Promoting Positive Youth Development

through non-electronic games and community involvement

Game Loft Annual Youth Volunteer Awards

Game Loft Youth Volunteer of the Year, Alex Tripp (pictured).

                  Saturday October 26th Game Loft staff, board, mentors, parents, and families came together to honor the year-round volunteer efforts of Game Loft youth.  Each year Game Loft kids are encouraged and supported in logging volunteer hours and joining in a friendly competition for the ultimate title of “Youth Volunteer of the Year.”  This year the coveted award went to Alex Tripp now in her junior year at Belfast Area High School who logged an impressive 290.5 hours.  In total 80 Game Loft youth contributed 1,826.5 hours of service to the community over the 2018-2019 school year and through the summer of 2019.

                  Kids can log hours they contribute through outside organizations, but many youth volunteer primarily to and through the Game Loft.  Alex Tripp earned the vast majority of her volunteer hours serving as a mentor for both the Game Loft’s Monday program for younger kids ages 6-11 and the I Know ME program serving youth in the Mount View School system beginning in the 7th grade. Other ways to clock hours include volunteering in the Game Loft kitchen, prepping for opening, or cleaning up.  There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with the Game Loft in the greater community, as well.  Whether it’s stacking wood, shoveling snow, boxing food with Heroes 4 Hunger, or helping out at any number of community events, you’ll find Game Loft kids giving back to their neighbors and connecting with their community throughout the year.

                  This year the Game Loft’s Youth Volunteer Awards ceremony was preceded by a potluck soup and dessert dinner at First Baptist Church in Belfast.  In addition to giving out awards the evening was celebrated with a skit on Positive Youth Development performed by Game Loft youth, a kazoo precession led by staff and families, and a raffle drawing for an Adirondack chair crafted by local artist Peter Walker.  We’d like to extend our thanks to all of the families and supporters who came out to show their appreciation for Game Loft youth volunteers and made the night’s events a rousing success.  If you are interested in learning more about Game Loft programs or becoming a youth or adult volunteer, please call (207) 338-6447 or e-mail info@thegameloft.org for more information.  The Game Loft has been serving Waldo County youth for over 21 years with free out-of-school programs promoting Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement.

All photos courtesy of Tom Foster

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.

Game Loft hosts Lofts & Legends Fundraising and Game Event

Game Lofter Lynnford Young with dice and D&D books.

The Game Loft in Belfast, ME will be hosting a Dungeons and Dragons game event and fundraiser Saturday, August 17th  generously sponsored by Bladerunners Systems.  Experienced Dungeon Masters will run 6 game tables for two 3-hour sessions.  Seats are available for all ages 9+ and can be reserved online at loftsandlegends.bpt.me.  Cost is $10 per player per session cash at the door.  All proceeds to benefit The Game Loft, a Waldo County nonprofit promoting Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement.

“Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons are a really important tool in the Game Loft toolbox,” commented Game Loft Marketing and Development Coordinator, Allison Harrell.  “Someone who doesn’t know much about these games may not think of them as educational.  But not only are math and reading fundamental components, role-playing games in particular are also a great way to develop social and critical thinking skills.”  Dungeons and Dragons, first published in 1974, pioneered a class of games that focused on individual character development and group storytelling.  Players unite as a party and set out on a fantasy adventure interacting with the setting under the narrative guidance of the Dungeon Master.   Harrell went on to say, “In a game like Dungeons and Dragons kids are really given an open playing field to make bold choices and have an extraordinary impact, which makes it a game that lends itself not only to self-exploration but empowerment.”

And it’s not just for kids.  Dungeons and Dragons has been experiencing a sort of Renaissance in the last decade.  No longer relegated to dim basements, adult players are proudly streaming their games online and garnering cult followings.  “When I tell other adults (especially those around my age) that I work at the Game Loft I often hear, ‘Oh man, I wish I could still play there!’ or ‘You should really host an adult game night!’  Well, here’s their chance,” Harrell beams.  “I’m really hoping to see the tables filled with fresh faces: adult players who’ve been looking for a game, parents and family members exploring their kids’ interests, new players who’ve always been curious, people who played back in the day, and kids, of course.”

Session 1 will run from 10am-1pm and Session 2 from 2-5pm with a 1-hour lunch break in between.  Each table and session will run a unique one-shot campaign with 5 players per table; 2 tables per session will focus on family games while other tables will host groups teen plus.  New players are welcome, and light refreshments will be provided.  Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, as space is limited. 

The Game Loft is located at 78A Main Street in Belfast, ME above All About Games.  Find the Lofts and Legends event on Facebook and brownpapertickets.com.  For more information, please call (207) 338-6447 or e-mail info@thegameloft.org.

Celebrating the Summer of 2019

A Game Loft Action Report

            Every year the Game Loft celebrates the end of the school year with our annual End of Year Party!  This year we invited Game Loft kids, families, alumni, staff, and volunteers to First Baptist Church for an indoor/outdoor BBQ and potluck on partly rainy day.

            The party started with plenty of games and no shortage of food.  After serving up lots of burgers and hot dogs, we brought out a special cake to share with everyone in celebration of our Circles of Care manager, Joy Olsen’s retirement!  Tom Foster led the room in a rousing rendition of ‘Jeremiah was a Bullfrog’ in her honor, and then kept the music going and our spirits up while we mingled and tucked into dessert.

 The ceremonies continued as we recognized our graduating seniors, Bradley Arsenault and Nathan McGovern (pictured above), our Younger “fly-ups,” and more.  Next Game Loft youth demonstrated fantastic confidence modeling 20 years of Loft T-shirts in fashion show brimming with of attitude.

            After a few final remarks from our new Board President, Joe Ferlazzo, everyone headed outside for some Live Action Combat.  The kids saw plenty of action facing head to head as our parent volunteer generals directed them on the battlefield for Live Action Stratego!  We want to thank Belfast Hannaford for helping with food, Our Town Belfast and Zach Schmesser for providing the sound system, Tom Foster for the live entertainment, First Baptist Church for hosting, Doreen Elkins for helping in the kitchen, and all of the other volunteers who made the event possible.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of our Game Lofters back at the Loft starting July 8th with the Youngers for the summer season!

Mastering Pax Britannica

One of the purposes of the Pax Britannica event is to bring together people from across generations to discuss the origins of World War I, a topic that has baffled scholars for generations. Last year Donovan Aldus, a 7thgrader, took his first plunge into the world of Pax Britannica. 

Donovan attended the United States culture party in 2018 hosted by Dan and Rio Greeley (pictured to the left, Donovan is in green). “It was pretty hard meeting all those new people and being part of the event. I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time,” he said.

What a difference a year makes. Donovan in 8thgrade both attended the 2019 Pax Britannica game but was also the treasurer for his team, the Germans. “It was much better this year. I knew what I was doing and I had a real role. I balanced the books for the German team and that is a big job.” Donovan didn’t understate his responsibility. Treasury tracks for Pax Britannica resemble an IRS form and they have baffled many adult players. “I’m good at math” he said proudly. He was also supported and supervised by his team members, Game Loft alumnus Andrew Knight and AmeriCorps member Brian Phelps (pictured with Donovan below.)

Two of our principles are to: (1) Give kids the chance to achieve mastery in a difficult area and (2) know that success is possible. Donovan is gaining confidence and competence and looks forward to tackling Pax Britannica again next year.