Campus rec programmers are constantly searching for new and unique ways to engage students. Recreational programming has evolved over the decades from primarily intramural sports to a wide range of activities under the umbrella of collegiate recreation. Color runs, float-in movies, rec and craft nights, and so many other programs push the envelope of creativity and inclusiveness.
But where does the next novel idea come from? Campus rec programmers should look no further than the concept of Edutainment.
What is Edutainment?
Simply put, Edutainment combines passive and active sessions into a multi-part program that both educates and entertains students through the lens of campus recreation. Edutainment also provides campus rec departments with a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with campus partners, most notably colleagues from academic departments.
The typical approach in Edutainment is to host a two-part program. The first part is usually the screening of a sports related documentary in conjunction with a panel discussion. The panel can consist of campus rec professionals, faculty members and other staff who are well versed in the subject matter. This part of the program can include thematic food and refreshments related to the documentary for the attendees to enjoy.
Part Two — held on a separate date in close proximity to Part One — allows students to participate in competitive events that play off the theme of the documentary. One-night tournaments to just socially engaging activities offer a variety of options for Part Two of an Edutainment program.
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The ultimate goal of any Edutainment program is to educate, entertain, appeal to an audience that might not always participate in campus rec programs and build relationships with campus partners.
The culture and location of an institution can certainly factor into the documentary choice. Adding a local flavor for the documentary selection can certainly appeal to both the audience and potential discussion panel members. The relative timeliness of a subject can also drive the decision to select a particular documentary.
Enhancing the screening and panel discussion with fun, thematic choices for the food and refreshments not only adds to the overall quality of the program but may also contribute to drawing a larger audience. College students always love free food.
The second part of an Edutainment program can vary depending on the facilities available to a campus rec department. Programmers can think as big as their physical resources allow. They can plan indoor or outdoor activities, or even integrate an off-campus adventures into the program. Part Two can emphasize competition, encourage students to try a sport for the first time with the help of campus rec staff or a combination of both. “A Learn to Play” format that includes a demonstration piece followed by competition can work well.
Three Ideas for Edutainment Programs:
New York Street Games
This 2010 documentary about the myriad of games played by children on the streets of New York City — especially from the 1950s to 1970s — is an ideal choice for any urban campus.
But it also works well for any campus rec department with interest in hosting a fun and informative program that celebrates the idea of free play. Rec professionals can seek out panel members from a variety of departments such as sociology, urban studies and physical education to collaborate with. However, they can focus on trying to recruit panel members who grew up playing these games.
Classic New York street foods ranging from hot dogs to soft pretzels to a thirst quenching egg cream make for great snack choices. The menu can also reflect the street foods popular in the city where a campus is located.
Part Two of the program has endless possibilities depending on which street games you want to offer. Some options include:
In fact, most all of these games can be adapted for indoor play. Actual streets are not required to play street games.
Do You Believe in Miracles?
The inspirational story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s legendary gold medal run is examined in this 1997 documentary. The 2004 film Miracle could also be used in lieu of the documentary.
This program provides for collaborative opportunities with history and political science faculty. Juxtaposing all-American foods with Russian selections is perfect for this theme for instance.
The hockey related options for Part Two can vary depending on whether or not a campus has an ice rink. Ice hockey, floor hockey or roller hockey activities can all be played around the theme of this film. And if a rec department prefers to host a less competitive event, a 1980s-themed ice-skating party complete with a retro soundtrack direct from MTV and an ‘80s costume contest is a perfect way to tie in an exciting and socially inclusive program.
Documentaries about the Olympics
The Olympic Games provide a perfect subject to design a Edutainment program around. There is a wide world of documentaries about the Olympics, with the official films available at olympics.com. These films not only explore the history of the games but also the changing cultures and habits in society during each of the Games.
Academic partners from history, sociology, world cultures and sports management could be ideal collaborators. The rich global tradition of the Olympics also provides for creative and culturally diverse menu options for the program. The second part of the program allows for flexibility. It can range from traditional events such as intramural track or swim meets to a less serious but still competitive “Campus Olympics” featuring a variety of wacky gym class or backyard games, for instance.
The possibilities for Edutainment programs are boundless. Rec programmers should explore the wealth of options available. Seek out enthusiastic collaborators and be as innovative as possible in designing the program.
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