Holiday Activities - Winter & Christmas
One Saturday in December, members of the National Honor Society of Lake Hamilton HS in Pearcy, AR, organize free babysitting for kids ages 4-12. The event is held from 9 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in the school cafeteria and is advertised through fliers sent home to parents of all elementary students as a day off for mothers to allow them to do their holiday shopping. Honor Society members do craft projects, watch movies, eat lunch, and play group games with the kids. "It's a great way to bring our small community together and it gives the younger kids a chance to hang with their high school role models," says NHS member Nicole Avery.
As a community service project, the student council of St. Clair (Mich.) HS organized a holiday babysitting service. Held the first weekend in December, the day was designed to provide parents with a day to get their shopping done or complete other holiday preparations. Student council members supervised activities such as arts and crafts, movies, organized games in the gym, coloring books and on the chalkboard, and play centers in the hallways. Lunch and snacks were provided. After lunch Santa made a surprise visit to read a book. The service started at 10 a.m. and ran until 4 p.m. Parents paid $10 for the first child and $3 for every child after the first.
Holiday Cheer for Battered Women
The holidays can be a depressing time for those who live in shelters. But, students at Southeastern HS do their best to spread some cheer by holding a holiday party for the women and children who live at a local battered women's shelter. The residents are brought to the school, where the students play games with the kids, make sweets, and give the children an opportunity to sit on Santa's lap. The Southeastern students provide small gifts for the children and make crafts for their mothers.
To benefit disadvantaged children, student council members at Scituate (NY) HS organize a "Gingerbread Express" in which paper gingerbread figures have written on them the name, hobbies, and size of a child whose parents don't have the means to buy Christmas presents. Students and faculty members buy pajamas, underwear, and a toy for each child. Student council members then wrap the presents, attach the gingerbread figure, and deliver them.
New twist on food drives
The student council at Orono HS in Long Lake, Minn., added a new twist to its canned food drive. With the cooperation of the administration, students who have after school detentions to serve can bring in canned goods and receive time off. For every six items of food brought in, one detention is removed.
Can the Principal
Vincent Massey HS in Manitoba, Can., has a unique way to motivate students to participate in the annual canned food drive. They store the collected non-perishable food items in the principal's office, hoping to collect enough to force the principal to move into the hallway.
Buffalo (Minn.) HS provides a holiday luncheon for the senior citizens in the community. Student council members escort their guests to the library, where they dine with senior class members and are entertained by the concert choir.
Breakfast with Santa
This holiday activity doubles as a fundraiser for the Berea (Ohio) HS student council. Students from the elementary school are invited to breakfast with Santa. In addition to breakfast, they are entertained with a magic show and talent acts. Pictures with Santa are also available for a small fee.
Deck the halls
An activity at Arkadelphia (Ark.) HS which is designed to brighten up the school for the holidays and provide a little competition between the classes is called "Deck the Halls." Student Council members assign each grade level a hallway in the school to decorate. Class members have about three days to decorate, then the halls are judged by teachers from another school. The winning class receives a party and early lunch for a week.
To get more people involved in preparations for the Snowflake Dance, the student council at Bear River HS in Garland, Utah, organizes a snowflake competition. During lunch periods for three days, student council members sit at a table with scissors and paper. Students stop by and cut out a snowflake. The snowflakes are used to decorate the gym on Friday. Judges rate the snowflakes and prizes are given out to the winners.
Snow Sculpture Contest
The student council at Dickinson (N. Dak.) HS found a unique way to raise canned goods for its food drive. Members organized a snow sculpture contest between the classes in the parking lot of a local grocery store. People who came by to watch could vote on the best sculpture by donating cans of food. Each can counted as one vote.
The student council at Kimball (S. Dak.) HS organizes a sock tree during the holiday period. The tree is set up in the lunchroom area for students and staff to decorate with new socks, gloves, hats, and other items. All items are then donated to a homeless shelter.
Lake Region HS student council members in Eagle Lake, Fla., have turned a class competition into a way of spreading some holiday cheer to those less fortunate in their community. Each grade level is given a tree to decorate with their own materials. Members of the classes often include presents and dinner items under the tree. After the administration has judged the trees for the class competition they are distributed to families in the community that might not have one otherwise. The winning class wins a party.
As a gesture of appreciation, student council members at East Rowan (NC) HS create snowmen magnets to present to faculty members. They paint Popsicle sticks white, glue hats on them, draw faces, and affix a magnet to the back. The magnets are delivered to teachers during their planning period.
The St. James NJHS in Arlington Heights, Ill., began a small service project several years ago that became a successful charity fundraiser. The chapter sponsors a Christmas bazaar in early December to give kindergarteners, and first and second graders an opportunity to shop for Christmas gifts for their family members.
Eighth grade NJHS members prepare by decorating gift bags, wrapping larger items so they are ready for purchase, collecting tissue, and making decorations for the bazaar day. On that day, members come festively dressed and assist the younger shoppers in making their purchases and providing correct change. Parents of the members act as cashiers. A special luncheon is planned for the members and their parents. In its first year, more than $1,250 was raised and donated to local charities.
Head Start Christmas Party
The joy of the holiday season shines when Shawnee Mission (Kans.) South HS students "adopt" children from the Head Start program for a Christmas party. When the 250 children arrive at the high school gym, snacks, activities, and gifts await them. They participate in 15 different craft stations, sing carols, break a piñata, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and receive gifts.
Combining the holiday spirit and a fundraising effort into a memorable evening, the National Honor Society at Ogemaw Heights HS in West Branch, MI, organizes a dinner at the local country club with a Christmas theme. Letters are sent to school staff members and parents of chapter members with the menu, ticket price, and a form for ticket reservations. A week later, tickets are made available to the general public. The jazz band and all-star choir perform during the evening and NHS members dress formally to serve as hosts. Table centerpieces are given away through a Christmas trivia contest.
Holiday Storybook Readings
National Honor Society members at East Jessamine HS in Nicholasville, KY, take up a collection of holiday storybooks that they take to a local elementary school. While there they team up with students to read the books.
Children's Christmas Bazaar
The NHS chapter at St. James School in Arlington Heights, Ill., sponsors a children's' Christmas Bazaar for grades K-2 each year. Children from these grades are invited to come to the bazaar with their teachers to purchase inexpensive Christmas gifts for members of their families. Gifts are displayed on tables according to categories: mom or grandmother, dad or grandfather, etc. NHS members help the children select gifts--all priced under $3.50--that the members have packaged into decorated gift bags, ready to be placed under the tree. Proceeds from the event are donated to local charities.
For this noontime activity at Quimby Oak MS in San Jose, Calif., Santa and his reindeer have to travel from the North Pole to several houses and make deliveries of presents. The obstacle course competition involves teams from each grade with one student as Santa and numerous students as reindeer, hooked up to a skateboard sleigh. Each Santa hitches up the reindeer team, picks up a sack with one present inside, and gets on the sleigh. The reindeer then pull Santa to the first stop, where the present is left. The reindeer then pull Santa back to the North Pole (starting point) to pick up another present. Several round trips provide opportunities for missed deliveries, wipe-outs, and other mishaps to entertain the crowd. The first team to make all its deliveries and return to the North Pole wins candy canes.
Hillsboro (MO) HS National Honor Society members get a chance to play Santa each year in a collaborative effort with the local elementary school. Students in kindergarten, first, and second grades write letters to Santa which their teachers send to the NHS. Each Honor Society member receives a class to which to write responses. Members then dress up as Santa's helpers, distribute the letters with candy canes to the children, and help them read their letters.
Snowland Fantasy Dance
A semi-formal dance at Mount Olive HS in Flanders, NJ, celebrates the winter season with a snowland theme. Student council members decorate the cafeteria walls with black cloth and white snowflakes, cut tree branches and paint them white, set up twinkling lights, and create ceiling decorations to go with the theme. Students of all grades are invited to attend and admission is charged.
Holiday Cheer for Children
In an effort to make the holiday season a little brighter for the children in the oncology unit at a local hospital, National Junior Honor Society members at Washington JHS in St. Louis, Mo., raised more than $1,100 by holding a parking lot flea market of donated items. In addition, a Christmas "wish" tree with ornaments specifying desired gifts for needy children was decorated in the school cafeteria. Students and staff members chose ornaments from the tree, then bought the stated gift and donated it. Cash donations were also accepted. All donated and purchased items were delivered to the children at the hospital.
Looking for an activity that would retain the personalized nature of a decorated tree for the holidays but not require cutting a tree and undecorating it when school is out before the break, the Courtland (Va.) HS student council came up with gingerbread people holiday decorating.
Instead of a tree, student council furnished clubs and classes with brown poster board with a gingerbread person drawn on it and invited groups to cut out and decorate it to represent their activity. The Latin Certamen team created a three-headed dog representing Cerberus, the dog that guards the entrance to the underworld; the Spanish Club's man wore a sombrero; the National Art Honor Society's man held a palette; the German club's man wore lederhosen. Even the nurse got involved; her person wore a nurse's smock and held a note that said, "If you don't have a temperature, you don't go home!" The project was inexpensive, festive, creative, personalized, and non-sectarian.
Typical of many rural southern communities, Mount Ida, Ark., is built around a stone two-story courthouse. The student council there takes advantage of the town square concept for a luminary display on the Saturday before Christmas. Letters to the businesses facing the town square invite them to participate in the luminary, then student council members prepare 2,000 luminaries for the courthouse. The luminary lasts from 5:30 until 10:30 p.m. During this time the students play Christmas carols, have strolling carolers, and performances by individual volunteers. Some of the businesses have provided hot chocolate. Others have helped with clean-up.
The annual project has generated support from the community and has given the student leaders a unique opportunity to interact with local elected officials, Chamber of Commerce members, and law enforcement. "It has given our members opportunities to meet adults they are not usually associated with and allowed our community to see that our youth are not the typical stereotyped teens. Plus, it is a beautiful tribute to the season," said Phyllis Martin, Mount Ida student council adviser.
A homeroom competition at Rocori HS in Cold Spring, MN, pits three-person teams against each other in a 100-meter sled race held during Snow Week. Homerooms supply their own sleds, which are pulled by two people with a third person riding the sled. Qualifying rounds with 6-8 homerooms narrow the field to a final race. The whole school goes out to watch the event and homerooms get into the act with cheers. The winning class receives a pizza and root beer float party.
By Robert Lenz
Millions of Christmas trees end up in land fills every year. Student leadership programs need money and innovative opportunities to develop their skills. Drake HS School Tree Recycling Program answers these needs.
The day that Christmas tree lots open our program begins with massive publicity at the lots and in our community advertising our services. The message is simple: Bring your tree to Drake High parking lot on the two weekends after New Year's and we will chip your tree and return the mulch to the earth as ground cover for public lands (e.g., schools, parks, street meridians). All we ask is a $5 donation.
We have formed a business partnership with a local tree service company that chips the trees and provides equipment to handle the 1,000 trees we recycle. In addition, there are well defined jobs for 20 students and parents during each shift to process the trees and donations. We are open for service for two shifts: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
When a community member drives into the parking lot he or she is met by a greeter who explains the program and asks for a donation. The money goes to the cashier and the driver of the car is directed by the traffic patrol to the unloading area. Drivers are met by friendly students who unload the tree and send them on their way. The tree handlers give the tree to the chipper and our landfills are less one tree.
We raise between four to six thousand dollars on the project, depending on the weather. Most of all, the students have helped the environment and further developed their leadership skills by running their own student enterprise.
Robert Lenz teaches leadership at Sir Francis Drake HS in Anselmo, Calif.
New Year's Eve Party
A non-alcoholic New Year's Eve party for students was held at the Corry (Pa.) Area HS. "Beaverfest" features a disc jockey, food, and doorprizes. A local car dealer also donated a used car that was given away at the party.
Class competitions and spirit activities are the basis for the winter SnowFest held at Lincoln HS in Thief River Falls, Minn. Similar to many schools' Homecoming celebrations, the week features pep fests, sign-in at sporting events, dress-up days, penny jar competitions, a food drive, and a dance at the end of the week with a coronation of King and Queen. The grade level with the most accumulated points from the events of the week wins the spirit competition.
Sno Daze Spirit Week
To add some spark to the long winter months, the Student Council at Mounds View HS in Arden Hills, Minn., organizes a winter spirit week called Sno Daze. To start off the week four boys and four girls from each grade are elected royalty. The royalty are assigned various tasks for the week such as randomly bussing 20 people's lunch trays, wearing a cardboard crown all day, opening car doors in the parking lot, selling flowers, etc. Dress-up days might include beach day, crazy hair day, or MV spirit day.
In addition to the events during the school day, after school activities are also planned. Movie day, obstacle course races, family feud and talent show, and Play-Doh sculpture contests give everyone an opportunity to have some fun. The contests are judged by teachers and prizes are awarded. A "Gals vs. Guys" money collecting contest raises money for charity. The week ends with an after school pep rally on Friday and a formal dance on Saturday.