Game Loft Summer Wrap-up

Summer at the Game Loft in Belfast, ME means anything but long, lazy days for area kids.  Every weekday this summer the second and third floors above the game store, All About Games, on Main Street have been teeming with kids crowded around tables, playing games, eating, and laughing with friends. 

As a Summer Food Service Program, the Game Loft offers a free USDA-approved healthy meal and snack to all area youth.  Kitchen Manager, Natasha Kendall, keeps the menu varied using an array of fresh incoming produce and food donated by area farms and grocers.  Inviting veggie platters and a bowl of fresh fruit are always waiting in the Game Loft kitchen to give kids a quick bite to eat.

There are no screens or controllers at the Game Loft, instead kids gather around tables, face-to-face, surrounded by shelves packed with modern board, card games, and role-playing game books at their disposal.  You’re not likely see any long, tedious games of Monopoly being played.  Titles like Sparkle Kitty and Unstable Unicorns are all the rage today.  Younger kids get hooked on trading card games like Pokemon, while teenagers graduate their interests to Magic the Gathering.  “Most importantly the games offer opportunities for adult and teen mentors to build relationships with youth,” says Co-Founding Executive Director, Patricia Estabrook.  “Our strategy is building resiliency in youth through individual and group mentoring.  Adults mentor the kids who in turn are trained to become mentors themselves.”

One example of this was found in the Game Loft’s newest program Sea/ME.  The program, managed by Game Loft AmeriCorps Mentor Brian Phelps, used the 4-H Summer of Science curriculum to provide hands-on marine science experiences to elementary school aged kids. Brian supplemented the educational components with fun “pirate activities” to keep the 6-10 year-old participants engaged for the 6-week class.  In addition to providing educational summer enrichment for younger kids, the program also served as mentorship training for teen Tyson Downs.

Tyson is entering the 9th grade this coming school year, and according to Brian Phelps the program was, “an opportunity for him to break out of his comfort zone and plan and lead the group’s programming activities.”  Classes began with a lesson followed by a fun pirate-themed activity (first they made flags and then pirate hats), next a science experiment relating to their lesson, and finally a marine-themed story time.  “The goal is to have Tyson be able to run the program himself by the end of 6 weeks.  I’d like to see a complete role-reversal.  I want him to be directing me to help him,” said Phelps at the program’s onset.  The first week the small group of youngsters learned about water filtration and then moved on to exploring density.  Later they took a field trip to local tidal pools for an exciting crossover with the Adventurer’s Guild where they played pirates in a special Live Action Combat game.

Other special programs at the Game Loft this summer included: the return of I Love Food a cooking mastery class taught by Game Loft volunteer Sally Lewis-Lamonica that exposes kids to new, healthy foods and builds culinary and food safety skills; Adventurer’s Guild, now in its third year, a seasonal Live Action Combat (LAC) program open to middle school-aged kids; and Lofts & Legends an all-ages 9+ Dungeons & Dragons community gaming event and fundraiser hosted in August which brought out more than 40 participants and raised $1300 to benefit the Game Loft.  

All regular Game Loft programs and membership are free to all youth.  The Game Loft serves youth ages 6-18 years old and is a 4-H affiliated Positive Youth Development program.  Learn more at www.thegameloft.org.

The Game Loft Announces New Board President

Board President Joe Ferlazzo at the Game Loft’s ‘Pax in Our Time’: Community Learning Event

The Game Loft is pleased to announce the appointment of our new Board President, Joe Ferlazzo.  Joe was born in Brunswick, ME and attended Bowdoin College.  He is a longtime Game Loft supporter and former board member.  Joe currently resides in Newburyport, MA, fulfilling his role as Board President via telephone calls and monthly visits. 

In April, Joe joined us for our annual Community Learning Event: Pax in Our Time. We sat down to chat with him about his new role and history with the Game Loft.

What is your connection to the Game Loft?

            I’ve known Ray and Patricia since high school.  When Ray started his first game store in Newburyport, MA, I was one of his first customers.  We’ve been friends ever since.  I’ve helped The Game Loft as a friend and consultant over the past 20 years on issues concerning finance, board development, and long-term strategy.

What is your background?

            I worked in the technology industry for 25 years, first as a business consultant to large Fortune 500 companies and then as a founder and manager of, and adviser to, start-up companies.

What are some of the other non-profits you’ve worked with?

            I served on the board of the Newburyport Art Association (600 members) for seven years and as their interim Executive Director for one year while the organization was in a state of flux.  This has been the most intensive experience I’ve had with non-profits.   I’ve also consulted with smaller non-profits.

What are your goals for the Game Loft?

            To ensure financial stability and sustainable growth.  To attract new board members: more people with more diverse experiences and community representation.  Helping the board to manage assets and advising on executive operations so that programs are run effectively.

What is it like to Chair the board remotely?

            I’m able to do it because I have the flexibility to spend a lot of time and energy working with Ray and the board.  I can travel regularly and make conference calls.  So far, the biggest challenge has been the 3-hour drive!  It all works because Ray and I have good communication.  The longstanding relationship helps. 

Why the Game Loft?

            I’ve always been impressed by the manner in which Ray and Patricia developed the Loft from a simple after school program to a set of programs tailored to mentoring and helping kids grow and develop into adults.  It’s especially important for the community here given the area’s rural poverty.  I’ve watched kids who were socially undeveloped grow and become meaningful contributors not only to the Game Loft but to the community as a whole.

I Know Me in Action: Tyson Succeeds

 

T05_ActionBuilding trust, thinking sequentially, using the skills of the cohort, and delegating clearly are skills that adult managers often struggle to achieve. For a tentative 8thgrader they are “mountains to scale.”

In a recent exercise Tyson showed his new skills as he T03_Actionhelped his group build a cardboard bridge that would be strong and flexible. He showed his peers that T02_Actionhe had an idea that would work. He described the steps in order and in a way that the group could understand and chose roles for each of the group members.

 

At the end of the afternoon his group completed the task and felt T01_Actionproud of their accomplishments. Tyson was exhausted by his new leadership role but he realized that the next time he will have increased confidence and competence.

 

I Know ME: Embracing Voice and Choice

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You can’t have travel based educational opportunities without wheels. On Oct. 23rd our new dedicated van arrived. The kids were both proud and embarrassed to see themselves writ large on the sides of the van. We had told them that they were going to be super stars. Now they know we meant it!

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They quickly took possession of their van and went on our first field trip to the Marsh River Coop.

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Over hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, they had a facilitated discussion and agreed on rules for traveling in the van that were acceptable to everyone – voice and choice in action.

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