I have traveled with students to national conventions over 25 times and always have a great time. I have learned setting up specific goals and expectations as well as planning fun things for my students during down time is vital. My students and their parents are clear from the get-go that these excursions will certainly be fun and memorable, but first and foremost, they are business trips. The purpose of the trip is to gain knowledge, interact with other scholastic journalists and bring home great ideas for the publications at our school. And, yes… see some great cities all around the country.
One activity I have done with my students for about 15 years is a Scavenger Hunt. On Wednesday or Thursday evening after any convention activities have concluded and well before curfew, I divide my group into small teams. They are given a list of places/people to find around the convention hotel and take selfies to prove they found the item on the list.
Find the Exhibition Hall where registration/displays will be
Find the JEA Bookstore
Find a local convention committee member and tell them “Thanks!”
Find a yearbook staff from a school with fewer than 500 students
Find a publications staff that has never been to the national convention before
Find an adviser with 25+ years of experience.
Find anyone wearing St. Louis Cardinals swag who is NOT from Missouri
Find xxxxx Room (I have them find lots of different meeting rooms where sessions are being held)
They have one hour and I lecture them at length about appropriate behavior in a hotel — no running or screaming. They may not leave the hotel and they are strictly forbidden to accost regular hotel guests or the hotel employees. I instruct them to be basically invisible to regular human beings!
This is a great way to get them familiar with the convention area so they can easily find their sessions and also wears them out so they are exhausted and ready for lights out!
Another activity I have done on the first night is more of a BINGO game than a scavenger hunt. Put different descriptions on a grid and have the students find people that fit those descriptions and sign the paper.
Yearbook Photo Editor
First-Time Convention Attendee
BONUS ACTIVITY: Have your students complete a “Humans of JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention.” They must find a great story about someone they met/interviewed at the convention. I assigned the project the first night we arrived and had it due on the first day we returned to school. I was really impressed with the results and it was a fun way to get them more involved with students/advisers from other schools.
Source: Yearbook Discoveries