Dec. 17, 2020
Springfield College (MA)
As the summer was winding down and the fall was approaching, we were quickly trying to plan our fall semester programs. Some on campus, some virtually, and some in a hybrid format. While we leaned on virtual programming for ways to engage off-campus students and for inclement weather, our big goal was to provide in-person programs with all of the necessary COVID-19 safety protocols. Of course, our biggest questions were how do we do this and what do we do?
To make the planning process easier we first set safety protocols that every program would have to follow:
Follow State Capacity Guidelines: For Massachusetts, capacity guidelines were 50 participants for outdoor space and 25 participants for indoor space. To accommodate the reduction in participants, we created some programs in shifts. Students would sign up for a specific time slot and participate during the time provided. This kept traffic flowing through the event and allowed more students to join in on the fun.
Sanitation Baskets: This basket included gloves, hand sanitizer, and extra masks if they needed it. Along with a disinfectant for programs using shared supplies.
Social Distancing: We ensured that there was enough space to socially distance during events. Utilizing our outdoor space made this part easy (thank you mother nature). We’ll get more specific as to how we did this in the event details below.
Marketing: We used a Tik Tok to display to students what on-campus events would look like this upcoming semester. It included the basics of everyone wearing their mask, signing in to the event for contact tracing, and social distancing at least 6 feet apart.
Vendor Plans: We collected COVID-19 plans from each vendor and associate visiting campus. We used vendors and associates we had great and established relationships with.
Once we had the basic safety protocols listed out and set, dreams of on campus programs became a reality. While we had some basic ideas to work with, we knew we needed to add some extra flare this year to bring just a little bit of joy to campus. After brainstorming our greatest ideas, we asked ourselves, how do we make this COVID-19 friendly? We were able to create fun new events and add twists to traditional ones to create safe and fun on-campus experiences.
With trips being some of our most popular events, we knew we couldn’t just get rid of them so instead we created “anti-trips” in which we brought those experiences to campus:
Red Sox on the Lawn: In the fall we traditionally go to a Red Sox game, instead we had students reserve a spot on the lawn to watch the game on the big screen. We made sure to have all of the park favorite foods like hot dogs and pretzels for them to snack on!
“The Big SC”: We also usually attend New England’s Great State Fair, which is also known as “The Big E.” The fair embraces New England's culture, bringing in food and shops from each of the states. We didn’t want our students to miss out on the big Springfield tradition, so we recreated it and called it The Big SC. We brought in the Ben and Jerry’s truck to represent Vermont, Spuds Your Way (a baked potato food truck) to represent Maine, and then provided the basic fair food: fried dough, fried Oreos and french fries. One of the most famous parts of the Big E is the Midway rides that feature the large Ferris wheel. While getting a Ferris wheel wasn’t practical, we used our associate friends to provide green screen photos with famous scenes from the fair, Ferris wheel included! All of these elements gave insight into what the yearly tradition entails.
Disney Welcome Week: During Disney Welcome Week we recreated the magical firework show. We let students sign up for 20 minutes blocks and they were able to come and grab a Disney-inspired cupcake and watch the virtual firework light show on our union.
Hands-on but 6 Feet Apart
While we love big events, doing one every week wasn’t our reality, so we got to work on making our smaller events just as safe and just as fun!
Spikeball: We tried something new this year and put on a Spikeball Tournament. Creating a bracket allowed social distancing, and we made sure that all teams sanitized before and after each game.
Mini Golf: We utilized NACA associate members to bring mini golf to campus. Students absolutely loved being able to enjoy this activity in an extra safe environment. We made sure to closely monitor the holes, to ensure there was no overcrowding and encouraged friends to stay within the group they came with.
Cookies & Coloring: One of our most popular events this semester was our Cookies and Coloring event. While so simple, our students adored it. We did this event outside and worked with our food servicer to provide individually wrapped cookies for students. When they signed in, they grabbed their coloring sheet and their own colored pencils. We made sure they followed the seating arrangement and had everyone sanitize before grabbing their pencils, and we disinfected the pencils as they were returned.
What we learned this semester is that if we could dream it, we could make it happen! We just had to make a few adjustments or get creative on how we were able to do so. Laying out what our specific safety protocols were beforehand was helpful in finalizing each event and making each one a huge success. Reaching out to our associates about their plans and what they could provide ahead of time was also extremely helpful in not only streamlining the planning process, but in allowing us to get creative with the elements we included in each event. We truly cannot thank them enough for working with us to make our dreams come true this semester.
Brianna Kirk is the assistant director of student activities and late night programming at Springfield College and volunteers as NACA® Northeast’s Assistant Block Booking Coordinator.
Related Professional Competencies: Institutional Culture & Expectations, Event Support