Peace is...to be open minded and respectful. Calmness, laughter, being curious about the world.
On Wednesday April 8th, Play for Peace Mentor Jessica Guendoley sat down with a group of Youth Facilitators at Heart of Los Angeles
(HOLA) and asked them to share a little about their experience so far.
Jessica, a 3rd year student at Cal State LA, is also an alumni of HOLA, which she began attending when she was in elementary school. She was introduced to experiential learning and cooperative play through the middle school program run by Leadership Director (and Play for Peace Certified Trainer) Loren Rubin
. In 9th grade Jessica served as a volunteer in that program, in a role similar to the Youth Facilitators of today.
HOLA has a corps of 17 Youth Facilitators, who meet weekly to train, learn games, practice & discuss facilitation skills, debrief on previous “Play Sessions” (Practice Peace) and plan for upcoming ones. Each week, in smaller groups, they co-facilitate play sessions with our elementary and middle school students. So far in school year 2014-15 they have led more than 60 play sessions for over 400 different students.
Manuel (11th grade) has been a Youth Facilitator for 3 years. He was among the first students at HOLA involved in a PFP session, led by Craig, John, Sarah and Imroz. Christine (9th grade) is a first year YF, but she has been actively involved in leadership activities at HOLA since 5th grade. Kimberly (9th grade) is also a first year YF, also involved since 5th grade. Anna (9th grade) is also a first year YF, and has been active in leadership throughout middle school.
J: What does Play for Peace mean to you?
C: For me it’s about making connections with the younger students (especially my sister). It’s fun getting to know them, and for them to get a chance to get to know the high schoolers here. At school you never get to interact with people of different ages.
K: The games show the kids about how to be positive, how to use respect and support and all the good things, in a fun way. It’s a kind of learning that they enjoy and means something to them.
A: It’s a place where we can create a peaceful environment. The kids don’t get to see that much.
M: For me Play for Peace is all about inclusion; there’s no exclusion. You are respected for who you are and welcomed.
J: What does Peace mean to you?
K: Somewhere where we can be ourselves.
M: Peace is about tolerance, being open to new ideas.
K: We get to let our inner kid out. We’re still growing, and we still love to play.
J: I think we’re all trying to make sense of the world, no matter how old or young we are; and playing with the kids helps us to be more free – to be creative and imaginative like they are.
C: It’s to be open minded and respectful. Calmness, laughter, being curious about the world.
J: What are some of your favorite games?
M: Ball Tag: it’s always fun to throw the ball around, and it’s about inclusion in a way that they don’t expect. It shows different kinds of communication too.
K: Minefield (aka Gridlock): Everyone helps each other, and it’s really challenging and fun.
C: Elbow Tag: It never gets boring. People cheer for each other, and help each other.
A: Lava Crossing (aka Stepping Stones): You see how important each person is to the game. It forces the kids to talk to each other and solve problems together and rely on each other – they have to work together to succeed.
K: Tennis Ball Walk: Everyone supports each other, everyone is included, you learn how to support and be supported.
J: Steal the Chicken (Steal the Bacon with a Rubber Chicken): The kids always have fun, and they learn that they have to work together to succeed – that if one person tries to do it by themselves it’s harder than working together.
Another new favorite is one that the Youth facilitators recently invented. We call it “Bags & Rings” Materials: 7 rings (hula hoops work well), 14 bean bags or other soft tossables, ideally 7 of 2 different colors; blindfolds for ½ of the group; line for dividing the area (a 15’ Peace Circle laid flat works well)
Preparation: Scatter rings and bean bags in a 20’ x 20’area (roughly); create a dividing line with all of the objects on one side and all of the participants on the other, ask the participants to pair up, staying behind the line (see diagram below).
Partner A gets blindfolded, Partner B guides them with verbal instructions. Partner B must stay behind the line.
Objective is to get all of the bean bags into all of the rings in a specific way: each ring should end up having 2 bean bags, which cannot be the same color. Blindfolded partners need to be guided safely back across the line to complete the activity.
Ask partners talk to each other, and switch who is blindfolded and who is guiding.
Safety concerns: build up to this activity with some connection games first, and monitor blindfolded players carefully to make sure they are not in physical danger. Intervene for safety, and support guides to stay engaged.
-Written Jessica Guendoley