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A Grand Ol' Time at Grandparents Days

Wednesday, January 20, 2016  
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By Christina Mimms, SAIS

Call it a friend-raiser, a fun-raiser, or simply a time for family and fellowship, Grandparents Day typically requires significant planning, time, funds, and effort to execute and create a fun-filled day for visitors on campus. Often held in conjunction with a fall activity or holiday, a Grandparents Day may include a musical performance, storytelling, classroom activities, a meal, and the many logistics involved with managing an additional 300 to 700 people on campus.

At the Episcopal School of Knoxville, Assistant Director of Development Cicely Upham and others welcomed 350 grandparents to campus on November 6, 2015, for a half-day program with a Veteran’s Day theme. Students sang a variety of Americana-themed songs and grandparents rotated through classroom visits, chapel, music performances, and a forum of military veteran speakers. The activities were grouped by grade level, with Kindergarten and 1st grade together, 2nd grade with 3rd grade, etc., to keep the rotating groups fairly small. The school provided coffee and light refreshments. Upham hired a professional photographer to take pictures of grandparents with their grandchildren, and also arranged for valet parking on campus. Administrators were stationed across the campus to help direct grandparents. 

“We got really good feedback,” Upham said. “It felt more personal breaking up the age groups. As long as the grandparent is with their grandchild, they’re going to be happy.”

The school spent about $3,000 to produce the event, including the valet service, rentals, food and invitations. The school sent an annual fund solicitation along with a family photo from the event to grandparents, who, last year, contributed about $50,000 to the school.

Magnolia Heights School in Senatobia, MS, runs a fairly streamlined Grandparents Day program. Combining two grade levels at a time, students performed for about an hour for grandparents in the gym on November 9, 2015, which coincided with the school book fair. After the performance, grandparents visited classrooms and shopped at the book fair while the next grade levels and grandparents moved into the gym. Many took their grandchildren out to lunch after the programs. Parents set up a table with light refreshments for the grandparents.

“It’s really simple but it works well,” said Elementary School Principal Brooke Howell. “Our only hang-up is parking.” She said that next year, Grandparents Day may be a day off for 7th through 12th grade students to make more room on campus for cars, or the school may find alternate parking for the high school drivers that day.

Magnolia Heights does not currently solicit grandparents for the annual fund, but they may do so in the future. The book fair, at which grandparents typically buy a lot of gifts, is a big fundraiser for the school, Howell said.

Springmont School in Atlanta held a Grandparents Open House on Oct. 16, which was a half school day on the Friday before the school’s signature fundraising event, the Montessori Mile. Grandparents arrived with students in the morning and then enjoyed breakfast in the school’s courtyard, where they were invited to sign up for various volunteer activities. The head of school, the school volunteer of the year, and a few middle school students spoke to the grandparents, who then took tours of the campus. Grandparents returned to the courtyard for a musical performance from the lower elementary school students. 

“We had a great turnout,” said Lauren Stevenson, director of development and alumni. “The tours went well, and everyone enjoyed the show. There were not as many volunteer sign-ups as we would have liked, but this was the first time we held the Grandparents Open House in this format. As we gain momentum year after year and grandparents see how they can be involved in the classrooms, we hope more and more grandparents will become involved.”

Grandparents were not solicited as part of the event. It was held strictly for engagement purposes and to show the grandparents some key features of the school.

Many schools recognize the importance of including grandparents in campus events as many live close to their children and grandchildren, have unrestricted free time, and, in some cases, have a financial stake in the school because they assist with tuition payments or contribute to annual funds or campaigns. Taking the time to engage grandparents through a special event tailored to them can enhance existing relationships or foster new relationships, as well as give grandparents and their grandchildren an opportunity to interact in the place where students spend so much of their time. 


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