The Wooden Boat Factory has a tightly packed daily schedule filled with rituals and routines to help keep their teens engaged, to deepen connections among participants and staff (and between
participants); as well as to express and manage expectations and create a sense of predictability.
Recently, they changed up the Friday schedule and changed the name to Fri-yay! On Fri-yay! Staff lead a mini-workshop where any participants can start, complete and take home a project or product. At one of their recent Fri-yay! sessions, participants made their own cutting board.
At the afterschool where I used to work, we called Fridays “Fun Fridays” (I gotta say though, I think I like Fri-yay! better) and similarly changed up the schedule. While we had a pretty standard schedule on the other four days of the week, Fun Fridays was a time where staff could create activities to lead based on their interests, talents and passions. Participants could also request special activities for Fun Fridays, like pajama day, or Olympics, for example. We also often used Fun Fridays for field trips, guest speakers and the kinds of activities that required more time than the block scheduling we had on other days. While the participants in that program were elementary and middle school aged, Fun Fridays or Fri-yay! can work well for youth of all ages. You might even have your older youth lead some of the activities based on their interests and passions.
I would even venture to say that Fri-yay! could be great for staff, too. What can you do differently as a staff or team to enliven the time you spend together before the participants come? Can you throw a 10-minute dance party and have people rotate being the DJ? What about having someone share a special talent or an article they recently read and lead a mini-discussion? What about pot-luck lunches?
You can begin to see how much fun Fri-yay! can become, which can help change up the energy of your program, but still be an intentional and engaging way to build relationships and create special memories.