Shaking up residence programs

Janessa Morin - 26 February 2021

If you’ve ever had a conversation with an RA, odds are you’ve heard the enthusiastic words: Come to my program!

When RAs talk about programs, we’re essentially talking about an event, activity or information source that has been planned with the goal of building community, having fun and maybe even providing some opportunities for learning or skill development. In a nutshell, programs are the main ways for RAs to engage the community.

There are two main types of programs: Active programs, where residents attend and participate, or passive programs, where residents can engage with it on their own time. Examples of active programs could be a movie night or paint night, whereas a passive program might look more like a bulletin board or a pamphlet.

Active programming took a huge turn in 2020. What used to be a very in-person, physical space based concept had to be altered to either in-person with extensive safety measures, or changed to a virtual setting. Luckily, RAs rose to the challenge and planned tons of exciting, innovative, and creative programs while still keeping the community safe. I’ve listed out the top 5 most creative programs I’ve seen this year, but know that there are many, many more that could’ve made this list.

1. Paper Airplane Contest

I don’t know about you, but as a kid I loved making paper airplanes. My sister and I would spend hours folding paper in intricate ways to compete and see whose paper engineering skills were the best. While I’m sure my mom wasn’t crazy about all the paper being thrown around the house, we had a fantastic time doing it.

I was reminded of this fond memory in October this year when one RA planned a paper airplane contest for their community! Residents took turns making paper airplanes and flying them through the hallways to see whose plane made it the farthest, all the while getting a chance to chat about upcoming midterms and academic resources. This creative event sparked the competitive drive in many folks and ultimately helped everyone fly successfully into midterm season.

2. Music video

For the aspiring star, this program was a must! One RA coordinated a music video for their community, where residents sent in clips of themselves dancing or singing along to a song. All the clips then got put together to make one cohesive video of everyone jamming out to a good tune.

This program alleviated any in-person contact, which was a great step to keep people safe during the pandemic. It let people showcase their individual and unique styles, and overall fostered a sense of community by working on a project together while being physically apart.

3. Hot chocolate bar

Who doesn’t love a sweet drink on a cold day? One RA decided to spread the warmth by setting up a hot chocolate bar in the kitchen, where residents could come in one by one to have a nice cup of hot cocoa served to them with a variety of fun toppings.

It’s possible that this program made my list because food and sweets are the way to my heart, but I genuinely do think this was a great way to spin a classic event while following COVID guidelines, and boosting morale during a tough time of year.

4. Virtual puzzles

Sometimes it’s nice to exercise our brains a bit in a non-school setting. A community got to take advantage of that when one RA planned a puzzle night over Zoom! Residents were split into breakout rooms and tasked with solving a series of riddles. Each individual riddle contributed to one larger puzzle that residents had to solve.

This program made me think of escape rooms, an activity I’ve always loved for team building and having fun with friends, and was a great way for residents to work together towards a common goal.

5. Crush for Crush

Crush for Crush is an annual program in Lister where residents can pay to send a can of Crush soda with a personalized message to another resident in the building. This year, a Schäffer RA stepped up to the challenge of transforming Crush for Crush to a COVID-safe program by creating a form that residents could use to submit a message to other people in the building. Then, each resident got a can delivered to their door with any messages that had been sent to them.

I was super happy to see a program I’ve loved for the past few years adapted to fit within the constraints of the year, and it was great to hear so many positive messages being passed on between residents.

Overall, it’s been an absolute pleasure seeing all the exciting programs RAs have come up with. If you’re living in residence, I would strongly recommend checking out the events your RA is planning. Some of my favourite memories in residence are from attending and putting on various programs, and it really acts as a great way to be a part of the community!