Here are the essential six steps for Mix It Up at Lunch Day:
- Create a planning group
- Determine a lunchtime activity
- Make it festive
- Publicize the event
- Capture the day with pictures and video
- Evaluate, debrief and follow up
1. Create a planning group
You cannot – and should not – plan a Mix It Up at Lunch campaign alone. The “mixing up” should begin at the outset. Create a diverse group, not just the usual players. And include others – administrators, counselors, cafeteria workers, custodians, parents and community members – in the plan. The most effective Mix It Up campaigns bring supportive adults together with student leaders.
At the elementary level:
- Two or three teachers from varied grade levels can serve as the planning group.
- Assign tasks to various grade levels. Older students can write conversation starters while younger students make decorations.
At the middle and high school levels:
- Enlist an existing group to lead the planning. There are obvious choices, such as a diversity group, student government or service club. Also consider less-obvious choices, such as foreign language clubs, athletic teams or arts groups.
- Who has influence at your school? Is there a particular teacher, coach or student leader who can help build momentum for the event? Get that person on board.
Download a planning checklist for Mix It Up at Lunch.
- Get students to sit with someone new at lunch; and
- Engage them in positive conversations.
The focus is to help students make connections across boundaries. “Aha!” moments are a sign of success, when students who don’t normally interact say, “Oh, you like that, too!”
Mixing It Up
- Hand out something to each student – color-coded cards, small candies, playing cards, alphabet letters, shapes or symbols – as lunch begins.
- Decorate tables with matching colors or symbols, so students know where to go.
- Have starter questions on the tables, either posted or on slips of paper. Offer enough questions to avoid conversational lulls.
- Conversation prompts should be open-ended, not yes-or-no questions. “What’s your favorite … (song, movie, children’s book, Harry Potter character, school subject, sport, TV show, restaurant, etc.)?”
- Another good word for conversation prompts is “Describe,” as in, “Describe your ideal day” or “Describe your perfect vacation.”
- At the elementary level, have adults on hand – assigned by table or roaming – to get the conversation started and keep it moving if it hits a lull. The adults can be drawn from throughout the school staff. Or consider reaching further: Invite school board members, community leaders, service club members or others to take on this role for the day.
- At the middle and high school level, students from the planning group can take on this role. Remember that the goal is to get the discussion started; once it’s going, the facilitator should be a less active participant.
A brainstorming session among key planners can generate some good ideas. Here are a few to get you started:
- Consider having a theme, then decorate accordingly. (One of our Model Schools chose “LifeSavers” as a theme, handing out LifeSaver candies to determine table assignments and hanging giant LifeSavers on the walls.)
- Rearrange the tables in the cafeteria. This can be a real “wow” factor as students arrive.
- Having conversation starters on slips of paper is fine, but consider something a little more creative. One school put the questions on Popsicle sticks. Another attached them to balloons.
- Ask students to mix up their clothing for the day, wearing unexpected color combinations, mixed patterns, shirts on backward, etc. Or have teachers do this, unannounced, marching into the cafeteria after students are seated. (The teacher idea can be especially entertaining for elementary students.)
- Have music, live or taped.
- Have some sort of entertainment. (One school had jump-ropers perform.)
- Offer prizes for students who can name everyone at the table and say something specific about each one. (“That’s Alicia, and she likes to ride horses.”)
- Create an activity to wrap up the lunch event. (One high school started a conga line at lunch, snaking it around campus as it grew longer and longer.)
What about a flashmob?
Consider a flashmob in the cafeteria, the week before the event.
At the elementary level, teachers and other staff members could perform the flashmob.
For middle and high schools, involve choirs or bands for a flashmob, then hand out fliers letting students know that Mix It Up at Lunch is coming next week.
(If you do a flashmob, capture it on video and post it on our Facebook page!)
Employ all avenues to reach multiple populations – students, teachers, administrators, other school employees, parents and community members. Consider all the ways information is spread throughout your school and community – email, calendars, newsletters, morning announcements, posters, fliers, reminders, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on. Use as many as possible.
Let your local media—both TV and newspaper—about the event ahead of time, and invite reporters to attend the event. It’s easy when you use our draft media advisory.
Then consider other ways to spread the word. The planning group, for example, could create a skit to perform at a school assembly, something depicting the mixed-up lunchtime interaction. Capture the skit on video and post it on YouTube to further spread the word.
You can be straightforward, explaining when the event will be, why it’s being planned and so on. Or you can build a bit of mystery, starting with posters or fliers that pique interest (“Are you ready to Mix It Up?”), slowly revealing details about the event.
Publicity should begin at least three weeks in advance of the event.
5. Capture the day
In addition to having someone (more than one person, ideally) capture still photographs and video of the event, consider posting a few camera people at the cafeteria exits to ask students what they thought of the event. You’ll get some wisecracks and negativity, of course, but you’ll also get some strong comments from students who understand and appreciate the power of what they just experienced.
These images will help you capture the success of Mix It Up. They also will be useful tools for planning follow-up activities in the coming year or promoting Mix It Up at Lunch Day next year.
Consider using the video to raise more awareness about the issue of social boundaries. Try to get a spot on the school board agenda, for example, to show the video to elected officials. Or have student ambassadors show the video at local civic group meetings.
At the elementary level, alert your local media – TV and newspapers – about the event by calling or emailing the assignment editors or reporters who cover education. Colorful images of kids doing something new at lunch should be a good draw. (Here’s a draft press release to help you get started.)
The same holds for middle and upper grades, with an addition: If you have a school newspaper or photography/video/film class, invite them to cover it as well.
Create some sort of evaluation process as a way to get feedback from all participants.
At the elementary level, ask for a show of hands in each class after the lunch activity, asking, “Should we do this again?” – then collect results.
For middle and high school students, consider an instant poll on the school website.
A more elaborate approach (paper evaluations handed out at the event, or SurveyMonkey questions) also can be used.
Have the planning group meet after the event (with survey data in hand, plus their own thoughts and observations) to make a list of “lessons learned.” This meeting is essential, and should be done soon after the event, when everything remains fresh in mind. Record thoughts and issues so your next Mix It Up event is even more successful.
During the past decade we have learned that schools experience deeper impacts from Mix It Up when they plan at least two follow-up activities during the year to sustain the message.
Another national campaign is a natural ally for this work and can help with timing the follow-up activity: No Name-Calling Week.
Also, consider a Day of Service where you carry out a community project (cleaning up a park, helping a local nonprofit, etc.). Working together for a greater good, while crossing those social boundaries, is another way to diminish prejudice and reduce biases. (It’s also another chance for positive media coverage involving young people!)
Or, you can simply Mix It Up at Lunch again, on other days through the year. (Some schools now Mix It Up at Lunch on a monthly or even weekly basis!)
What are your plans for follow-up activities? Share them with us on Facebook.