How To Have The Best School Assembly Ever!
School Assemblies have changed dramatically over ther past 17 years. This information may seem like plain common sense, but with all of our busy schedules it’s easy to forget a few key details. Outlined here is information gleaned from my 17 years of conducting School Assemblies, plus valuable feedback I’ve gotten from personally speaking with thousands of Principals, PTA Reps, Teachers and Parents. My hope is that this information helps you plan a successful DINOSAURS ROCK® assembly and assists you with your entire assembly schedule this year.
Neil Brown, DINOSAURS ROCK®
Tel (845) 368-3466
School Assemblies serve as a welcome break for students from their school routine, providing education and entertainment. Planning an excellent assembly does takes time. There are committees involved, budgets to approve, dates to coordinate, and other logistics that have to be worked out well in advance. The key to planning a great assembly is good, clear communication with the key players involved, plus being detail oriented and taking the time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. The good news is that some of these procedures can be made much more efficient using these “insider” tips.
3 “Insider” School Assembly Tips Every PTA Needs To Know?
1. Know The Testing Schedule: When it comes to planning your Assembly schedule, you’ll need to work around the testing calendar. The most stressful time in the cycle of a school year is when testing occurs. And, it’s not just the state-wide standardized testing in the spring that you need to consider, there are smaller tests such as directed reading inventories and end of unit testing. When planning an assembly, speak to the administration and know the testing schedule in advance. You’ll need to work around these key dates to plan your special event.
2. Know Your Space: Not every school has a gym or large multi-purpose room to hold assemblies. Therefore, you will want to speak to the administration about alternative spaces to hold the assembly. This will help determine how many students can legally be in that space to adhere to the fire code. By making sure you have this information you can narrow down what grades can participate and whether you want to hold more that one assembly session. Plus, you can avoid overcrowding so that the students are not only comfortable, but safe.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Check for conflicting events, such as a Scholastic Book Fair that might need the same space. We’ve arrived numerous times ready to set-up our expansive exhibits, only to be told that the room was reserved for the Book Fair. Avoid last minute panic!
3. Know Your Budget: As an assembly planner or cultural arts rep, you already know YOUR budget and what you can allocate towards multiple programs during the school year. Don’t forget to consult with your school administration; many times they have other sources of funds to subsidize special enrichment programming. This will let you know whether the school can assist you with stretching your budget or if you need to do some additional fundraising to maximize what you can present to students.
If you think that one of our School Assemblies from DINOSAURS ROCK® is right for you, ask us about our MUSEUM SHOP option where your students can purchase educational products related to our themes, such as fossil and mineral collections and science kits at deeply discounted prices. With this option, you’ll receive a significant discount on the price of a DINOSAURS ROCK® School Assembly.
5 School Assembly Tips An Experienced PTA Can Use Immediately?
1. Plan The Year Before: So much happens in any given school year. From meetings and professional development to standardized tests, the school year is chock-full of built-in commitments. Plus schools typically have procedures to follow for special event planning, including setting the budget for the next year towards the end of the current school year. It’s always helpful to try to start at the end of each school year to plan out the assembly schedule to ensure you get your desired date and time.
2. Know The Curriculum: Not All School Assemblies have to be directly related to what is being taught in school. However, It will be easier to get approval from the administration if it is. Giant Basketball Players dunking baskets or watching amazing tricks on bicycles may be very entertaining, but may be best for a Family Fun Nite. Most schools that bring us in on an annual basis for a specific grade make sure the timing aligns with either the beginning or end of the related unit. Many schools study Dinosaurs in Pre-K, K, 1st or 2nd grade and bring in DINOSAURS ROCK® to enhance the in-class content, or for 4th or 5th graders studying Geology, bring in GEMS ROCK® as a way to wrap up the unit. Teachers often tell us that it had made it easier to teach the kids “Geology” or “Earth Science”after they have seen and experienced one of our School Assemblies. Please note that we offer teachers to contact us directly at 845-368-3466 if there are specific topics (e.g.Plate Tectonics) that they’d like us to include or focus on. Making sure that the assembly is in sync with what is being learned in the classroom ensures makes it that much more meaningful. It’s a great way to bring in the right assembly for the right age group.
3. Plan B: Snow days, emergencies, illness or other unforeseen circumstances may occur during the course of the school year. That means even the best made plans might need to be adjusted. So, it’s always a good idea to map out Plan B Having a few back-up dates in mind is always helpful in case rescheduling is necessary. Also, if you may not be able to personally be on hand at the school on the date of the event, sharing details about the program with another PTA rep or a school staff member who can assist will ensure that everything goes smoothly.
4. Proper Equipment: Not all schools are created equal. Some are new and have the latest sound systems and some are not quite state-of-the-art. We’ve encountered all sorts of situations. For instance, we’ve encountered outlets beyond the reach of our power cables, light bulbs that need changing, curtains that can’t be closed because they were damaged, stages full of materials that can’t be moved, sound systems and projectors that don’t work, etc etc. It’s always good to check the facilities at your school to streamline the assembly set-up process. To help make things run smoothly, DINOSAURS ROCK® takes on the responsibility of bringing our own sound system and projector if required for any one of our School Assemblies.
5. Is Your School Band Or Chorus Practicing On Stage When Set-Up Is Required? Checking on the availability of the space to avoid conflicts is critical. We’ve had to delay the start time of programs because the Music and/or Band Teacher was never informed of our arrival. This can happen to any company you choose for your School Assembly. These Teachers work very hard and come in extra early to get their Band and/or Chorus ready for an upcoming performance, so determining the best time for set-up, to avoid conflicts is super helpful.
KEY TIP - Have Basketball Hoops raised as they are a big distraction during a School assembly.
The Most Common School Assembly Problems PTA’s Face
1. Lunch Schedule: Lunch is obviously a necessary part of the day and it is usually set in the schedule in a certain way for good reason. Many schools use the same room for both Lunch and Assemblies. Many schools stagger lunch throughout the day because of the large number of students at the school. Bottom line - check the lunch schedule and work around it to set the right schedule for the Assembly. This is especially critical if your school is overcrowded or the only space for the assembly is the cafeteria. You may want to discuss options with administration. Every so often, schools will have students have lunch in their classroom or outdoors to accommodate an Assembly.
2. Entry Into School & Bus Timing: Get to know the closest and easiest entry into your school, preferably an entrance with NO STEPS (or a minimal number) which is close to the room we are conducting the program in, as we bring in numerous Museum specimens, many of which are very heavy. Many times, there are alternate ground level entries that you may not initially be aware of, so please take the time learn about the options in your school. Remember, if we (or any other provider) have to enter through the front door, it’s important to know the bus arrival schedule, so we can avoid getting in the way.
3. Staff Support: Teachers are busy and so are administrators. When approached about extra events like an assembly, teachers sometimes view it as “time-off” or look at it as an opportunity to catch up on things they might have to do in the classroom. It’s always a more successful event when Administration sets the stage for teachers to be attentive and “on duty” during Assemblies. Remember, this is simply “guide” with suggestions; each school needs to decide what’s best. At the beginning of this “guide” I shared about the dramatically changes in schools over the past 17 years. Assembly providers are always appreciative when school Administration has policies for participatory Teacher demeanor during Assembly programs. The students always get more out of these programs, when Teachers are enthusiastic and fully “present.” Our expectation is that Teachers are there to assist in the success of the program, not be checking their e-mails on cell phones during an event. We were so impressed with Camp Director this past summer who gathered his staff together before our event and seriously spoke to them about a “no cell phone” policy and his expectations about their attentiveness to campers during special events. Granted, Summer Camp Counselors are generally younger than Teachers however…
An Assembly Is A Great Time To Teach
Appropriate, Respectful Behavior!
Teachers and PTA parents are key role models. If students see and hear adults or their own teachers talking, using their cell phones, coming in and out of the room, and generally not paying full attention, it will be signal to them that doing the same will be ok.
Six (6) Questions Every PTA Should Ask When Hosting A School Assembly?
1. What are the Fees & When Do We Pay? Some assemblies are more costly than others, so an overall budget for the calendar year events must be allocated, based on total funds available. In order to allow enough time to make proper arrangements, the first thing you should do is clarify the budget and payment schedule with the PTA Treasurer or the school secretary. Usually a deposit is required and the balance is due the day of the Assembly. Others require full payment upfront before arriving to your school. Again. a way to reduce the cost of your School Assembly if you are selecting any of the 3 DINOSAURS ROCK® programs (DINOSAURS ROCK, GEMS ROCK, OCEANS ROCK) is to ask us about setting up our Museum Shop - with unusual items at discounted prices, it’s often a welcome addition and an assembly budget-saver.
2. Can We See An Example Of Your Assembly? Teachers are taught to preview material before showing it to students so that they can plan the activity properly and anticipate any inappropriate parts. An assembly is no different; you want to see the product before making it official. If this requirement cannot be met with a list of what is done, a video, or an invitation to see a performance, then buyer beware. The vast majority of the time, our assemblies are booked based on our 17 years of experience, testimonials and visuals on our web site and referrals from other schools and parents. However, DINOSAURS ROCK® always invites anyone to view our performances. If you would like to view a preview of our DINOSAURS ROCK® program, click on this link: http://dinosaursrock.com/dinosaursrockchoolassembly.html
3. How Much Time Do You Need? What Other Considerations Should We Know About? Timing is everything. Knowing how much time you need will help you accurately plan the assembly during the school day and allow you to know how much time you need to allocate for the company including set-up and break-down time, performance time without cutting things short. As an example, we were hired to do an OCEANS ROCK® School Assembly which is about 1-hr in length. The PTA had never notified the Principal and we were informed, last minute, that we only had the students for 45-minutes. We can modify and accommodate a school’s schedule, but for best planning, it’s always good to know in advance of any time constraints. Simple planning and communication works every time.
Other considerations include whether a stage or tables are needed and if so, the number of tables required. It is always helpful for tables to be set up or at least opened to expedite the set-up process. Every so often there are unavoidable circumstances, like traffic and weather, that slow things down. The more prepared we all are, the better your assembly will turn out. Also consider asking if a company requires fewer tables if a stage is available.
4. Steps, Elevators, Parking - Know Your School’s Limitations. If you decide to work with DINOSAURS ROCK®, we request that our vehicle to be as close to the presenting room as possible, as many pieces and our digs are heavy. Steps can add as much as 45 minutes on each side of set-up and break-down. Elevators can only hold a few specimens at a time and will slow things down significantly. Parking is rarely a problem as most schools have parking lots, but we sometimes visit schools that don’t. In that instance, we request that a spot be reserved so we can unload and pack up at the end without any difficulty.
5. Can We Talk To Another School To Hear What They Have To Say About Your Assembly? YES! Better yet, we tried to make thing easy for you by filming Teachers and Principals who spoke about their experience with our programs. We love to share how much students and teachers alike love our School Assemblies. Please call us at 1-800-411-DINO (3466) and we are be happy to provide you with any number of names and contact numbers of other clients, or click on the BREAKING NEWS video to hear for yourself - click here to see video…
Bottom line - we recommend that you get Testimonials from any School Assembly company you are considering hiring.
6. How Many Students Can Be Accommodated Comfortably For The Assembly? Space limitations are everything. If you have a large gym available, any of our DINOSAURS ROCK® School Assemblies can accommodate up large numbers of students at a time. You may prefer a grade specific. assembly that focuses very specifically own curriculum being covered in the classroom. Every school is different, but 3rd or 4th grades typically do a Rocks & Mineral Unit, Pre-School thru 6th cover a wider grade range and do Oceans and/or Dinosaur units. We tailor our presentations to our audience, providing more in-depth information the older the grade (note that we cover PreK all the way through 9th grade). If necessary, and space is limited, your School Assembly can be set-up in your classroom for smaller numbers of students.
3 Mistakes Every PTA Seems To Make When Hosting A School Assembly & How To Fix Them Fast?
Mistakes happen. It’s the nature of planning any endeavor. When dealing with a large organization, such as a school, there are a lot of moving parts. It is natural that something may get overlooked. Mistakes can be fixed when everything else is well-planned. However, there are key mistakes that can be avoided.
1. The BIGGEST MISTAKE that can most easily be avoided is not reminding school staff about your School Assembly the day before the event. Even if the Assembly was booked months prior and is in the School Calendar, people are busy and need to be reminded. The Custodial Staff in particular, are key people to communicate with. These people are extremely busy in the morning, getting the school prepared for the day, and do not react well to any surprises about an assembly program they were not made aware of or reminded of. This can slow down the set-up process and put a wrinkle in the event schedule. So, we’ve put together a short reminder video (see below) that we try to send to the event coordinator about 1 week prior to the event.
2. Actually this one is not a PTA mistake. but more a Teacher/Student issue. How do we handle students that misbehave? Every so often we encounter a student that has a hard time attending, listening or sitting still. During the course of the school year, we understand that teachers get tired of dealing with this behavior. Have a clear understanding with the administration on how this will be dealt with at assemblies if extremely helpful. Will those students be seated close to the teacher? Will they be seated towards the back? If they misbehave, will they be escorted out? Are they given 1 warning Will they not attend the show? As highlighted before, School Assemblies are a great time to teach about appropriate behavior in a public place. It’s important that behavior expectations and consequences are outlined to maximize the impact of the Assembly.
3. Not Having a Rep Present At The School Assembly. It is understood that the people who booked the event have work or other commitments and may not be able to actually attend the School Assembly. Seeing for yourself vs hearing from others is always ideal and we do encourage you to stay for a portion or at least one of our presentations to get a real “feel” about how impactful DINOSAURS ROCK® School Assemblies are. However, if you are not able to be there in person, assigning an alternate rep to be there, or making sure the Administration is involved the day of the event is always beneficial.
Call Us (845) 368-3466 or 1-800-411-DINO (3466)