Military Kids Club Start Up Plan
By Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman & Becky Harris
Families on the HomeFront
Military Kids’ Club (MKC) is an after or before school program for military-connected students. MKC was started in a large elementary located in FishHawk community, 45 minute from MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. The area has a large military population despite the distance from base due to highly rated schools.
Why did we start MKC and why are we sharing it with you? There is a need for a place where military-connected students connect and support each other. It is known that military kids who are resilient will manage the transition between new schools in a healthy manner. One way to build resilience in children is through developing connections with people. An MKC allows students to develop social connections with peers, and thus build resilience. MKC can be especially successful if the community and school is located far from a military installation.
The academic term used when referencing military families is “living a highly mobile lifestyle.” There is truth in the reference with daunting facts to support it.
· Department of Defense moves 650,000 military personnel yearly.
· There are more than 1.2 million active duty military-connected children, 650,000 attend public school.
· 200,000 school-age military-connected students move every year.
· The average military family will move every one to three years.
· Military families will move 2.4 times as often a civilian peers.
· A military-connected student will experience six to nine school changes through their K-12 education.
Of course, not all new kids in school are from military families. Civilians make up a larger demographic of moving across the United States. However, some military kids will take on the stress of frequent moves their family experiences. According to a recent 2017 study by Military Child Education Coalition, frequent moves can exacerbate existing social-emotional issues because of the changing support system that comes from moving to a new school and the difficulties with keeping in touch with friends in addition to the ordinary stresses of adolescence.3
Military-connected students also struggle for sure footing while trying to bridge the curriculum and academic gaps that come with frequent school changes. Coupled with nearly 18 years war, increasing ops tempo, and frequent deployments military families endure, the simple extensions of support and friendship during a time of instability can be the connection kids need to thrive in a new community.
Military Kids’ Club was created to support the military kid population and is centered on school experiences. From being the new kids to facing multiple deployments, MKC allows kids to connect with each other through shared experiences.
MKC Start Up Kit is designed for elementary and intermediate schools. We created this information sheet and plan so any school, PTA or support agency could start their own MKC. The MKC Start Up Kit is free, easy to use and offers guidance on structure, budget and operation. This template is general enough to allow schools, PTA’s and others to make it their own MKC based on their needs.
Note: We believe helpful information that supports military-connected kids should be available everywhere. We are all in this together – your kids and mine. If you do share this document or start your own MKC, we ask that you credit Families on the Homefront when referencing. Please do not copy or sell any of MKC material. All material is original and everything we suggest for an MKC has been successfully accomplished in a school setting.
We are currently working on specific curriculum, easy lesson plans and templates for MKC’s to use at their monthly meetings. Look for more information on our website soon.
Have questions? Contact Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman at firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of MKC is to connect through our shared experiences with other military-connected students and our civilian peers within our community and bring awareness and support to our unique lifestyle.
MKC has four main goalsin which every meeting or event should incorporate or touch on.
1) Hails and Farewells
Hails –Military kids know what it’s like to be the new kid and MKC members’ priority is to welcome all new students – military connected or civilian – to their school with a welcome basket/bag from us. The goal is to make new students feel welcome, connected and included on their first day so they can focus more on school and less on being new.
Farewells– It’s hard to leave a school mid-year or before school has officially ended. MKC will focus on ensuring all moving students feel like they will not be forgotten by giving them a send off gift from club/school.
2) Veterans Day and/or Memorial Day Celebrations
MKC members should help educate our fellow peers on the meaning and difference between two military related national holidays and celebrate the men and women who wear (or have worn) the uniform through projects, art and service.
- Participate in Veterans Day Ceremony
- Guest speakers
- Thank you cards to Veterans to local VA homes
- Family trees of military service
- Medal of Honor lessons
- Thank you cards to overseas troops
- Wreath making for local cemeteries
3) Purple UP and the Month of the Military Child: MKC should lead the charge to celebrate the Month of the Military Child in April through a week long or one day of activities, programs and projects. Purple Up should be lead by the club and it’s members.
- Purple lunch service
- Wearing purple,
- Guest speakers
- Art projects
- Morning show featuring military kids
- Map of where Military Kids were born
4) Connecting with each other through shared experiences
- Deployment buddies
- New friendships
- Supporting each other through understanding and empathy
- Supporting the military community and understanding the unique challenges
Military Kids’ Club Program
Who runs the program? The program fits nicely under school guidance counselor, lead teacher or a PTA,PTO. The program needs a teacher lead or sponsor and a parent volunteer. The students should to stay under the school umbrella and responsibility, that’s why a teacher or staff sponsor is important. Moving MKC off property will face challenges. However, a support agency such as base youth center or recreation center could be a prime sponsor for MKC.
How often should meetings be held? Once a month. Teachers and school staff traditionally take on many extra duties outside the classroom. A start up club is easy to run and maintain for teachers and parent leads due to only meeting once a month. Set a recurring date to meet such as meeting held on the 2nd Thursday of every month, pick what works best for the teacher and parents. Schedule the entire year in advance. Note that there will be students unable to participate due to bus schedules and after or before school care issue. MKC organizers should be mindful of limits to participation.
How long are the club meetings?Club meeting should only run an hour long, there is much to accomplish. It’s best to have as little down time as possible, but it’s up to club organizers to do what is right for them. Start with meet and greet, club news, active games and end with service project.
Where are club meetings held? Club meetings are held on school property before or after school. It’s best held in a multipurpose room where students can do active games. However, meetings can be portable and moved outside for games, inside (classroom, cafeteria, media centers, hallways) for indoor, less active activities.
How many kids are in the MKC? Adult supervision needs will dictate how many students can participate in a club. Two adults can manage 50-60 students. Anything above 60 students will need an additional parent volunteer to successfully manage. However, encourage lots of parent volunteers to join in the fun. You can never have too many volunteers. Be ready and organized for each meeting. Boredom and chaos makes for low participation for future meetings.
Who can attend MKC? MKC should be offered to active duty service member students, but it’s important to include other groups of kids that are connected to military service. Groups such as veteran, retired, guard and reserve students should also be included. MKC also can include children of, but not limited to, Department of Defense employees, possible civilian contractors and other federal employees who “deploy” or serve such as Department of Homeland Security and State Department. Membership is based on the needs of the school. In some schools, MKC can be available to all students including civilian kids, too, depending on the size of the club. MKC is about inclusion, it should be a club that encourages friendships and builds awareness of the unique military lifestyle.
How does a MKC work with so many different age groups? MKC is unique because it is offered to students K-6 or elementary students. MKC organizers should be mindful of the diverse age groups involved and plan games/activities where all ages can be engaged and successful. We’ve found that splitting groups up by desired service branches was helpful with team activities. Also allow older students to be leaders in the group, it builds confidence in students to know they are responsible for others. Choose activities that all students can be successful.
How do you enroll and communicate with parents? MKC, like other school clubs, need permission forms approved by the school and given to the parent. Each form will need different information, but a basic contact sheet is a good start.
Description of MKC, dates and times of meetings.
Student full name:
Address, phone, email:
How is student getting home?
Active, retired, veteran, guard, reserve, DoD
Permission to photograph?
Creating an email group and a closed or private Facebook Group is a great way to share pictures, upcoming meetings and gather volunteers. Make sure you have permission to photograph students. Many military families are hesitant to have their child’s photo published on social media, so obtaining permission on the sign up form will help prevent misunderstandings.
What are the costs associated with starting a MKC? Budgets are up to each MKC. Start up costs are pretty low. Below is a cost estimate I used for my first year to cover 50 students per month:
Permission slips 150 copies PTA/school covered
Name tags 60 $5
Poster board 20 $12
Crayons/colored pencils 12-15 boxes $20
Min2WinIt Games M&Ms, silo cups etc $15-$25
Games hula hoops, cones etc., School loan
Veterans cards blank cards $8
Ornaments DYI supplies $20
New student welcome gift bags, paper, letter, gift $25/10 bags
Farewell gifts frames, printed pic $3 per gift
Purple Up posters $10
End of year party snacks,drinks donated
This is a bare bones start up with focus on connecting with each other through games, ice breakers, small groups and small crafts. Adding to the budget could be making t-shirts, snacks every meeting, specific projects and more.
The first club we paid for things out of own pocket or asked for donations from parents. We received a mini grant from the school PTA for Purple Up supplies. The following year, the PTA gave us funding in the beginning of the year as a PTA program with $500 for the entire year. It is more than enough.
MKC Sample Monthly Meeting Activities
Developing club meetings around monthly themes and character traits will help guide activities and service projects. When adding activities that build on social emotional learning, the topic can correlate with any character development; resilience program; or social emotional learning program already being offered at the school. For example the Positivity Project is a program used at some elementary schools. Based on the calendar of traits being taught in the classroom, MKC incorporate activities that have similar focus. Other schools have a specific character trait each month, so MKC activities can incorporate that character trait each month.
- Ice Breakers
- Where are you from?
- Do we have anything in common?
- Name tags, all about me sheets
- Mapping where we’ve lived (birth places with emoji stickers)
- Club goals/rules
- What should go into welcome/new student bag
- Advice for the new kids
- Pass a compliment (sticky notes)
- Ideas for Farewell gifts/projects
- What’s it like to be the new kid?
- Is it hard to say goodbye or say hello?
- Wrap it up/Dizzy Mummy
- How to participate/celebrate Veterans Day
- Thank you letter to VA homes
- In School projects
- Family Tree of military service
- Two truths and lie
- What are the service branches
- Army, Navy & Air Force
- Assemble welcome bags
- Ideas for Farewells
- What do you do special or unique to celebrate holidays?
- Battle Ground (rock, paper, scissors battle)
- MKC ornaments
- Medal of Honor Ornament
- Christmas cards to Veterans homes
- Separation anxiety
- Small group discussion by age
- Ready for Purple UP
- Planning the perfect Parent/Child date
- Date planning
- Parent fun
- Plan Purple Up
- What makes being a military connected kid unique? Likes and dislikes?
- PT Test or American Warrior Ninja on playground
- Plan Purple UP
- After action report – What did you like best about Purple Up?
- How can we do better?
- Thank you letters to staff and community and parents
- Farewell to all club members who are PCSin’g
- End of year party
MKC and military-connected student resources
We created a list of websites, agencies and blogs that support military families in schools and at home. As you build your MKC, resources and information will be important.
o Impact of Social Networking Sites on Children in Military Families– https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/article/impact-social-networking-sites-children-military-families/
o When military parents transition to civilian life, so do their kids https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/2018/04/04/military-parents-transition-civilian-life-kids/
o Military Parents’ Perceptions of Public School Support for Their Children –https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/article/military-parents-perceptions-of-public-school-support-for-their-children/
- Tutor.com/militaryis free to all military families. Free live 24 help in 16 subjects
- Seasons of My Military Student Parent & Teacher Group: We are a group of strong voices, invested parents, amazing teachers, caring counselors, involved school liaison officers, rock star school administrators, and we are all passionate about helping military-connected kids succeed in school. The goal of our Cultivation Team is to engage in common experiences, share strategies that work, and support the military families and teachers who are on the frontlines of school transition. 1100 members
- List of School Liaison Officers: https://www.dodea.edu/partnership/schoolliaisonofficers.cfm
- Military Kids’ Life Magazine: http://www.chameleonkids.com/magazine/
Information about Military Kids’ Clubs in the US and around the globe