Programming takes a lot — of resources, energy, you name it.
Even some of the smallest scale programs often require juggling a lot of moving pieces: Booking and setting up a venue, purchasing and gathering materials, marketing it to your desired attendees, and finally, hosting it.
And even when you put on a big production meant to encapsulate many students, it doesn’t guarantee maximum student engagement. Sometimes it’s the small things that you and your student leaders do that keep students engaged.
That’s where pop-up programs come in! Their simplicity is what makes them so powerful. They’re super adaptable to all types of organizations and needs, meaning that students and professionals can use their creativity to add a twist or two to best serve their communities.
Their simplicity makes them ideal programs for newer student leaders and professionals to host as they get their feet wet.
Pop-up programs also tend to be low-cost since the required materials can often be pulled from leftover or bulk supplies you have lying around.
Here’s a bunch of programs you might want to see popping up on your campus!
1. Speed friending
Set up seats in two rows across from each other so students can move around and meet new folks, guided by the hosts’ discussion questions. (Here are 100 questions to get you started.)
2. Campus partner hangouts
Invite some friends from different offices around campus to share their services and build rapport.
3. Make a wish in a campus body of water
If it’s already a tradition to toss coins or fish food, you can do that. Otherwise, you can pass out something that floats and can be gathered up after the activity— like colorful rubber duckies to signify different types of students (blue for first-years, yellow for second-years, and so on).
4. Pool party
Crank up the tunes, set up some games, and make a splash!
5. Campus culture quiz
Help your first-year students get to know your institution’s lingo and traditions.
6. Veterans Day
Collect items and notes for care packages to be sent to your local VA.
7. Lunch and learn
Have a student leader or colleague with niche knowledge host a lesson over lunch.
8. Take what you need
Set up a wall of sticky notes and have students write notes of encouragement or motivation. They could also include inspirational quotes, compliments, or a to-do list item. In exchange, each student can take a note that expresses what they themselves need.
Throw it back to your favorite part of school by setting up some mats, blankets, and soothing music in a quiet area and inviting students to a snooze.
10. Pet playtime
Invite therapy animals and their owners from a local organization to stop by and play.
Or, to save time and money, you could invite professional staff to bring their well-behaved, sociable pets. But be sure to make your students aware of potential allergens.
11. Dance parties
Encourage your students to get moving and grooving with impromptu dancing.
12. Yoga or aerobics
Introduce a structured class like yoga or Zumba — hosted by a knowledgeable student, by a staff instructor, or an expert in your the local community.
13. Vision boards
It’s never a bad time to look toward the future. Provide participants with some cool pieces of cardstock and magazines to make it more stylish.
Mainly for Fun
12. Joke booth
Good, hearty laughter releases muscle tension for up to 45 minutes. Give your students this dose of medicine with anything from classic knock-knock jokes to fresh memes.
13. Horoscope reading
If your students have somehow gotten to this point without getting their charts read, now is the time to learn their sun, moon, and rising signs.
14. Fortune cookies
Create some college-inspired fortunes (about getting a good night’s rest or acing an exam) to bring some joy to your students.
15. Game competitions
Minute-to-win-it games like wrapping someone up with toilet paper or sliding a cookie down one’s face are some classic, silly choices.
16. Pin the tail on the…
Take this party classic and twist it up as you wish, perhaps by pinning a grade on an exam or a cap on a graduate.
17. Jump rope competition
If you’ve seen the movie Jump In, you know…
18. Bobbing for apples
Or do it with donuts hanging from a string any time of the year.
Art and Performance
19. Poetry reading
Feel free to follow a theme based on a national awareness celebration. You can provide books of poetry and short stories based on the theme, which students can also check out after the program is over.
You could even use pages from old books and magazines to create blackout poetry that participants can read aloud.
20. Improv games
Improv can be fun for actors and non-actors alike. Here’s a list of some fun games you can facilitate.
21. Lip sync battle
You can do a team battle, like in Pitch Perfect and even use tracks from the movie franchise.
22. Build a snowperson
You could do this out of marshmallows and serve it up with hot chocolate, or make a life-sized one as a team together. During warmer weather, you can make a sandperson instead.
23. Zine station
Base it on a theme, collect scans of the finished products from each student, and put them together in a booklet for all to see.
Start from seeds or from a cutting of a big succulent.
25. Button making
Help students stay on trend by showcasing their personalities with buttons they can put on their backpacks, laptop bags, and clothing.
26. Rock painting
If planting a real garden isn’t feasible, make a rock garden or let students make their own. They can craft a simple design or write a saying that means a lot to them.
27. Breakfast for dinner
Who doesn’t love free food?
28. Healthy snacks
Ants on a log is old news. Homemade granola bars, anyone?
Set up a blanket in the sun and invite students to eat with you.
30. Family-style dinner
Make a bunch of spaghetti or pancakes and invite your students to chow down together.
What sorts of pop-up programs have worked best on your campus? We’d love to hear your stories and see your photos. Tweet us @themoderncampus.