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The Activity Director's Office
Silvana's Practical Insights
by Silvana Clark,  Professional speaker, presenting keynotes and workshops
on humor in the workplace as well as ideas on creative activities.
About Slivana

Silvana Clark began her
activity/recreation career 20
years ago as a spotter for kids
on a trampoline. Every
Saturday, for four hours, she'd
watch kids bounce up and
down, up and down, up get the idea. Since
then she's written eleven
books and is a popular
speaker at conferences
around the country. She was a
keynoter at the British
Columbia Activity
Professionals conference and
recently gave a keynote for the
Wisconsin Activity
Professionals Conference.
Her sessions are filled with
humor, practical information
and small group activities.
She is recovering from her
appearance on the Fox reality
show, Trading Spaces, where
she spent a week living with a
family that saw no need for
any kind of fun activities.
Contact her at or
Check Out These Free Community Groups

If you are like most activity professionals, you enjoy an unlimited budget to buy expensive
recreation equipment, hire Tiger Woods to give lessons to retired golf enthusiasts and
order top-of-the-line craft supplies. In reality, you probably collect empty toilet paper rolls
to stock your craft closet. No problem! Here are some ways to stretch your activity
programming dollars. Try looking through the yellow pages of the phone book or a local
Chamber of Commerce for a number of creative resources.

  • Older Girl scouts could provide craft classes or lead sing-a-longs as part of a
    service project. One Boy Scout troop made 12 birdhouses as a badge project. Then
    they installed a birdhouse outside twelve resident’s windows. The houses attracted a
    variety of birds and sparked many a discussion about birds.
  • 4-H Club members love displaying their skills. They may even set up a petting zoo at
    your facility. One 4-H Club regaled the residents at an assisted living center by
    displaying their pet tarantulas! Another big hit are fainting goats. These goats
    appear “normal” until they hear a loud scream. At that point, they actually fall over
    on their sides and faint! (Hey, we all know activity professionals look for creative
  • A large dance studio welcomed the chance to do their dress rehearsal at a senior
    center. Residents loved the dancing and fancy costumes, while the young
    performers got another chance to perform before an appreciative audience.
  • Check if a local college offers recreation or physical education degrees. Those
    students could gain practical experience by coming to your facility and leading low-
    key physical activities.
  • Many senior centers have square dance groups that enjoy performing. See if they’ll
    visit your facility. One senior center had a harmonica band that was booked four
    months in advance because they were so popular at nursing homes and assisted
    living centers.
  • Toastmaster clubs are located in communities across the country. Members often
    participate in the “Tall Tales Contest” where speakers tell outlandish stories.
    Toastmaster members look for opportunities to practice their Tall Tales before
    contests, and your facility could be the perfect place. Toastmasters also compete in
    local and national humorous speech contests. You’ll get a great afternoon of semi-
    professional storytelling for your residents.
  • The National Spelling Bee is now broadcast on ESPN! Many local elementary
    schools offer preliminary spelling bees. Invite them to use your facility to give young
    spellers experience competing in front of an audience.
  • Is there a college with a Summer Stock program near by? Call to see if the director
    would bring his performers to your facility for a performance or as a dress rehearsal.
  • Ask staff to let you know when their high school students are having a dance.Then
    call the high school and find out who is in charge of decorating. Students spend
    hundreds of dollars decorating their gyms for their dances…then throw everything
    away afterwards. Offer to help take down decorations and you’ll end up with an
    amazing amount of decorations to use in your programs.
  • If you’re walking by a photographer’s studio, stop in and ask for their used
    cardboard frames. Many have hundreds of frames they use when people select their
    pictures. These frames are usually discarded if they have a small smudge. I once
    had a photographer give me a box of 500 cardboard frames. He thought they looked
    “used”, but I saw potential for hundreds of craft projects.

With a few phone calls, your activity programs could range from tap dancing two year olds
to 4-H exhibits of fainting goats. Have fun!
Providing Internet Resources
for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

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