Line up the bowling pins and let down the gutter guards. Plan a fun evening out at the local bowling alley to celebrate the successful wrap of another school year. Make sure to reserve plenty of lanes and give the business enough time to prepare, especially if your last day falls on a weekend. While basic vending machines are a part of most establishments, arrange for pizza delivery as a way to make the event more festive, or if it’s being held around a meal time. quick way of making an extra buck from the event. If you don’t have a bowling alley in your area, consider a gathering at a laser tag facility, a mini-golf course, a trampoline park, or a go-kart business.
Mark the end of the school year with a movie night. Have kids and parents show up in pajamas for an added touch of whimsy. Pass out free popcorn or charge a nominal fee for concessions to give a slight boost to your group’s year-end revenues. Not sure which movie to pick? Going with popular newly released hits is always a safe bet. Our free Family Movie Night kit (ptotoday.com/fmn) has all you need to know about planning a movie night.
Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon
Say thanks for another successful year with a volunteer appreciation luncheon. Get takeout from dining establishments that have supported your group’s restaurant fundraisers during the year to show your appreciation for their investment. Or offer quick breakfast options that parents can grab on their way to work.
Milestones like graduating from elementary or middle school are worth celebrating. Use a pay-it-forward system to recruit parents of volunteers from 4th grade for the 5th grade event, and so on. Print diplomas to hand out after which kids can walk through a special graduation arch. Such a prop adds symbolism, and best of all, can be reused every year. A simple sheet cake and fruit punch can round out festivities for the afternoon.
Recognize the school’s other students with an awards ceremony. Work with teachers to reward not just kids who excel in academics and sports, but also those who are good citizens in other ways. Local establishments are often willing to contribute small treats, such as a free ice cream cone, to the winners.
Kick off summer in style with a pool party for families on the last day of school. You can make it a large communitywide event, much like the folks at Decorah PTO in Decorah, Iowa, do for their back-to-school pool party bash. Or scale it down to a more manageable size, especially at a time of the year when volunteer resources (and parent enthusiasm for another fundraiser) might be in short supply. Alternatively, you can tie in a pool party with a volunteer appreciation luncheon as a fun way to bring group members together for one last year-end hurrah.
Ice Cream Social
Who doesn’t love a cold treat on a hot day? Local grocery stores might work with you to give a discount on the basics. With donations (and supervision) from parents, set up a fancy toppings bar for a “create-your-own” station that is sure to delight even the most discriminating young gourmands. Enforce a narrow time window to avoid meltdowns large and small. Looking to keep things simpler? Prepackaged ice cream cups avoid the need for volunteers to scoop. Bonus points if you can grab them in a few different flavors.
Picnic or Potluck
Host a picnic on the last day, providing hot dogs and burgers or encouraging parents to bring their family favorites. Portions need not be huge and your parent group can supply party basics such as silverware, paper goods, and drinks. Be sure to stock kid-friendly dishes and have a backup pizza plan just in case. Provide an option for vegetarians and check for food allergies. Keep an eye on the skies and plan for a backup location (such as a school cafeteria) in case of inclement weather.
Community service does not have to be focused just during the holidays, nor does it have to be hugely complicated. And while many projects can be done within the classroom, the last days of the academic year is an especially good time for kids to look beyond their school walls. Cleanup drives around town are a great way to reinforce the message of giving back. Choosing a project that’s smaller in scale—picking up trash from just one section of a city park, for example—can channel kids’ energy and deliver readily visible results. As well, older kids can add service hours to their ongoing tally as needed.
Had a bruising winter? Have kids beautify school grounds by planting flowers and bulbs. Investing in plants and flowers that especially put on a show at back-to-school time will earn your group plenty of brownie points. If your budget does not have enough room for buying flowers and bulbs, even simple debris pickup is a fun project for elementary schoolers during the last days. Target areas where even a small dose of effort can yield rich dividends, such as the school playground. Make sure to have a fair number of kid-size rakes and gardening equipment available.