To quote one of my dearest and greatest friends and librarian peers, Rachel Shore...
I thought a lot about this quote today during day two of Camp Clover, Community Explorers. The kids came back, full of energy and ready for day two. We had a field trip planned and the weather was perfection. Before we left, we felt the kids should have a fun warm up activity. As Clair and I racked our brains for something to do, our (rockstar) teen teachers said, "Let's just go outside and play sharks and minnows?" We nodded and they lined the kids up and went outside, allowing Clair and I to get ready for the field trip.
Championing strength #1: Our teen teachers know fun games and enjoy getting the kids outside and running around.
When we got outside, the kids were clearly enjoying a little time to run around. After two rounds of sharks and minnows, we made the walk to Tower Hill Park. Not only is the 200 foot observation tower there, but the Village Hall, where the township and village hold governmental meetings. On the walk, I had the chance to chat up some of the kids, one of my favorite things to do. I just get to ask a bunch of questions and they answer through storytelling.
Championing strength #2: Letting kids tell you stories. Sometimes the stories have no plot, but there's something to be said for those stories.
We arrived at Village Hall and met two Rogers. The first Roger has given over 52 years of service to Peoria Heights. He was born and raised here and dedicated his adult life to being an active part of the Peoria Heights School District (as superintendent among other positions). It was so clear to hear in his voice how much he loved Peoria Heights.
Listening to Roger talk reminded me how important community partnerships are in programming. Connections allow us to expand our world, and see how people go and work together. To see someone so passionate about this village (hopefully) inspires these kids to care about where they live and be engaged citizens of their community.
We followed up this talk with Roger #2 speaking. Roger #2 is the township administrator and also very passionate about this community. He is all about doing community projects (which is a whole other post about engagement for later this week). He even let the kids sit in the chambers for the village administrators (boy were they excited about comfy spinning chairs).
These two interactions also reminded me that leaders in the community SHOULD and DO need to see the younger generation being active in their community. I think too quickly we push aside a younger generation because they are "naive" or "don't care about their community." Yet, today, the kids we had were attentive and respectful. They also seemed to enjoy their time with these two Rogers and were interested in what they had to say.
Championing strength #3: Leverage talents and strengths of community members. Show them they are appreciated for the work they do.
Then it was time for the Tower...or at least we thought. We got a surprise when we found out the Tower didn't open up until 11 AM and it was only 10:30 AM. But never fear, our solid, yet EXTREMELY flexible worked to our benefit. The teen teachers knew of a nearby park and took the kids there while Clair and I phoned Wendall, our camp coordinator. He brought the snack from the library to the park and we snacked, finishing right at 11 AM, just in time to go up to the top of the Tower.
It's no small feat to take 10 children up 200 feet in the air. Some were afraid of heights and some were so excited to be there, you almost worried about them for being so excited. With such a beautiful day, it wasn't hard to take great photograph after great photograph or get some neat video footage. We haven't had a lot of time to go through it all, so I'm excited to look at it tomorrow and see what they saw.
Championing strength #4: Kids energy and enthusiasm. Also, their ability to be flexible and roll with whatever we send their way.
With the tower excursion under our belt, it was back to the library, just in time for the kids to be picked up. Not quite the morning we had planned but so many great takeaways. Flexibility and thinking on our feet is key, good support team is crucial to everyone's well being, and community members are your strongest assets and the ones that will appreciate (and value) the kids' enthusiasm for life just as much as you do.