Spring certainly has taken its time arriving on the East Coast this year. Only in just the past few day have we started to see hints of spring buds, green grass and some warmer days. After our long, cold winter, we are certainly anxious for spring to fully blossom!
We associate so many wonderful things with springtime – new beginnings, renewal of body and spirit, as well as reacquainting ourselves with the outdoors. It is often a time for special occasions as well, with many graduations, weddings and family reunions on the calendar between now and the beginning of summer.
For those of us planning activities, spring offers us many great opportunities to bring the lighthearted joy of the season to the clients and communities we serve. Here are some fresh ideas, like a poetry slam – and some innovative twists on tried and true ones – certain to spread the joyful spirit of springtime and activate everyone’s minds.
Spring Poetry Slam. April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than to hold a Spring Poetry Slam? Poetry slams are events where participants come up with poems on the spot. They can write to a specific topic, word, or idea. Slams are timed, so that participants have an allotted period of time to write their verse. Often competitive, poetry slams are great for our brains. Why? First, these events challenge us to think creatively and out of our own “box,” supporting our brain’s plasticity and encouraging intellectual engagement. Second, because we have limited time to create our verse, we have the opportunity to challenge our thinking skills, especially those that can diminish with age such as attention, speeded and nimble thinking, as well as memory. Finally, this is clearly a social event, with tons of fun and a chance to mingle.
Holding a Spring Poetry Slam doesn’t require a lot of advance planning. Simply create your invitation and promote your event, using resources such as “A Brief Guide to Slam Poetry” from the American Academy of Poets or Power Poetry’s website. Decide on your judge’s panel, and encourage folks to attend, even if they may not take part in the poetry competition (after all, every event needs an audience). While you might want to allow an older audience more time to create their poems for the competition, don’t make it too easy! For some springtime themes, keep the slam poetry topics seasonal, such as baseball, gardening, or rain. Be sure to plan for music and refreshments to really make your Poetry Slam a slammin’ (ha!) good time. Consider inviting a local poet, you may even have a published one in house or at a nearby university who might read their poems (and serve as a judge). Take a look at the great poster for this year’s National Poetry Month that you can order or even download and use as the prize for your winner.
“En Plein Air” Painting. “En plein air” or the act of painting outdoors, is a wonderful way to celebrate spring. Being outside can boost our mood, especially after a long winter spent indoors. The changing light and other environmental challenges make painting “en plein air” a twist on painting in the classroom, since we must adapt and adjust our perception and work accordingly.
Take your art class outside to a local flower garden, to your own community garden, or even to the park. Let everyone paint, color or draw to their own ability and desire. You can provide many different mediums (watercolor, pastels, colored pencils) and paper types and sizes. You will need support for their drawing (lap desks, easels or particle board), additional art supplies as well as clothespins to clip or weigh down paper to keep it from blowing in the wind. Consider sharing with your class famous En Plein Air works of art for inspiration prior to going. At the end of the event, why not plan an art show with all the wonderful pieces of art created during your outing? Finally, you can bring this activity to clients with greater cognitive challenge or who are house-bound by using flowering potted bulbs you can bring indoors and using simpler art supplies. such as crayons (which come in larger sizes and can be easier to hold).
The Grass is Always Greener. Here’s a simple and quick activity that will bring springtime right into your clients’ own homes. Invite members of your community to plant a container with grass seed. They can then take that container with them, water it and watch it grow over time. Some folks even “mow” or cut their grass as it grows (if they are able to use scissors safely), or place “lawn ornaments” in their container (you could even make miniature pink flamingos yard decorations by downloading and printing the images and putting them on toothpicks). This activity is easily adapted across the cognitive continuum, and offers a great, ongoing non-verbal modality for engagement with individuals with more significant cognitive challenge through senses of touch and smell. Consider offering this activity on Earth Day (April 22nd) as part of your community’s celebration or during an Earth Day Fair or other event.