The search for a fun family event to alternate yearly with a popular art show resulted in a royally good (and cleverly framed) experience for an Ohio school community.
Royal Night, a medieval-theme family night of crafts, Legos, a book fair, art, and archery—as well as a play on the school’s name—was held in March at Royal View Elementary in North Royalton. The idea was a vision of art teacher Mary Ann Trunzo, and the Royal View PTA helped make it a reality.
“It ended up being way bigger than we expected,” says event cochair Melissa Crowe of the hugely successful event, which drew nearly 300 students.
The highlight of the night was the Glow Gallery, a hallway connecting two parts of the school building with a glow-in-the-dark art exhibit. The PTA covered the windows with paper and curtains, and the fluorescent lighting was replaced with black lights. Student-created glow-paint art pieces, including kings, queens, princesses, coats of arms, and castles, were hung throughout the hall. Students also picked out their favorite piece of art they created throughout the year to hang on their locker.
“It was awesome,” says PTA past president Nellie Wislocki. “The art was installed the week before the event. Kids loved every time they walked through the Glow Gallery. Their faces lit up.” The artwork remained on display for several weeks following the event.
The rest of the building had stations set up, including one with Legos where students could build a catapult or use the bricks for free play. The PTA purchased and borrowed toy castles and brought in medieval-type figures for children to play with at the Imagination Station, which was guarded by an iron gate made of duct tape. At an arts and crafts station, students made crowns and jester hats from tulle, foam, plastic gems, and veils. Attendees were encouraged to wear costumes corresponding to the theme.
“I thought it would be super fun if the students and the adults who wanted to dress up came in costume and really become immersed in the experience,” Trunzo says. She, the principal, and many students and families came to the event in costume.
A retired music teacher put on a puppet show, which repeated several times as kids moved throughout the stations. At a jousting station, students tried to knock each other off balance boards using pool noodles. A skilled father crafted a stockade for the students to have their picture taken in, and a generous family brought in a 7-foot knight from their foyer as an additional photo opportunity.
There was also Nerf archery and a room to throw foam tube javelins through rings. The school’s usual book fair was timed to be held during Royal Night. “We figured out early on that we were going to need a lot of help,” Crowe says. “We had to have a lot of volunteers. With the book fair during the event, it was really crazy in there.”
The PTA had at least two volunteers at each station, including parents, middle schoolers, and high school students. As such, says Crowe, the event was truly a family affair. “My son at the middle school came and manned a station,” she says. “[Another person] brought their mom, husband, brother, son in college, and his girlfriend!”
Going forward, the PTA plans to secure even more helpers ahead of time; leaders recommend an attitude of teamwork for other schools that might consider putting on their own “royal” night.
“We had a good committee,” Crowe says. “Our group worked really well as a team. We all had it in mind that we were doing it for the kids.”
“The whole whimsical nature really made [Royal Night] so fun,” Wislocki adds. “Keep that in mind, to focus on creating things that will be fun for the kids.”
Royal View Elementary, North Royalton, Ohio
493 students, preschool-grade 4
Planning a Royal Night That Rules
Two to Three Months Before Event
- Begin brainstorming
One to Two Months Before Event
- Start holding regular planning meetings every two weeks
- Solicit concepts from art teacher
Three Weeks Before Event
- Create flyer to distribute to students
- Start Facebook promotion
- Send information to PTA volunteers
One Week Before Event
- Send home second flyer with students as reminder
Week of Event
- Hang artwork in hallway for Glow Gallery
Day of Event
- Install curtains and other decorations for Glow Gallery
- Set up stations after school dismissal