When I managed two first year residence buildings at our local university, I learned very quickly that it doesn’t always take a lot to make stressed-out students happy. Usually a listening ear and some planned activities did the trick – throw free food into the mix and you had friends for life. But the one thing that always surprised me was how much the students LOVED colouring pages. I remember one year, just before the December exams, I found some jumbo colouring books (one was Cars themed and one was Winnie-the-Pooh if I remember correctly). I left them in the building’s main office just in case someone was interested in colouring them. Not long after, I walked into the building to find several students (and most of my staff) so engaged in colouring you could almost hear a pin drop. The excitement buzzed in the air – with almost no technology in sight (aside from the occasional checking of a cell phone). All I could do was smile. They were so happy because of something so simple.
Today I work part time at the same university’s library. As a little social experiment during the current final exam period, I decided to put out colouring pages on our main desk to see how the students would react. I photocopied several holiday themed ones as well as generic ones. I laid them all out on the desk with a sign that read, “De-stress with colouring pages!” Well, needless to say, it didn’t take long for someone to take the bait. As I was helping a student at the other end of the desk I heard the delighted squeal of, “Oh my god, coloring pages!” I immediately smiled and admittedly laughed a little on the inside. It never ceases to amaze me how the older we get the more we seek solace from the simpler things in life – and more often than not, enjoyments that remind us of our childhood.
Without a doubt, the colouring pages were a huge success. Later in the day one of the other clerks started to make paper snowflakes as well, an activity that was also a resounding success. Throw in free candy canes and homemade cookies and you had the makings of a Normal Rockwell painting. There was so much cheer and excitement over these two simple activities that the unknowing person would have thought we had just reenacted Oprah’s famous “EVERYBODY GETS A CAR!” episode. It truly was a wonderful thing to see and experience, and one that I WILL replicate in the future.
There’s only one other thing that I think could have made the students happier–stickers.