Sunday, June 16, 2013

Everywhere Fun Fair wrapup, part 2

"Together, together, we're coming together. Celebrating the love of God in every way. It's the love, it's the joy, it's the faith that we share. Come On! It's an Everywhere Fun Fair!"
-Cokesbury's Everywhere Fun Fair theme song

In the last post I showed how we decorated for this year's VBS, the Everywhere Fun Fair. But decorations alone do not a Bible School make.

In recent years, my church has scheduled VBS from 5:45 to 8:00 pm on Monday through Thursday, with a finale performance and church-wide supper on Friday. However, the Cokesbury program is designed for five days, so we had to leave out one of the days [Day 3 in this case].

We divided the kids up into five groups, based on their grades. We had about 35 kids each night. After the opening group session in the sanctuary, the elementary groups rotated around four stations, each for about twenty minutes: Music, Story, Crafts, and Games/Snack. The preschoolers went to the Music station first, but then went to their own room to spread out and go at their own pace.

The theme, story, and country focus for each day were determined by the Cokesbury curriculum. Our wonderful kitchen leader, Michelle, organized the snack for each day, and I organized the craft project (although luckily found someone else to lead it!). Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to make a note of the games that were played in the recreation station... to be honest, it looked a bit like chaos all week, but I'm sure the kids had fun!

Here was our plan... 

Day 1 – Monday
Theme: Neighbors are Friendly!
Story: Sarah and Abraham
Country: Japan
Craft: Celebration Kites similar to the carp kites flown on Japan's Children's Day [following this tutorial]
Snack: Pretzels and edamame toothpick kebabs (similar to this) with soy sauce for dipping

Day 2 - Tuesday
Theme: Neighbors are Giving
Story: A Widow gives Cheerfully
Country: Zimbabwe
Craft: Decorating flowerpots with buttons and markers, and then planting a succulent to give to a "neighbor" (some groups focused on the flowerpots on Tuesday, and then planted on Thursday)
Snack: Sweet potato chips

Day 3 – Wednesday
Theme: Neighbors are Forgiving!
Story: Zaccheus
Country: Australia
Craft: Decorating totebags in the style of aboriginal dot paintings [using q-tips and fabric paints for the dots, following this tutorial]
Snack: Fairy bread

Day 4 – Mexico
Theme: Neighbors are Welcoming!
Story: God welcomes Everyone
Country: Mexico
Craft: Decorating foam door hangers with Everywhere Fun Fair-themed foam stickers to welcome "neighbors" [similar to this]
Snack: Tortilla chips and salsa with sopapillas

The preschoolers used Bingo markers to decorate their totebags. Here you can also see some of their decorated door hangers.

I printed each country's name/flag on a printable label. Before the closing program each night, the kids received the sticker from the country du jour to stick in their VBS passports. 

At the finale performance on Friday night, as the kids "graduated" from VBS 2013, they received their personalized totebag full of VBS goodies, including the rest of their crafts, their nametag, their passport, their photobooth photo as a magnet, a certificate of completion, a handout describing all of the things they learned this week, copies of some related workbook pages, and a brochure about the children's activities available at church throughout the year.

We ended the fun-filled week with a hot dog supper, homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert, and a slideshow of photos from the week.

I'm so glad that I was able to help plan VBS this year. Everyone agreed it once again was a great success!! But, I have to admit, I'm glad that it comes around only once a year!

Everywhere Fun Fair wrapup, part 1

"He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'""
-Luke 10:27

One of the reasons I haven't been around the blog much lately is that I volunteered to help plan Vacation Bible School at my church. [Yes, I'm the crazy person that volunteers without even having children!] Planning and decorating has occupied much of my brain for the last few weeks, culminating this past Friday after our week-long celebration.

Our theme this year was the Everywhere Fun Fair from Cokesbury. We blended the ideas of a carnival and our neighbors in different countries to create a world's fair. I searched Pinterest and blogs for related crafts and decoration ideas and wanted to make sure that I pay it forward for those planning VBS events later in the summer!

First I want to show you how we decorated for the Everywhere Fun Fair. While everyone praised my creativity, I could not put on this spectacle by myself. I'm so thankful for my two partners-in-crime (and as a result of this adventure, really good friends), Marie and Alison.

Each night of VBS started and ended in the sanctuary. We decorated with pennants, bunting-like fans made from tissue paper, and lots of balloons. We used the PVC puppet stage from our Puppet Ministry [similar to this] as our backdrop. Godwin Merifeather, the puppet emcee for the festivities, was supposed live in a ticket booth, so we used red foam core to build his home.

Each night focused on a different country, so we also switched out the cultural images each day. We printed out clipart from each country [mostly found here] and mounted them on foam core. I painted the country maps/flags on foamcore and mounted them on these weighted coffee cans/pvc stands that we found in the supply closets [by the way, I absolutely love rummaging through the closets of churches... you always find the neatest stuff], and they turned out so neat!

Most of the evening activities took place off of the main hallway in the Family Life Center. We wanted to make sure that this area had a big impact as the kids walked in the first time. We taped the red-and-white-striped tablecloth fabric to the ceiling in waves. And, at each crease we strung a row of balloons (I used a needle and fishing line to "sew" through the ends of the tied-off balloons, as seen here). We added some twisted crepe paper streamers (the wide fringed ones were inspired by Oh Happy Day) to the walls, just for more pizzazz!

We divided the gym into three areas, one each for crafts, snacks, and games. We used two sets of mobile bleachers as a room divider. This was the biggest headache because nothing would stick to the metal bleachers, and there was a gust of wind from the A/C that kept blowing things away. But after lots of finagling, our draped fabric, pennants, and posters lasted almost all week (when we walked in on the last night to find that the tablecloths had slid off, we finally gave up).

Our pride and joy was the choir room where the children went for music each night. With what felt like 500 straight pins, we pinned up plastic tablecloths from the dollar store to create a circus tent. We finished it off with a cluster of balloons and curling ribbon in the center. It stayed up all week with no corners falling down!!

Using the leftover tablecloths, pennants, and streamers, we covered a small puppet stage set-up that was donated to the cause to serve as the backdrop for our photobooth. We took each child's picture and gave it to them at the end of the week.

And, my personal favorite was the Bible story area. We bought the paper mural from Cokesbury; however, we were having quite a time figuring out how to hang it. We had to rethink how we were going to lay out the room but found that the wooden trim around the room had a bit of a lip that we could clip to. We rolled over the portable bulletin board to post the daily Bible verse and story illustration and pulled a couple of trees from the stage to extend the scene into 3-D. The children's director also added some blankets and baskets from her own collection to complete the scene.

Up next, Everywhere Fun Fair crafts and activities... you won't want to miss it!

Trip Planning 101... [part 4 of 4]

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”
-Benjamin Disraeli 

The final aspect of my planning...
[Find the other parts of the Trip Planning series here: 1, 2, 3]

Our trip planning file from our 2011 Yosemite trip... not the greatest photo I've taken, sorry!

The expanding multi-pocket file.

Right before we leave for our trip, I print and organize paper copies of many reference materials. Some of it I may never look at on the trip, but for me, it's better safe than sorry. I admit that this part may lean towards OCD, but it certainly calms my nerves.

Store all of your documents in a plastic expanding pocket file (like this).
  • Why a file rather than a folder? Because it's enclosed... I can throw this to the backseat and not worry about papers flying everywhere.
  • Why plastic? Because it's somewhat waterproof... No need to worry about a water bottle spilling in your backpack or getting caught in a rainstorm on a hike. 
  • Why multi-pockets? Because I can organize the documents by type or by date, whatever makes the most sense... I don't have to sort through my driving directions to find my hotel reservations.

The types of papers that are stored in here will depend on what type of trip we're planning. But some of the things that make it into my trip file include:
  • Driving directions from the airport to the first destination... Would hate to arrive and realize that our GPS is on the fritz, and we don't know where we're going.
  • Flight/hotel/car reservations... Yes, I know I have it all stored in my TripIt app, but I'm not quite convinced that the rinky-dink motel in the middle of nowhere is going to trust my iPhone.
  • Tickets to any prepaid activities... Wouldn't want to show up at our Bryce Canyon ATV tour with no record of our ticket purchase.
  • Trail maps... For each big hike that we know we're going to do, I try to print a trail map and directions... It only takes being lost on a trail once...
  • Printable coupons to attractions or restaurants... Occasionally in my research of tourism bureaus, etc. I run across coupons for 1/2 off a meal or $2 off admission... While a showing at the Zion Canyon Giant Theater may not yet be cemented on the itinerary, I'd be kicking myself knowing that there was a coupon out there to save me a couple of bucks.
  • Brochures, ticket stubs, etc.... This is also where I store the random memorabilia that I pick up throughout the trip. It makes a great keepsake after the trip is over. I have a whole shelf filled with pocket files from each of our vacations. Just flipping through the pockets is a trip down memory lane.

What do you do with the "stuff" that you gather from a trip? Before the trip begins? While on the road? After you get back home?

Monday, June 03, 2013

Trip Planning 101... [part 3 of 4]

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

[Find the other parts of the Trip Planning series here: 1, 2, 4]

So how can you be sure that your plan includes all of the must-sees around the area? How can you be sure that you've packed sufficiently for the tricky weather? How can you be sure that you've got your activities in a logical order? Just like everything else, ask the experts.

Itinerary feedback.
I've already mentioned that I love TripAdvisor for reading real reviews about hotels and other activities. But I also sing the praises of the TripAdvisor forums and community.

TripAdvisor forums
  • Run your tentative plan by the Destination Experts on the TripAdvisor forums. Be sure to give them plenty of details about what kind of trip you're expecting (age and activity level of trip-goers). I have always been so thrilled with their answers... How else would I have known about the one-of-a-kind roadside attraction on the way to Bryce Canyon called the Rock Shop?!?
  • Ask more specific questions on the forums where needed... When I asked what we should do on our last day at Bryce, I was rewarded with plenty of ideas from locals and people who had just returned from trips to the area. Now it's just a matter of choosing what we want to do (and more likely, how much energy we have at the end of the trip)!
  • Pay it forward by writing a trip report on the forum after you return and writing reviews about all of the places you stayed. If you can upload photos of the hotels, restaurants, and sites from your trip, all the better.

Would you feel more confident after getting feedback on your itinerary, or do you think this step is overkill and a sign of worrying too much?

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