An exciting way to make a difference and raise grandparent-consciousness in your community is to organize a Grandparent’s Day in your local schools. This special day offers grandparents a chance to strut their stuff, catch a glimpse of their grandchild’s daily life, meet his or her classmates and teachers, and for a grandchild to show off his grandparents to his peers and teachers.
Since the holiday was launched by the Foundation for Grandparenting in the 1970’s, many schools nationwide, and even internationally, have started to celebrate a Grandparent’s Day (or week) in the School. If your grandchild’s school does not have one, why don’t you take the lead and start one? It is really quite simple and a lot of fun!
What to do
Starting a Grandparents Day in your local schools is easier than you think. That’s because once the idea is announced people are always eager to get involved. Even bureaucrats! Because they are grandparents too! So, if you are apprehensive about dealing with your local school’s bureaucracy, you will be happy to learn that most school administrators are delighted to work together with parents and grandparents to create this event for their school.
Keep in mind that Grandparent’s Day in the Schools is a community event. Though the idea may seem intimidating at first, there are many people, with expertise in areas, you do not know about, who will pitch in and help you so that everything goes smoothly. There are many agencies in your community who would be happy to sponsor such an event too.
The first thing to do is spread the word and rally grandparents, parents and grandchildren, as well as local business people, media and community agencies to get involved. After we disseminated the “how-to” material about the first Grandparent’s Day in the Schools (GDS) in 1975 many other people who replicated this event in their own communities, have refined the way to do it. Here are some suggestions that you can tailor to your own specific situation.
Form a planning committee consisting of your grandchild, the school principal, teachers, the PTA and assorted community leaders. Identify a date for the event at least six months in advance so that “long-distance” grandparents have the time to plan and make arrangements to attend. Get a publicity committee together and spread the word! Encourage teachers to discuss the event with the students and take their suggestions for activities and how they can incorporate GDS into their classes. This will get the children’s creative juices flowing and get them excited about GDS well in advance.
Good teachers usually try and weave Grandparent’s Day in the School into the educational process by involving children in special learning projects pertinent to the day, creating “showcase” programs to enact for their grandparents and allowing grandparents to teach and display their skills and talents. Art shows, plays, even a grandparent-grandchild choir are great ideas for this special event. Have children volunteer their grandparents to teach classes. A grandparent who is a physicist can teach a math class, a grandparent from another country can give a geography or language lesson, a grandparent whose also a war veteran can spice up a history lesson with first-hand accounts and personal experiences.
It is vital that everybody in the school district be excited about their Grandparent’s Day in the School. Get the ball rolling with your grandchild first. Have your grandchild and her classmate’s partner with you in planning the day. Have a meeting at your home with the children or visit the classroom. Classmates can then encourage other children to invite their grandparents and ask them to teach, share experiences, tell stories, show off their talents, etc. Have the principal and PTA write to all of the student’s families explaining the event and inviting their grandparents to participate. Furnish everyone with a list of potential activities that that grandparents might want to participate in or prepare for. Be open to suggestions and feedback. Remember that your enthusiasm is contagious!
On the eve of Grandparent’s Day, organize a “kick-off” dinner with children, parents, grandparents, teachers and community members. This can be a catered, sit-down dinner or simply snacks and refreshments with music so that everyone can dance. As an aside, square dancing is a great activity for grandparents and grandchildren to do together. Be sure to invite interesting speakers and/or entertainers to liven up the proceedings and set the mood for GDS. It is ideal if some of the grandparents provide the entertainment, but lacking that, hiring a small band or a DJ, is an option. Don’t forget to invite the local press as well.
Begin GDS with a school assembly. The speaker should give a brief, upbeat, humorous and inspirational talk. When the assembly has concluded, have children give their grandparents a tour of the school. It is best to assign a central room where grandparents and grandchildren can congregate during the day. Following that, the children will have their normal day at school with grandparents attending classes with their grandchildren, including lunch together in the cafeteria. Have the school day end with an outdoor barbecue, square dance, play or other festive event.
The Day After
The day after GDS have teachers question the children about their experience and ask for their input about making GDS even better next year. Once a school has a Grandparent’s Day in the School it usually turns into an annual event.
When Grandparents Cannot Attend
There are always grandparents who, for one reason another, are unable to attend GDS. The grandchildren of absentee grandparents naturally feel left out when this happens. Therefore find out from teachers which grandparents will not be attending, and assign other grandparents or local elders to act as surrogate grandparents for the grandparent-less children. Some grandparents who do plan to attend the GDS make it a point to “adopt” for the day a friend of their grandchild, or another child whose grandparents cannot attend. Senior centers, as well as community and religious organizations are great sources for older volunteers who might want to act as a surrogate grandparent on GDS.
Following are some step-by-step guidelines for making your Grandparents Day in the Schools a success.
- Get local people excited about Grandparents Day in the Schools.
- Organize your planning group.
- Coordinate your activities with the school curriculum.
- Plan your Grandparent’s Day in the School well in advance so that “long-distance” grandparents can make arrangements to attend.
- Find out which children’s grandparents cannot attend and arrange for another grandparent or elder to act as their surrogate.
- Reach out to others for the support and encouragement you need to make this special day everything it can be.
- Your enthusiasm is contagious. Spread it around.
Grandparent’s Day in the Schools is a wonderful opportunity for the young and old to come together and have fun. It is relatively easy to start a GDS in your local school if you do not already have one and your grandchildren will be especially proud that you are the grandparent who started their Grandparent’s Day in the School!