The Loomis Chaffee Summer Program concluded a productive second year of the Common Good Leadership program in late July and expanded the scope of the Best Self Curriculum for the 2019 season by incorporating its themes of identity, impact, integrity, and intelligence throughout daily activities.
Developed by Jim O'Donnell, director of the Summer Program, the leadership course introduces the concepts of effective leadership to participants, who all are either returning summer students or current Loomis students. Participants put their emerging abilities into action among their peers and practice these skills both in the familiar environment of the Summer Program and in new situations.
Twenty-six summer students took part in this year’s leadership course, taught in two sections by Dean of Summer Students Jake Smith and Loomis Spanish teacher Lillian Corman, who has directed Loomis’ Longman Leadership Institute residential learning community for the past two years.
The leadership students served as assistants to the summer dorm faculty and helped in the planning, organization, and implementation of group activities for the Summer Program community, which required listening and collaborating with peer groups.
The course included a sustained interactive exercise for participants with two area educational institutions: River Street School in Windsor, which serves adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, and Windsor’s Discovery Center Montessori School summer program for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. In a series of visits with the two school communities, the leadership students got to know and worked with the Discovery Center or River Street School students with whom they were partnered. The leadership students also met with teachers and administrators from both organizations to identify activities that might interest the groups.
Based on these observations and interactions, the summer students in Jake’s class prepared and led several events at the River Street School on July 23. The activities, tailored to the needs of the River Street students, included a basketball skills game, a “favorite things” puzzle-making activity, a step-by-step "how-to" drawing session, and other arts and crafts activities.
On the same day, students in Lillian’s section welcomed to campus about 50 children from Discovery Center and their teachers for an afternoon of activities designed for the children’s ages and grade levels. They included interactive play on a giant-sized Jenga game, a frog-and-lily-pad collaborative game, and an obstacle course relay race. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed cold watermelon and cookies as refreshments.
The leadership students reflected on the experience at the course wrap-up on the last two days of class, where they also presented their personal leadership philosophies and action plans for the next school year and beyond. Many of the participants acknowledged that establishing a relationship first — listening, getting to know, and trying to understand the needs of their group members — led to more effective leadership in the planned activities. Being patient and flexible with expectations also was important, several said. According to their reflections, the leadership participants found the learning experience rewarding and inspiring.
Rising Loomis Chaffee sophomore, Ben Radmore, who took part in this year’s leadership course, said his commitment to serving others was deepened by his experience in the program this summer. In his presentation at the wrap-up, Ben said he came to better understand how to “meet people where they are,” in order to be an effective leader.
The Best Self Curriculum, an intentional, character-based curriculum that has been a signature component of Loomis Chaffee’s summertime Enrichment Program since 2012, was expanded this summer to reach beyond classroom instruction. Instead, the four, week-long themes of identity, impact, integrity, and intelligence were introduced to all Summer Program students at regular Monday morning meeting assemblies and served as a structure for discussion and reflection for program events, activities, lectures, and excursions. By weaving the themes through all facets of life on the Island in the summer, according to Jim, everyone in the Summer Program community could take part in and benefit from focusing on the topics in discussions and reflection exercises.
The Common Good Leadership course and the Best Self Curriculum are some of the many opportunities offered in the Summer Program, which enables students entering grades seven through 12 to take a deep dive into the kind of learning that happens within the time and space of summer — without the time restrictions of the normal school year. This year's Summer Program, which concluded its eighth season on July 27, enrolled more than 180 students from across the United States and abroad for the program's comprehensive five-week program of learning, discovery, enrichment, and reflection.