New To The Recreation Field?

Just starting out in the recreation programming field? Want some advice from people who have planned their share of craft classes, day camps and teen special events? Here is a smorgasbord of tips to help plan high-quality, fun, programs for all age groups.

· If you want to become a great programmer and a leader in your field, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and propose a new program. Do something the department hasn’t done that is a need in the community.

--Katy Bower, Pearland Parks and Recreation Department, Pearland, Texas

· Treat all your participants as if the program would not happen without them! Your staff and volunteers are your backbone. Show your appreciation. A little goes a long way.

--Brandi Areval, City of Deer Park Parks and Recreation, Texas

· As a recent college graduate, the best tip I can give is to “relax.” Start your job by finding out all you can about what you are doing wrong. Learn about what works and what doesn’t. Find out who the audience is and isn’t. What’s their income level and educational background? Once you have all this information and knowledge, you’ll be more successful.

--Laurie Connally, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Inks Lake State Park

· When developing a new program, the first step is to identify the participants. Then structure the class days, times and location accordingly.

--Sara Stadler, Pasadena Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Networking is very important. E-mail other city recreation departments and exchange brochures with each other. Then get involved in the community and volunteer. Incorporate the program ideas you learn into your own programs.

--Ann Sanatana, Tyler Parks and Recreation Department, Tyler Texas

· Know your audience. Be sure programs are geared to applicable age groups. Do your homework and find out what programs they may enjoy that they haven’t done before. Then make sure to show enthusiasm when presenting the new program.

--Virginia Harrell, City of Deer Park, Texas

· Expand your education! Come to the Colorado Recreation School in June. See award-winning facilities, network with associates and experts. Learn from the best.

--April Luxner, Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects, Texas

· Get involved with new trends. Wii bowling is popular for all ages, especially seniors. The Wii bowling leagues offer senior adults the fun and competition of bowling without stress on their joints. People can participate as individuals or teams.

--Diane Mickelson, City of Mesquite Parks and Recreation Department, Texas

· Keep young teens involved in the department by offering a junior-lifeguarding program. These young teens learn how to help others and also learn self-safety. As they feel a part of our staff, they’ll be prepared to become part of your staff as they get older.

--Kim Bellotte, City of Jacinto City Parks and Recreation Department, Texas

· Use the internet to research trends and other recreation programs. The information is easy to find and will provide a wealth of information for your own programs.

--Mona Pimentol, City of Grapevine Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Don’t hesitate to call other cities and talk to programmers. They are always willing to share ideas. This back-and-forth dialogue will give you both new ideas.

--Randy Rogers, Addison Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Planning is the key to a successful program. Take time to work out the small details. Evaluate programs for success by asking for input from staff and participants. Don’t forget, word-of-mouth is the best publicity!

--Janet Martin, San Antonio Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Be prepared! Have all the supplies you need ready to go. Make sure you know the rules to the game or how the activity should run. Be peppy so your enthusiasm rubs off on participants. Don’t be afraid to work out of your comfort zone.

--Sandy Rodriguez, El Paso Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Remember to promote and market programs through school flyers, community newsletters and local businesses. Become involved in your state parks and recreation association. Offer unique recreation programs that stand out from other surrounding communities.

--Keri Kirkwood, City of Murphy Parks and Recreation, Texas

· Raise some funds with a karaoke auction. The winning bidder gets to pick a song for someone in the audience. That person then bids NOT to sing.

--Dale Connally, Baylor University, Texas

· Teens do more than play video games. Offer a class in “Altered Book Collage” for crafty teens. Find cheap used books at garage sales and thrift stores. Grab paints, glue and old magazines to recreate the book into a work of art. There are lots of Web sites that give specifics on creating altered books. This is a unique craft teens probably haven’t done before.

--Frances Fisher, The Menninger Clinic, Houston, Texas

Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. She presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. She can be reached at (615) 662-7432 or via e-mail at