How to Host a Fun School Event That Integrates SEL and Builds Community

  •   
  •   
  •   

In the last 10 months, teachers, kids and parents have had to adapt to all the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn’t been easy.

Students have been affected mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally — and teachers are doing their best to help them cope by integrating social and emotional learning into their classes.

Personally, I’m the mother of a kindergartner, and while I’m fortunate to work from home, there have been many times when I’ve felt overwhelmed and thought to myself, “I just want to cry!”

If you are a teacher who wants to integrate SEL into your classes — or a parent looking for family wellness resources — I urge you to check out the educational resources on SHAPE America’s health. moves. minds.® website.

The health. moves. minds. program offers free lessons and activities that give students tools to help manage complex emotions and take ownership of their own health and wellness.

The program also includes ideas for school-wide engagement and events that integrate SEL. These events are a great way to:

  • Celebrate as a school … in person or virtually;
  • Spread kindness and have fun;
  • Share strategies for improving mental and physical wellness; and
  • Raise money for the school or a local charity (with the optional fundraising component).

We may have begun the 2020-2021 school year with many uncertainties, but why not start planning for ways to bring together the school community? After all, fun isn’t canceled! 

Here are 5 fun school event ideas to get you started:

1. Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day (or Week)

Random Acts of Kindness Day (February 17) is a great time to hold an SEL-related school event. Or, spread out your activities during Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 14-20)!

Optional fundraising option: It’s cool to be kind — and one kind act is supporting those in need within the community! The health. moves. minds. program has a flexible fundraising option which allows your students – and even the entire school – to raise money to support a local charity. Follow this step–by-step guide to holding a kindness-themed fundraising event.

2. Host an Unplugged Event

We have all been oversaturated with technology and screen time since COVID-19 hit. This event will challenge everyone — students, teachers and parents — to unplug for 24 hours. You could even hold this in conjunction with the National Day of Unplugging, which is from sundown-to-sundown on March 5-6, 2021!

  • Consider hosting a family fitness night to kick off the unplugging.
  • Create pledge sheets or social media materials for students to share how they are pledging to unplug for 24 hours.
  • Focus on the benefits of unplugging from social media and technology, focusing on self-care, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Provide activity ideas and have students analyze the potential effects of social media on self-esteem and health behaviors.

Optional fundraising focus:  Have students raise money by creating a team page and pledging to unplug for 24 hours if they reach a certain goal amount. Get the details on our unplugged event planning template.

3. Have a Fitness Challenge Event (Virtually or In Person)

Fitness challenge events like relays and obstacle courses have become increasingly popular. Implement the health. moves. minds. educational materials prior to the event, then provide a list of challenges that include activities of varying levels of difficulty.

  • Have students set a goal and complete the obstacle course or relay activities during class or on their own. Be sure to share with parents and caregivers the skills that students are working on in class. For example:
    • “Students are working on goal setting and challenging themselves to complete various exercises. Students will also reflect on how they feel when they work hard and push through physical challenges and achieve goals.”
  • This type of event would be one that students would choose to participate in. Students who don’t choose to participate could offer support and encouragement for those who are participating. Students can still goal set and work on the activities for personal improvement.
  • To make this event virtual, have participants complete the fitness event at home and share their times on social media or another way you want to collect information.
  • There is a great connection for SEL alignment with this type of event, specifically around the self-management competency.

Optional fundraising focus: Students sign up to register for the event and can raise money by sharing “We are raising money for _____ (local charity or school program) by having a fitness relay!” Spectators can raise money as well to support students and the school.

4. Celebrate National Physical Education and Sport Week 

National Physical Education and Sport Week (May 1-7) is always a great time to highlight the amazing things you do in your health and PE programs. This year think about how you can turn that week into a health. moves. minds. spirit week, dedicating each day to a theme from the program.

Themes include kindness, mindfulness, empowerment, advocacy, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. You can also highlight the importance of gratitude and physical activity on mental and emotion wellness by using those as themes, too.

The themed days can be anything you have focused on during the year in your program related to students taking care of their mind and body.

Spirit Week Template:

  • In Motion Monday — Challenge students to complete a physical activity or accumulate a certain number of steps or minutes while participating in a physical activity. You could also have all students participate in a few minutes of movement at the same time. For example, at 2:30 pm everyone stops what they are doing and completes a physical activity like dancing, jumping jacks, invisible jump rope or a yoga pose. The idea is to get students to focus on physical activity. As an extension, have students reflect on how they felt at the end of the day making the connection that being active is a great way to improve your mood.
  • Take Time Tuesday — Take time for yourself today by doing one of the following self-care activities:Listen to some music
    • Go for a walk
    • Call a friend
    • Make a healthy meal
    • Take a bubble bath
    • Watch a funny movie
    • Wear something comfy
    • Do something creative like draw pictures
    • Something you love!

      The focus for today is highlighting that it is important for our health to take care of ourselves and make time to do things we like that help us relax and feel better. This is part of taking care of your mind, but you can do things that work on taking care of your body that also help the mind.
  • Wind Down Wednesday — Have students participate in some of the skills from health. moves. minds. like a Mindful Minute, Better Breathing, Muscle Relaxation or Mindful Senses. Students should really focus on trying to use any of these skills when they are having a big feeling like anger, frustration, feeling worried or overwhelmed. Students can also try mindful eating at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Share this coloring sheet with students.

    Check out the various mini posters for ideas on mindfulness skills to share with your students.
  • Thoughtful Thursday — Students should think of an act of kindness they can do for a loved one, friend or teacher today. Ask students to reflect on how they felt after they completed a kind act.

Optional fundraising focus: Add a giveback element to the week by highlighting how it feels good to do good. Leading up to the week, have students focus on things they can do to support their school or community like creating a team page to contribute to the school’s fundraising goal. Students can create their own challenges and plans of action to raise money.

5. Create a health. moves. minds. Field Day

I think field day might be every kid’s favorite day of the school year. This year consider making your field day a health. moves. minds. event by focusing your theme on how it’s important to take care of your mind and body.

  • Use your traditional field day activities, but add a few activities that focus on mindfulness, being kind, or teamwork. Here is a great list of activities to consider adding to your field day. We even have ideas for a virtual field day for families to complete at home.
  • Consider being open with your students about how it has been a difficult year and we want to end the school year with a field day that’s fun and allows us to do things that focus on taking care of our mind and body.
  • Not all activities have to focus on physical activity — you can create coloring corners, have a room with dimmed lights and soft music playing where students can journal or practice stretching poses.

Optional fundraising focus: Encourage students to raise money leading up to the field day. During the field day post various items you want to purchase for your health and PE program and let students vote on the piece of equipment that will be purchased with the money raised.

Fun and kindness don’t have to be canceled! I hope these ideas sparked other ideas for you to celebrate being kind, having fun, and overcoming challenges from this very different school year. Please share your ideas with us and take care of yourself!

Additional Resources


Michelle Carter
Michelle Carter

Michelle Carter is director of educational content and programs at SHAPE America. She is a former health and physical educator for Washington, DC Public Schools. Follow her on Twitter @HPEmichelle or email her at mcarter@shapeamerica.org