Activities / Community / Upper School

No Place I’d Rather Be…

By, Emma DeStefano, Director of Character Education 

Organizing a big event can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned event planner. Consider this… You are asked to plan an event that spans one week, Tuesday-Saturday to be exact. Every day requires a different theme. Every day, a game or activity will take place that you will need to create in advance. You will need to be the scorekeeper for these activities. You will need to plan several performances along with an all-school pep rally. You will also be the planner, decorator, and cleanup crew for the culminating event of the week, the Homecoming Dance. Oh, and you will also need to make sure that every one of the 112 high school students is included in some way!

Could you do this? Could you plan an event of this magnitude as an adult? How about planning it as a busy teenager, all while balancing your academic course load, extracurricular activities, and social life?

Every year, approximately 12 high school students, all members of the Student Government Association at Grandview Preparatory School take on the voluntary tasks mentioned above. Not only do they “take them on”, they are excited to do so! This is GPS Homecoming Week, a week filled with class bonding and school spirit, impressive lip sync battles, Grandview-themed skits with amazing impersonations of faculty members, epic powder puff dances, creative theme days, and some of the most competitive games of Taboo and Family Feud I have ever witnessed.

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My role as faculty adviser of SGA is to be the support on the sidelines. I help these excited, talented, and creative students put together a successful Homecoming as well as complete many other tasks throughout the year. The organization behind executing events like this is critical.

Where do you start? When do you start? How can students organize their thoughts and plans, so they are able to set clear goals, see progress, and follow through to completion? How are students able to take ownership of tasks, so all involved know who is doing what and when?

The answer to these questions: AGILE/SCRUM.

After attending the AGILE/SCRUM training in December 2016 along with several members of SGA, we decided to adopt the AGILE/SCRUM system to assist in the planning of Homecoming 2017. Even those students who did not attend the training were enthusiastic and open-minded about trying it.

SGA created their own learning canvas, modifying it slightly from the original, to fit the needs of our project. A learning canvas is a simple template that allows thinking to become visible; to see goals, which tasks need to be done, what they are currently doing, and what tasks have been completed.

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Establishing the goal was easy: To facilitate bonding with classmates and create amazing memories while uniting students during a week filled with excitement and activities. Once the goal was set, students began to create sticky notes for all action items that needed to happen to accomplish the goal. As sticky notes littered the column for tasks that needed to be completed, members of SGA began to step up, claiming one task at a time. They wrote their names on each sticky note and moved it to the next column as each task began.

As tasks became more visible, students naturally began to gravitate towards the ones they were most interested in. Students began to collaborate with one another. They evaluated the tasks and analyzed how they could best contribute to the success of the week.

As the tasks were closing in on completion, students returned to the board eager to move their sticky note to the “done” column! Students also began to assist one another if they noticed a task became stagnant in one column.

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As each sticky note migrated to the “done” column, that meant GPS Homecoming 2017 had arrived. Although there were still normal stresses associated with the weekly events, all SGA students felt confident that they were ready. The planning process had been clear. Implementing the AGILE/SCRUM system allowed all students in the group to be involved.

  • It fostered open and honest discussion.
  • It helped outline clear goals.
  • It helped make extremely daunting tasks more manageable and organized.

Homecoming week was a huge success.

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As the week came to a close, the pep rally on Friday afternoon showcased a spirited crowd dressed head-to-toe in red, white, and blue! That night, our Homecoming Court was crowned and our basketball teams won both their games. The gym lobby was decorated like Candy Land the next evening as our high school students danced the night away. As the DJ played the last song of the night, “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, the lyrics seemed so relevant: “There’s no place I’d rather be.”

Watching this group of students accomplish their goals through collaboration and dedication was invigorating. I was proud of every student who stepped up during the week to participate in a game or activity or helped to make the week as successful as it was. I know that the skills they learned from using the AGILE/SCRUM system and the confidence these students gained will stay with them for years to come. It’s true…there’s no place I’d rather be.

Carpe Diem!

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