June 20, 2023

Friends - Western Montana: Growing with Game Club

Friends of the Children - Western Montana shares how youth are learning and growing through Game Club

Each weekday morning, one Missoula first-grade class is learning and growing through Game Club.

“Game Club started as an idea to help one of our children branch out a little – to make a safe place for him to come out of his shell,” explained Tyler Taylor, a professional mentor at Friends of the Children who has been Leo’s* Friend for almost a year now. Coming into this school year, Tyler and Leo’s teacher were collaborating on ideas to support Leo in the classroom and to help him grow in ways that Leo had identified were important to him. “He was such a shy, quiet kid. We wanted to find a way for him to connect with his peers that was additive to the classroom,” Tyler said.

Each morning, Leo’s teacher begins the day with Slow Start, a time when students can warm up their brains through activities like art and reading. Tyler suggested that they add Game Club as a Slow Start option, where he would facilitate a board game or card game with students, including Leo.

“They practice all kinds of skills: math and number recognition, taking turns, strategy. Some games are competitive, where there’s a winner, and other games are collaborative, where we all have to work together to win.”

Game Club is a big hit, and all children in the class have the opportunity to participate. Because Friends of the Children partners with schools, this class happens to have three children in our program who participate regularly. Game Club has become a vehicle for social emotional growth for all three, according to Tyler.

“For one child, we have a goal to practice listening to and accepting feedback well. This child often reacts to feedback negatively because he thinks he’s in trouble. In Game Club, this child gets reminders about rules, sometimes from peers and sometimes from me, and is learning that feedback can be helpful and not just a reprimand.

“Another child in our program has a hard time with school attendance and with getting to school on time. Game Club has become this motivator for him to want to be at school. Last week he was at school on time every day – which is huge. When we were celebrating that accomplishment together, he told me that it was because he wants to be at Game Club.

“And then Leo - who was really the inspiration for this group, again, getting him out of his shell and engaging with his peers. Making friends. What we are learning is that Leo has a really quick wit. He’s so smart and funny, and his sense of humor is really sophisticated. Game Club has allowed him to share that part of himself with his peers,” Tyler proudly shared.

Friends of the Children – Western Montana works with every child in our program to celebrate their individual strengths, explore their own interests, and to support their growth in ways that help them to exercise their potential. Game Club is helping three of our very unique kids do this in very unique ways.

*Names changed for privacy