Remarkable Summer Youth Days just ended at the Katy Texas Family History Center. These activities were geared towards engaging youth on a weekly basis, and it was a resounding success! Ninety-two different youth participated at least once, with a total of 226 attending over all weeks. Even though these activities were geared toward youth on summer break, many of the same ideas can be modified for any time of the year. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your family history center activities!
How Did It Work?
Summer Youth Days were held every Wednesday for 4 hours. Each week, a pizza lunch was provided by the local stake, and sisters in the stake also provided cookies for an afternoon snack. Youth consultants led the activities by taking care of publicity, assigning treats, and building and taking care of indexing and family tree wall displays. The event was publicized through ward announcements and bulletins and social media. Youth consultants gathered information for text and email reminders. Youth rotated through learning stations each week. These stations included: indexing, family tree, writing your personal history, and storytelling. Each week had a theme: patriotism, missionary, spirit of Elijah, parents, childhood, etc.
The weekly agenda looked like this:
10:00: Sign in, create an account, or work on indexing or other FamilySearch activities
10:30: Opening song, prayer, spiritual thought, and a family history moment
10:45: Break into 30-minute stations and rotation
12:00: Eating and socializing
12:20: Family history video and brief discussion or FamilySearch instruction
12:45: 30-minute stations and rotation
What Did Leaders Learn?
Adult support is necessary to success. It was important to have leaders there to teach, supervise, and provide other support. A sister in the stake who loves to bake brought treats every morning, and that aided success.
Being flexible with attendance is crucial. Because of summer vacations the numbers ranged from 13–45 in attendance each week. Having some games and activities on hand, such as a FamilySearch scavenger hunt and RelativeFinder, were very useful. See Youth Discovery Activities FamilySearch Wiki page.
Storytelling brings family history to life. Each week we had a different storyteller, all of which were members of the stake. We asked each storyteller to encourage the youth to ask their own family members about their stories and also reminded them to record their own stories. We tried to build the theme around our storytellers. For example: military service around July 4, modern-day pioneer around July 24, stories about fathers near Father’s Day, and stories from a recent mission as we approached going back to school.
Indexing makes a difference. We tried to coordinate our indexing project around the theme for the week. (It works best if everyone is doing the same type of record). For instance, for the day near July 4, we indexed draft registration records. We had two consultants teaching and paired youth who knew how to index with youth who didn’t. This worked well especially when we had a big group, and they had more fun when they were working together. We called our indexers our quiet heroes. Every time we saw a blue record hint in FamilySearch, we acknowledged the indexer who made it possible.
Using a family name tree helped track progress. We had consultants there each week to help youth find names of their ancestors. When they did find a name, the youth wrote the family name on the green side of a leaf and put it up on our Family Name Tree. After they did ordinance work for the ancestor in the temple, they it turned the name over to the white side of the leaf.
Personal history writing helped youth create their own family history. We used 1 Nephi 1 as the outline for writing our personal histories. Each youth had a notebook and a list of prompts based on Nephi’s outline. Each week, we read a prompt, and a timer was set for 10 minutes. The youth wrote until the timer went off, and then they each read what they wrote. See the Youth Discovery Activities FamilySearch Wiki page for personal history prompts.
Missionary work overlaps with family history work. At least one set of missionaries came each week to help. On the last day, we compared the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, filling the whole earth (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2) to family history and brainstormed ways the youth could share what they learned.
What Was the Best Part of Summer Youth Days?
Sweet family stories:
- Because one young man learned about the memory feature of FamilySearch, when he went to his grandparents’ house for vacation, he took pictures of all the things in a trunk that belonged to his great-grandfather and uploaded them to FamilySearch. He was very excited.
- One young boy who wasn’t interested at first became interested after he found an obituary of his grandfather that said “he loved to camp,” because the young man also loved to camp.
- A set of grandparents shared a spiritual experience they had at the temple baptistry when they went with their granddaughters to perform baptisms for the dead for family names they had found.
- While worshipping in the temple with a recently called missionary, a mother shared that it was even more special because the missionary and his younger sister had found the names of their great-great grandparents during youth days. The mother and father were completing the temple work as they attended the temple with their son.
Youth Days was a great experience in Katy, Texas. Now the challenge is to keep the stone rolling. Since summer is over, you can invite your youth to a Saturday discovery experience or a weeknight of family history stories, games, or activities. Some family history centers hold holiday workshops whenever the youth have a short break from school. Always remember to coordinate with your local priesthood leaders and youth leaders. Be flexible and have fun!