Our second, all–day, Junior Coach Conference was held on Loyola University Chicago’s beautiful lakefront campus. Our Junior Coaches (JCs) are 4th and 5th grade students chosen by their teachers and Playworks program coordinators to lead games during their schools’ recesses and act as role models in their school communities. For many of our JCs, it was their first time on a college campus. It was a perfect setting for the day’s themes: Building Character & Teamwork, Leadership in Your School & Community, and A Connection to Lifelong Learning.
We started off in the Halas Sports Center, with some icebreaker games to set the energy for the day. Each school presented information about what made the JC program at their schools unique. The presentations were followed by an open forum discussion, where the JCs talked about successes and challenges they have had as leaders in their schools, shared ideas for improvement with the group, and got to know one another better.
After a lakeside picnic lunch, the professional development sessions began with the “CEO of You,” an art-based activity that asked the kids to think about their values, their short and long-term goals, and how they were going to achieve those goals. Afterward, they designed their own “business cards” complete with their own logos and titles that represented the goal they most wanted to accomplish.
All activities connected to the theme of lifelong learning, as the kids considered what they needed to learn and do to succeed in their personal ambitions. It also included team-building challenges and cooperative games such as Toxic Waste Dump and Traffic Jam.
Their energy up, the JCs and the Playworks staff split into two teams and took off for a scavenger hunt, finding important campus landmarks and engaging college students in cheers. The activity was a great segue to a group kickball game right in the middle of the campus commons, complete with some great spectators cheering us on!
At the end of the day, the group circled up around the “echo spot” right off the lake. Everyone took a turn to shout one word that encompassed the day for them to hear it echo. There were a lot of “awesomes” and “amazings” echoed back to the group.
Special thanks to Loyola University's Center for Experiential Learning for providing such an amazing space for the JCs!