The Group: Pittsfield (N.H.) Elementary PTO

The Setting: A Hawaiian luau in the gym of the K-6 school.

The Idea: Beat the winter doldrums with Hula-Hoop and limbo contests, beach blanket bingo, and crafts for students and families.

What Went Wrong: More students showed up than expected, especially 5th and 6th graders. Many parents dropped off their kids and drove off instead of sticking around for the fun. “After a cup of fruit punch, the large open space of the gym proved to be too much of a temptation for most kids,” recalls PTO president Tina Nevins.

What Happened Next: Many of the 60 or so kids in attendance passed up the activity stations and began running amok in the gym. Others rolled Hula-Hoops from one end of the room to the other.

The Outcome: After everyone went home, volunteers were left to mop up the sticky floor as they contemplated the chaos of the event. The PTO now uses RSVP forms to get a head count for events and reminds parents that they need to attend, too.

Crowd Control: Parent leaders have learned their lesson—to prevent kids from going wild, they’re going to change the layout of events, Nevins says. “We’ve learned to break up large spaces that invite running with a few well-placed dividers or tables.”

Oops! Every group has a story of a good idea gone bad. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to share yours.