Arena of Change: Olympics and results so far

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Week 20: The Arena of Change starts up again after the summer break! And right at the beginning we have a special project: the Mini-Olympics. In various disciplines, the children test out their motor skills and assess their performance. We were there for the re-launch and also draw some interim conclusions from the five months of AoC on FC Bayern Campus.

The reunion after the summer holidays is warm - and pretty loud: The children are visibly happy and excitedly shout about their holiday experiences to each other, or asking: "How are your new teachers?" The two educators of the Arena of Change (AoC) briefly struggle to calm down the excited group: "We're going to sit in a circle and everyone will tell us what the best part of their holiday was," Teresa Jehlicka calls out. As such, she immediately picks up the children's thoughts and at the same time brings structure to the reunion.

Before we start playing sport, let's chat: How are you? What did you do during the holidays?

"I was in Croatia with my family," says one boy. "We went hiking in the Bavarian forest," says Alice, 11. Another boy raves about his visit to the IAA car show in Munich. The Arena of Change also took a break for four weeks during the summer vacation; before that, there was a small childcare programme for those children who did not go on holiday.

"Now a question for everyone: Was there a big sporting event in the summer that you can remember? One that was also broadcast on television?" asks teacher Anna Kronen. The children think about it and come up with an answer pretty quickly. The Olympics? Correct! "We're going to have our own Olympics today!" Shouts of joy!

Have fun and testing motor skills

"It's wonderful how motivated the children are and how well they accept the ideas we've developed," says Verena Milasta, AoC project manager of SOS Children's Villages Worldwide, while on the sports field measuring tapes for the long jump and paper to fill in results are handed out. The AoC Olympics consists of: standing long jump, a 6-minute continuous run, balancing upside-down, 20-metre sprint, jumping right and left, sit-ups and push-ups. How did the educators come up with this programme?

Helping each other, competing with each other, laughing together. The Mini-Olympics combines many facets that are important in the AoC.

"The disciplines are taken from the German Motor Skills Test," says Verena Milasta. This test was developed by experts from the German Association for Sports Science, designed especially for 6 - 18 year old boys and girls to be able to classify their motor skills. Not all children have the same level of performance. Some of them step off the wooden beams after just two steps, others make it all the way to the end. What is striking is that everyone participates, the children motivate and comfort each other and visibly enjoy the competition.

The Mini-Olympics are not just about fun and competition, but also about awareness of one's own motor skills.

Encouraging people to try things out

"The most important thing for us is that the children have a safe space here at the AoC," says teacher Teresa. "We want them to try everything at least once without fear of being judged."

The teachers then tell us that at the beginning of the AoC there were a few kids who didn't like to move that much. During some exercises, they sometimes would just stand still. In such moments, Anna and Teresa don't put the children under pressure, but encourage them to try something new, filled with a lot of empathy - especially when it's difficult. "That's an advantage over school, we don't have to give them grades here," says Anna, the teacher. "This makes it easier for the children to dare to try something." Today, these children take part in the Mini-Olympics as a matter of course and don't miss out on any event.  

No one is excluded, everyone is included, no matter what level of performance he or she is at.

And there is another positive development: After the summer break, there were some school changes, some children have made the jump from middle school to secondary school. "Of course we were very happy about that and we want to continue to support the children so that they succeed at school," says Teresa. That's why there'll also be anti-stress training in the next few weeks to cope with the pressures of school and to give the children ideas on how they can continue to cope with the increase in homework in a new class, for example. A visit from a nutritionist is also scheduled. "Healthy eating continues to be a big issue for the children," says Teresa Jehlicka. Because school has only taken place remotely due to months-long lockdowns, and sports have largely been cancelled, many children are suffering from the consequences of lack of exercise.

And very important: relax in between

With all the important topics, how can we avoid overloading the children with workshops in the AoC? How do you keep them motivated and how do you create excitement?

"The positive feedback from children, some parents and teachers confirms how important the project is."

Verena Milasta (AoC Project Manager of SOS Children's Villages Worldwide)

"Every four to five weeks, we always organise a so-called break-week," says Anna Kronen. This is a week in which a special excursion is scheduled that the children can look forward to and that they can "work towards" - for example, a trip to the Air Hop trampoline park or the German Museum. So it's no wonder that the girls and boys consistently enjoy participating in the Arena of Change. "The positive feedback from children, some parents and teachers confirms how important the project is," says Verena Milasta.

"I was very happy to come back to the Arena of Change after the holidays. I like Teresa and Anna so much and I've become friends with the other children," says Aida, 12. What does she particularly like about the AoC Olympics?

"I like it when I can still improve and we help each other here. What I liked best today was the sprinting." She wasn't the best at it. "But that's not what it's all about," says Aida. "It's a competition, but it's nothing to be afraid of," agrees Johanna, 13. "You can't compare it to school here at all, it's more like free time, I like coming here every week. There's always something more to Anna and Teresa's games than just fun. I always learn something new too. "

The "Arena of Change" is a joint educational project of FC Bayern Munich and SOS Children's Villages Worldwide:

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