Sometimes getting youth back into the swing of scheduled events can feel challenging! This may seem especially true in this unique, post-COVID era that seems riddled with disinterest and a general refusal to RSVP. As summer slips away from us, here are a few fun seasonal activities a group of any age can do! Starting off your season on a bang can be the key to re-building a dynamic community, amped up for the rest of the year.
1. Get your groups outdoors and go on a hike! Pick someplace local, and challenge your group to consider why outdoor locations are important - both in the health of the people living nearby and also for environmental reasons. During the activity, consider pulling together a scavenger hunt or play a few games of I Spy. Pro-tip: Consider a thermos of hot chocolate if you go on a brisk morning!
2. Pick an area that has milkweed growing and sustainably harvest some pods. This native plant can be found all up and down the east coast, and is necessary for the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies. Make sure to pick a large area with lots of plants, and only harvest a small portion.
3. If planting is your jam, fall is the season to plant flowering bulbs! You can create a beautification project - perhaps at your place of worship or a community venue.
4. Play in the leaves! When is the last time you or your group threw themselves bodily into a giant pile of clean leaves? For extra fun, challenge students to find leaves of different colors and shapes. If your group is older and needs a more advanced challenge, have them identify the leaves. Leaves can be preserved by dipping them in melted paraffin.
5. Rosh Hashanah takes place mid-September this year - an important holiday that marks the beginning of the Jewish Calendar, and starts ten days of quiet and repentance. This is a great opportunity to expose your group to Judaism and to build understanding and camaraderie in your community. Reach out to your local Synagogue and Jewish community to see if there is a way to support our Jewish neighbors during this important time! There may be ways to intermingle and participate in events open to all. If that isn’t an option, pair some education with a few hands-on learning activities. Plan a relevant snack (apples and honey are traditionally eaten during this time) or create Shana Tova tokens. People will often say, “L’Shanah Tovah”, which means “A good/sweet New Year”. Your group can quickly and easily paint small rocks in different colors, and then write a personalized blessing along the lines of, “May your year be filled with _______”. These can be kept by the individuals, given away to others, or even left along a local hiking trail or park.
6. Go picking for a seasonal fruit/veggie with your group! Here in New England, apple picking is often considered a traditional fall activity. Not only will your group be able to pick apples together, but you can expand this activity to incorporate a cook-off. What foods can your group make with your item? You may be able to plan it on a Friday or Saturday and share the leftovers with your church! If your church has a large kitchen, consider making and donating apple pies to seniors in your community.
7. Do a seasonal maze - this could be a maze made out of sunflowers, corn stalks, hay bales or whatever is local to you! Many have scavenger hunts, or additional activities to make them more interesting to their participants. If they don’t have something prepared for you, create a fall-themed scavenger hunt. You can include some of the following ideas: Pumpkins, Scarves, Fall jackets, Plaid clothing.
8. Fall cookoff - try creating a healthy, seasonal meal only from items from a gas station. You can go shopping solo, and provide the group with materials in an Iron Chef Style Challenge. Or let the groups pick up their own supplies with a small budget, and then come back together to create and review. This is fun and dynamic, but also can lead into a lesson on food insecurity and how/why food deserts exist.
9. With fall kicking off, and so many fun and interesting things starting, I like to really emphasize all of the ways in which we are blessed. One way to do this is to create a praise wall, or a thanksgiving tree. If possible, leave it up in a shared space for people to add to over several weeks. Accompanying this activity I like to arrange a collection of donations of seasonal items (back to school supplies, thanksgiving supplies, clothing). You may even be able to contact a local food pantry or social service program to see what their most needed items are.
10. Another chance to recognize and celebrate diversity - the Moon Festival falls on Friday September 29th. One of the best ways to learn about this is to seek out local mid-Autumn Festival celebrations near you. Many universities, Chinese language schools and community organizations will host them. A great activity to accompany this is to create mooncakes! These generally have red bean paste in the middle (which I love but recognize that it's an acquired taste) - you can find recipes that re-imagine it. Consider making multiple variations!