Tuesday, February 5, 2013

4 Ideas To Make Your Youth Group Smile! (*News U Can Use)

Here are 4 positive ideas on college campuses that could translate down into Jr. High/ Middle School world whether at your student's schools or inside your ministry setting? 

FROM: "4 ways to make your campus smile"
By Tyler Calder, For USA TODAY:COLLEGE

1. “Before I Die” wall
Losing a loved one caused Candy Chang to think about all of the things she wanted to accomplish in life. To reflect this state of mind, she began a public art project in New Orleans called the “Before I Die” wall, which involved the creative use of chalkboard paint. Chang used a stencil to create the “Before I Die” title and columns of the phrase “I want to” on an abandoned home in her community so that people passing by could use chalk to finish the sentence with their goals, dreams and aspirations.

This empowerment project has caught on with students who have used Candy’s model and a toolkit to bring this project to Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, the University of Arizona and, most recently, George Washington University (GW).

“I think the project will allow the GW community to reflect on their own lives and think about their own aspirations and dreams,” said Brian Doyle, the student who led the charge to bring the wall to GW, “and in turn it will give us a public space to express them and learn from the diverse perspectives of others. I think the student body will enjoy seeing such a beautiful piece of collaborative artwork on campus that serves as a community builder and a conversation starter.”

2. Facebook compliments pages
In September 2012, four undergraduates at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, found a way to use social media to bring happiness and praise to their peers. Rachel Albi, Erica Gagne, Jessica Jonker and Amanda Smurthwaite saw the need for a happy distraction and created a Facebook account called “Queens U Compliments,” which encouraged Queen’s students to message them with compliments to recognize their friends and peers at the school. They would then post the compliments they received on the Facebook page to create an aggregated feed of anonymous compliments about students at the school.

By November, the idea had spread to over 50 colleges and universities including Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Princeton University, Washington University in St. Louis, Wesleyan University, Trinity College and Hamilton College.

3. Happiness clubs
In 2008, Northwestern University student Ben Larrison and his friends identified the need for a morale booster on their campus. This prompted them to unofficially create a “happiness club” in an effort to show that small acts of kindness can improve the spirits of individual students and the greater university community.
While the idea first started on Facebook, the students soon realized that they could combine personal interactions and social media support to create a student organization on campus. Through the organization, they’ve been able to remain true to their philosophy of bringing people together and making them smile by hosting events focused on translating simple acts into contagious happiness. The first event they hosted, “Free Hugs and Hot Chocolate,” took place outside the library during final exams. Since then, they’ve hosted events from pumpkin carving to laughter yoga to the Post-it project, which involved writing positive sayings on sticky notes and posting them all over Northwestern’s campus.

Larrison and his freinds were even able to establish a campus-wide Happiness Week that included theme days for facepaint, bubble blowing, temporary tattoos and childhood favorites such as hopscotch and Play-Doh.

Students have been able to optimize the nostalgic and colorful nature of chalk to create chalk-ins, events designed to promote creative expression and de-stressing.

The Happiness Club at Northwestern University facilitated a chalking event where students chalked encouraging expressions, fun pictures and inspirational quotes on a mile-long stretch of road that students normally use to get to class.

At George Washington University, chalk-ins are facilitated by student groups in conjunction with the University Counseling Center. For one day in May, the school shuts down a single city street at the center of campus to facilitate the annual event. Last spring marked the 32nd annual chalk-in on campus and, as is tradition, it occurred during final exams.

The goal in timing the event to coincide with exams is for students to slow down and take a few moments to let their academic minds rest while they put their creative geniuses to work.