Activity Days, Mormon Feminist Style

Activity Days girls donating their no-sew dog blankets to an animal shelter

I’m currently an Activity Days leader in my ward. After a bit of floundering (i.e. aimlessly doing crafts), I’ve recently started to revel in my freedom with this calling. I’ve now caught the vision of what it can be: a group of girls learning about issues/injustices/suffering in the world and about women who are doing things to help those situations, followed by actions to help or bring attention to these issues. I’m putting the activist into Activity Days!

The books Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls , volumes 1 and 2 (expensive but worth it to me) have served as cornerstones for me as I’ve made my plans. The books highlight hundreds of important women in very short profiles, told in a way that appeals to tween and younger girls. We’ve had terrific discussions after I read to them about a particular woman and ask the kids how they would have dealt with x problem or why it’s important that this person did the work they did.

I’ve decided to divide Activity Days into one or two month long units. To give you a glimpse of what this kind of Activity Days approach looks like, here’s a rundown of some units I’ve planned/am planning and what we actually did/will do in our  weekly hour-long meetings.

  1. Helping Animals: An Animal Shelter Drive Unit
  • meet a dog who was rescued from a bad situation and make posters and flyers to advertise our drive
  • talk about Jane Goodall and the work she’s done with primates; make homemade dog biscuits to donate to a rescue org
  • deliver homemade dog biscuits and learn about the rescue
  • read some quotes by MLK and Gandhi about the importance of being kind to animals and make no-sew fleece dog blankets, according to the shelter’s specifications
  • make catnip toys out of recycled baby socks
  • take supplies to the shelter and take a 45 minute tour of the shelter

2. Promoting Girls’ Education Unit

  • read about Malala Yousafzai in the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls book, talk about the kind of courage she had to promote girls’ education and what she meant when she said, “One child, one teacher, one book,one pen can change the world.” Make homemade lip balm to remind girls that their voices and mouths are powerful instruments for speaking out against injustice.
  • embark on a drive to raise funds ($116) to sponsor two girls’ educations for a year, through the International Rescue Committee. (This organization has a strong reputation on Charity Navigator.) Make posters and flyers advertising services the AD girls will be doing to raise funds.
  • bake goods and hold a bake sale
  • host a group babysitting project (supervised by me and other AD leaders) in which people bring their kids to my house for two hours one Saturday for cheap babysitting. Girls will plan and play games with the little kids.
  • spearhead a shoe drive in the ward and local community. This organization apparently pays groups for collecting used shoes.  (Haven’t done this yet — still looking into it, but it looks promising.)
  • Host a $5 per car carwash.
  • During the course of this drive, girls will get public speaking experience by announcing their project to EQ and RS.  I also plan to have them learn about another woman or two who have done important things for girls worldwide.

The following units are still pretty hazy, but here are some vague ideas

3. Being kind to the Earth Unit

  • learn about Julia Mavimbela, a South African Mormon peace activist who promoted gardening projects with youths in the wake of riots and oppression under Apartheid. (See the Illuminated Ladies coloring book for a one page biography and a beautiful coloring page.) Brainstorm what we can do to help the earth and the environment
  • beach cleanup
  • girls organize a ward clothing/goods swap, in which people bring all the stuff they would normally give to Goodwill to the church one Saturday. People then take whatever they want, thus helping to keep items out of our landfills. Unwanted items go to DI or Goodwill.
  • Girls learn about and discuss Wangari Maathai and do some kind of artsy/crafty project promoting being good to the earth
  • volunteer with local organization that pots plants and trees

4. Feeding the Hungry Unit

  • learn about hunger in our local community. Learn about women who have done great work to bring attention to/solve the problem of hunger.  Brainstorm ways we can help.
  • through the local food bank, glean a field. Harvested crops are used by the food bank to feed the hungry
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and donate them to an organization that works with the homeless
  • volunteer to pack food boxes for the elderly at the local foodbank
  • sponsor a food drive in the ward, donate to foodbank

5. Athletics and Fitness Unit

  • learn about some important female athletes who paved the way for girls behind them.  The Katherine Switzer story is great. Plan out a series of athletic/fitness opportunities for the girls
  • zumba
  • yoga
  • capture the flag
  • paddleboarding/kayaking
  • swimming
  • learn about planning balanced meals — cook a balanced meal together
  • learn about a few more female athletes and what they’ve accomplished

6. The Written Word Unit

  • learn about great women writers and poets
  • girls write their own poetry using writing prompts or other guides
  • girls artistically render their favorite lines from the poems they’ve written, drawing and coloring images that represent their poetry
  • design, build, and paint a Little Free Library
  • volunteer at a local library for a couple of hours
  • hold a book drive, donating books to shelters
  • book group, where girls bring a book they love and talk about it briefly. Follow this with making artsy bookmarks

This is my vision for the next year or so of Activity Days. What are your best ideas? What would you like to see the girls in your ward get involved in? Please feel free to share.

 

 

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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25 Responses

  1. Jenne says:

    I have been loving my calling as Activity Days leader too. This year, my co-leaders and I decided to invite the girls to plan half of our activities for the school year. Their ideas ended up being very service minded. We visited a winter shelter and fed the residents there, we made cat toys to give to the local animal shelter. They also planned a dance with a moon/galaxy theme. A local legislative representative came and spoke about being elected to local office and serving our state. It’s been so fun to be creative together and see how giving these girls are all on their own.

    • Caroline says:

      Very cool! I want to do more brainstorming with the girls in the future. Love the shelter visit, and the fact that you got a politician to come in and speak to them.

  2. Wendy says:

    This is fantastic, Caroline. I wish my daughters could attend your Activity Days!!

  3. Austin says:

    These sound fantastic! I remember for one youth conference we did some gleaning, it was pretty cool. And it has a direct scriptural tie-in to Ruth, so that personalized her story for me.

    • Caroline says:

      Gleaning is super cool. I’ve done it in the past, and it’s neat to feel connected to the earth in a way I usually don’t.

  4. Em says:

    So cool! I wonder if a civics unit would be cool? Learn about pioneering women in government, visit municipal or federal court/town hall. Have them write a letter to representatives about an issue they care about. Make a poster for an issue. Learn how voting works or do a pretend ballot?

    Also a search/rescue unit? Visit a fire station, learn CPR, learn to use a compass or basic survival/outdoor safety

    Explorers? Learn to read maps, go hiking, drawing maps

    Sounds so fun!

    • Caroline says:

      Ooohh, I really like these ideas. The illuminating Ladies coloring book talks about Martha Hughes Cannon, first female senator in the U.S. I’d love to teach them about some of our terrific Mormon foremothers who were so involved in politics. Awesome idea about having them write letters and make posters for issues.

      And I love the other ones you mention too! I’m writing these down for future units. Thanks!

  5. Andrew R. says:

    This sounds great. I am not sure how it would work in the UK.

    For Activity Day read Evening Activity. And we, not having scouts, have mixed Activities.

    • Rachel says:

      Actually I think if you added stories of men in these same categories, it would be amazing to have boys and girls do the EXACT SAME things TOGETHER. It would teach boys and girls how to collaborate together which will help them in their futures as students and co-workers.

  6. Merry says:

    I love all of your ideas and the ideas shared in the comments! I want to do some of these activities with the young women in our ward. Thanks for sharing!

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Activity Days is one of my favorite callings. I have gotten so many good ideas from this website, https://mormonactivitydays.com/…in fact, I use it a lot for Girl Scouts.

    I love the idea of framing this around Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls! Have you heard the podcast? They’re about 15 minutes long and so well done. Maybe you could play one for an activity and have a discussion.

    I echo Wendy…I wish Emma was in your AD class.

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you for that link, Emily! I need to check that out. And I had no idea about the podcast. Fantastic idea to listen to one and have a discussion. Some of my very favorite AD nights have revolved around reading/listening to a story and then having a discussion about how we too can be brave, compassionate, etc.

  8. marilynmcphie says:

    I was an Activity Days leader for four years, and it remains one of my very favorite callings ever. I loved the freedom and independence I had. We had a female police officer speak to us about her job and about staying safe. We had a yearly book-sharing event. Girls brought a favorite book and talked about why they liked it, and I brought books to give to the girls — mostly from library book sales. We went to a museum of some sort — art, photography, science, folk arts. An artist came and did a lesson on how to draw faces. We did yoga. I’ll think of more.

    • Caroline says:

      Those sound amazing! We have done the favorite book night but I haven’t done any of the other things you suggest. I’m filing these ideas away…

  9. These are really fun! When I pulled my girls out of church and activity days, I put them in girl scouts. I like a lot of their activities-organized into “journeys” that sound similar to your units. You may consider looking at a girl scout manual for more ideas.

    • Caroline says:

      Great idea. My daughter is in Girl Scouts too, but I have never actually looked at any of her Journey books. I really should pull those out and get some ideas. Thank you!

  10. Karen Duff says:

    Love it. Great ideas.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Consider a unit exploring different trades such as mechanic or carpenter as well as electrical engineering or electrician. Build something and visit a job site.

    • Caroline says:

      Love these ideas! We had a nurse come one night, but we really need to expand to all sorts of different trades/professions.

  12. PBJ says:

    I’m a leader and have been so bored. The other leader only does things in the book. Nothing fun. I hate going. Maybe I’ll print this out to show her.

    I’m in Girl Scouts and we have a blast, so the difference is huge.

    • Caroline says:

      I hope you’re able to shake things up! My co-leaders and I usually just switch being responsible for weeks. So she does what she wants on her days and I do what I want on mine. Luckily my current co-leaders are on board with these units, so we’re all thematically tied in at the moment. But maybe you and your co-leader could come up with a system where you switch off leading every other week? Then at least the girls would have fun half the time. 🙂

  13. CHELSEA says:

    These are really cool activities, but I think that in order to make these good Activity Days units, they would need to also include tie-ins to scriptures and Gospel principles. My kids could learn this at school, Girl Scouts, or any after school club, but the beauty of Activity Days is to teach that these aren’t just good ideas, but they are the Gospel in action.

    • Caroline says:

      These units would be very easy to tie into scriptures or gospel principles (compassion, stewardship over the earth, developing potential/talents, etc.) My personal inclination is to downplay overt religious stuff during Activity Days — just my personality — but even with that downplaying, I think principles like compassion are hopefully coming through crystal clear as we talk about why it’s important to think about/do these things.

  14. Chiaroscuro says:

    Love these ideas! I’d actually send my daughters to AD if our local group was run like this!

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