!

In my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome if we’re going to see FACS programs retained and expanded is to strip away our cloak of invisibility.  We know that we’re doing good and important work and for the most part our students know it, too.  But what about the world outside our classrooms?  Do your administrators, school board and community give much consideration to what goes on in your classroom? 

One of the most important areas where we as FACS professionals can improve is in the way we market our programs.  Wonderful things go on in FACS classrooms all across the country every day but too often we forget that we need to promote our programs to our communities just like any other business.  Marketing is the lifeblood of every business—no matter how big or how small.  Today’s suggestion, if you choose to implement it, will give you something to shake up the image of you and your FACS program and also something memorable you can market to your community.

Okay, enough for the build up.  Here’s what I want you to do.  I suggest that you dress up as Ellen Swallow Richards (Refer to #Save FACS post, if you don’t know who she is.) for Halloween and conduct your class in character as Ellen.  The costume is an easy one to pull together.  Think Mary Poppins and you’ll be pretty close to the right period.  Here are a few quick tips for pulling together an Ellen-worthy costume.

mary poppins 3

  1. Start with a long full skirt or fashion a skirt from a rectangular piece of fabric.  You’re FACS professionals!  Do I really need to give you instructions for doing this?  I didn’t think so.  LOL
  2. Add a blouse with full or puffed sleeves to the skirt to complete the basic outfit.  A piece of lace pinned with a broach or cameo at the neck of the blouse would be a nice period touch.
  3. Add a petticoat, if you have one.  Adding a bib apron over the top of the skirt and blouse would be very Ellen-ish.  I always picture Ellen dressed for action, so it would likely be out of character to dress too fancy.
  4. Finish off the outfit with some plain black shoes and black tights and you’re all set.

Now you have your costume, so let the fun begin.  You’ll probably want to engage the services of a couple of students to help you make the most of this teachable moment.  First of all, the students are probably not going to know who Ellen Swallow Richards is.  I’ve created an activity called What Have You Done For Me Lately? to make students aware of the impact that Ellen’s accomplishments have on their daily lives.  Ask one of the students or another faculty member to conduct the activity with the class.  At the end of that activity, students will be on their feet, making it the perfect time to ask someone to introduce you to the class as you enter in costume.  That student could even lead the class in a round of applause as you enter!   Ellen is a very important historical figure, after all, so applause would not be inappropriate!

I’ve written a short script in press conference format for you and your student volunteers.  The title of the script is The Essence of Ellen and it’s written as a Q & A covering the topics of nutrition and food preparation, FACS, and home management.  Feel free to add to or eliminate any of the questions or rearrange their order.  You have my permission to take poetic license with everything except the facts and words of Ellen Swallow Richards.  I have also provided a handout titled A Life With Global Impact that you can use as a handout for students or simply as background for your own use. 

Finally, I would suggest that you give each student a snack-size treat to enjoy following the presentation.  Kids will do anything for food and after all it is Halloween and this is supposed to be fun!  Don’t get too serious about the whole thing!  Remember that the purpose of the activity is to educate and leave a positive impression.  You might also guide students through an examination of the wrapper on their treats, emphasizing that the food labeling laws that govern what appears on that label are a product of the research conducted by Ellen Swallow Richards.

Now I know that this suggestion is probably not what you were expecting from this blog series, but let me give you some ideas of how this activity can be used to promote your FACS program.

  1. Events that catch us by surprise are ones that we remember and talk about.  If done well, your Halloween portrayal of Ellen Swallow Richards can garner a lot of positive attention in the school.  Students who may never have considered signing up for a FACS course might even consider doing so in the future.
  2. Snap some fun photos of you and your student volunteers and submit a story with photos to your local newspaper.  As a matter of fact, you might ask your student helpers to dress in costume as well. 
  3. Submit your photos and story to your school website.
  4. Video your event and submit it to YouTube.
  5. Invite your school administrator to sit in on one of your classes and participate in the event.
  6. Get the local historical society involved in helping to create your costume and invite them to attend a presentation, as well.

The overall goal of this activity is to  get some attention for you and your FACS program!  Step out of your comfort zone and shake up your image.  It can be great fun! 

Mary poppins 2 Now you don’t have much time!  Go get started on your Ellen costume!  Halloween will be here before you know it!!

The handouts referenced in this post will be available for free download on our website after 6:00 PM Central time today. 

Go to www.freshfacs.com and scroll to the Pinteresting Projects and then select the project entitled The Essence of Ellen.  Thanks for your patience!

Don’t forget to share your photos and classroom experiences from your day as Ellen! We’ll share them on Facebook and Twitter.  Happy Halloween!