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Field Day

A classic way to celebrate the end of the school year.

Tags: event guide, field day

Typically it is an outdoor, school-wide event in which students rotate through a series of fun games and activity stations.

The event can last from two hours to a whole day and, depending upon your space and staffing, students can participate all at once or come in shifts. A Field Day can be a community event as well.

1- EVENT LOGISTICS

Great events start weeks in advance with thorough planning and forethought. Use the following resources to prepare:

  • The Event Planning Guide will help you consider the important elements in staging your athletic event.
  • The Planning Timeline will help you carefully schedule your event preparations.
  • The Field Day Staffing and Supplies Checklist will help you assign roles to your colleagues and ensure you have everything you need for a successful event. 

2- LOCATION

Pick a location that is safe, accessible, and spacious. Establish a layout that will accommodate your activity stations.

  • A large field or park is ideal, but you can be creative to make a Field Day work in smaller spaces as well.
  • We suggest 3-10 activity stations. Take into consideration space, time, and the number of participants.
  • The space needed for each activity varies, but ideally most stations should be at least 50 feet x 20 feet. Many activities can be modified for smaller spaces.
  • Use signs, cones, or chalk to separate and identify the stations.

View a sample layout for a field day.

3- CREATING TEAMS AND GROUPS

Decide how you will create teams in advance. We suggest you divide the participants into teams of about 10 - 20. Then, group 2 - 4 equally matched teams together so that you have the same number of groups as you have stations. The groups will rotate around the stations together.

  • Consider making each class a team and pairing two class-teams of the same grade together in a group. Another option is to have each teacher divide their class into two equally matched teams and have them rotate among the stations together. Alternatively, you can assign kids to teams and groups based on their age or size or something similar.
  • Each group should have at least one adult supervisor who rotates with it and each station should have one leader who remains stationary.
  • Make sure you have enough equipment for the number of participants at each station.

4- ROTATION SCHEDULE

Each group should start at an assigned station and then rotate until they have completed them all. The time needed for each station will depend on the size of your teams and the activities you choose. Expect to dedicate 20 - 30 minutes to each station. Come up with a rotation order and a system for queuing each rotation in advance.

  • Rotation time should be based on the activity that is expected to take the longest. You can design the activities to all roughly fit in the same time period, but groups can also repeat a station activity or have a few minutes of free play while they wait to rotate.
  • Remember to allot time for activity explanations and to rotate between stations.
  • Each station should have a station leader that remains stationary and leads the activity for each group as they come through. Be sure the station leaders are keeping track of time so the activities wrap up before it's time to rotate.
  • Make announcements or ring a bell when it is time to rotate, or leave it up to the station leaders to check their watches and keep groups rotating on a pre-set schedule
  • Make sure the station leaders know where to send each group when it is time to rotate.

5- WATER/SNACKS/LUNCH

Have plenty of water on hand and include a plan for snacks and/or lunch if the event will last more than a few hours.

  • We suggest 24 oz (3 cups) of water for each participant if water fountains aren't available.
  • Set up a water table for thirsty participants. Buy gallon jugs of water and small cups.
  • If the event will last more than 3 hours, consider providing a snack such as fruit, granola bars, or packets of pretzels. To keep track of who has received the snack, give batches to the group leaders to distribute, or give them out to students using tickets.
  • Bring garbage bags for paper cups and snack wrappers if necessary.
  • If your Field Day will be an all-day event, plan for a lunch. You can return to the school cafeteria, require kids to bring bagged lunch, or provide lunch at the event.

6- SELECTING ACTIVITIES

Choose high-energy, inclusive activities that emphasize a variety of skills e.g. speed, strategy, or teamwork to play to various students' strengths. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ridiculous Relay: Each team starts by sitting single file behind a pile of clothing. On your command, the first student on each team gets up and puts on all the clothes in their pile over their own clothing. After running to the turn-around point and back, they take off all the clothes before tagging the next student. The first team to have all their runners finish wins the game. Use large clothing that every child can comfortably fit over their clothes. Include a variety of items like shoes, pants, belts, shirts, hats, ties, and scarves and make sure each team has a similar set or number of articles of clothing.
  • Water Balloon Toss: Each team forms two lines facing one another so that everyone has a partner across from him/her about arm's length apart. Give each pair a water balloon to toss to the student across from them. Every successful toss requires both students to take one step backward. For consistency, all pairs should toss and step back at the same time. The last team with a pair that has an intact water balloon wins. If you run out of time and more than one team is still tossing, the team with the most intact balloons at the end wins.
  • Obstacle Medley: Create a fun and varied obstacle course using any available materials. Explain the course to participants. For example, tell students they will spin around a baseball bat 3 times, weave around the cones, hula hoop 5 times, run backwards, jump rope 10 times, crab walk, and sprint back to the start. Teams sit single file behind their first runners. On your command, the first runner of each team completes the obstacle course and tags the next runner. The first team to have all runners complete the course and return to their seated line wins. You can do obstacle courses with no equipment that include running forwards and backwards, spinning, skipping, hopping, and doing jumping jacks, etc. Check out two videos that show examples of medlays and relays: Obstacle Medley and Continuous Relay.
  • Tug of War: Start with a long thick rope. Mark the center with tape or ribbon. Then place "goal" markings about 10-15 feet on either side of the center line. Have two teams line up on opposite ends of the rope, grasping it behind the goal marking. Start with the center of the rope aligned with a marking on the ground (or with you). On your command, all students "tug" the rope as hard as they can. A team wins when they pull the "goal" marking on the other team's side across the ground marking. You can play once, best of 3, or tournament style if you have more than two teams.
  • Clean Your Space: Divide your playing space in half or into pie-shaped sections based on the number of teams in your group. Put an equal number of fluff balls (or similar lightweight objects) in each team's space. On your command, everyone begins throwing the fluff balls out of their space and into the other teams' space as fast as they can. Each person can only throw one fluff ball at a time. Kicking or pushing the fluff balls is not allowed. The goal is to have the cleanest space (fewest fluff balls) when the time is up. The game can be tiring, so play for a couple minutes before stopping to declare a winner. You can then reset and play again.
  • Pile Up: Lay a sheet down flat on the ground for each team. Tell teams to have all team members stand on the sheet together at the same time, with no one touching any part of the ground that is not covered by the sheet. Then have everyone get off the sheets, fold them in half, and try again. Keep folding the sheet in half until teams can no longer fit everyone on it. The winning team is the one that gets their entire team on the smallest sheet.
  • Other Activities: Consider classic games like a potato sack or pillow case race; hula hoop contest; three-legged race; or egg-in-spoon relay. You can also include short sessions of volleyball, soccer, softball, or basketball, etc. Check our resources for other ideas too: elementary school games, middle school games.

7- SCORING/PRIZES

You have many options for scoring a Field Day if you choose to, but keep in mind that the day should be about fun and keeping score may not be necessary.

  • Reward the winning team at each station. This gives everyone an increased chance of experiencing a win at some point during the event. Station leaders can give out small prizes like stickers or ribbons after each game.
  • Keep track of who wins each rotation for each group of teams that rotate together. Tally the wins at the end and award an overall winner for each group. The group winners can be recognized at an awards ceremony or simply by the supervisors of the group with small prizes (stickers, dollar store trinkets, ribbons, etc.)
  • Tally the total number of wins for each team (if a game was played more than once in a station the win goes to the team that won the most rounds). At the end of the event hold an awards ceremony to recognize the team(s) with the most overall wins. Prizes can range from trophies and ribbons to printed-out certificates and pictures hung up in the school.
  • At the start of the day create overall teams. If you have 2 teams per group (that rotate stations together) then you have two overall teams (e.g. team red and team blue). One team in each group belongs to team red and one belongs to team blue. At the end you tally the wins for all the red teams and all the blue teams and award an overall winner.

This can help bring everyone together with camaraderie throughout the event and for a culminating moment. This method allows entire schools to work together as younger kids can compete against similar kids in each rotation, but be on the same overall team as older kids. If you choose to do this you can also ask each student to wear a red or blue t-shirt that day to help distinguish the teams or get colored wristbands.

8- ADDITIONAL IDEAS

Have teams come up with team names before they get started. This will boost team spirit by giving teams something to cheer for. They can make signs for their first activity. Staff can make fun and encouraging announcements that highlight each team throughout the event.

9- RESOURCES

Great events start weeks in advance with thorough planning and forethought. Use the following resources to prepare:

Event Planning Guide

Planning Timeline

Staffing and Supplies Checklist

Layout: Field Day

Activities

Youth and Schools