Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Starry Night Gala for the John Austin Cheley Foundation

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Sanborn Staff Members in front of the "Lapis Icicle Tower"...oh the irony!

On Saturday, September 27th, 2014, the Sanborn Western Camps administrative team brushed the dust off of their dress clothes and popped down to the Denver Botanic Gardens to not only see the incredibly Dale Chihuly exhibit and the new Science Pyramid, but to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the John Austin Cheley Foundation.

As stated in its mission, The John Austin Cheley Foundation funds need-based camperships for high potential youth to attend extended-stay wilderness summer camps that have a proven track record of positively impacting youth development. Sanborn has been an Associate Camp with the JACF for almost two decades. Other associate camps include: Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, CO; Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, AZ; Camp Thunderbird in Bemidji, MN; and Colvig Silver Camps in Durango, CO.

Over 400 individuals were in attendance at the event which included admission to the gardens and museum, a silent auction, dinner and two excellent keynote addresses, one from Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, and the other from our very own camper, Luis Ochoa.

Rue Mapp spoke at length about the importance of connecting young people to the outdoors; while Luis simply spoke about the impact Sanborn, and the Brotherhood of Outdoorsmen, has had on his personal growth and development. Ms. Mapp believes that parents in underserved communities must first understand the benefits of connecting to the outdoors before they will be able to understand the benefit of a camp experience, and that exposure to nature has to happen at a family, grassroots, and community level.  Luis Ochoa said, “I used to think BOOM was a only sound—like an explosion in movies—but now I understand it is a brotherhood: The Brotherhood of Outdoorsmen.”  Luis also went on to talk about how the connections in the close-knit Big Spring community have allowed him to be a successful student at the rigorous Philips-Exeter academy. “Before I went to Sanborn,” Luis said, “I didn’t know who I was as a person, and how to express myself….Camp gave me the confidence to talk, and when you go to a school where every class is a discussion, that is HUGE.”

The Big Spring Brotherhood Represents

The evening was a huge success, both in raising funds to help send even more campers to camp, but also because it made everyone collected under the “Starry Skies” of the twinkle-lit tent at the Botanic Gardens understand the power of the camp experience. Even Hollywood seasoned actor, Jason Ritter, who was the emcee for the evening, found it hard to put the impact of the camp experience into words. Yet for him, and for most of us, camp simply “changed my life.”

“Camp Matters” is the official slogan of the John Austin Cheley Foundation and after being part of such an excited group of passionate camp professionals and camp supporters, it is officially true, too. If you would like to learn more or help send a deserving young person to camp, please visit: www.cheleyfoundation.org

To see more photos of the evening, please visit our Facebook page.

Big Spring Journeys to the Center of the Earth

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

The day began at the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, where, although it was their off season, they had graciously offered to give us a tour of the surface mine in Victor. We waited in the museum around a portable propane heater (they will have year-round heat and a bathroom by next year) until our van/tour bus arrived.

For whatever reason we weren't given orange vests.

Our knowledgeable driver, Dick, apologized the first few minutes the few times he drew a blank—he hasn’t driven a tour since fall. We began by driving through the historic downtown of Victor, and then moved on to the surface mine overlooking the town. We drove 1,000 feet down to the base of a dig, were shown where the raw materials are brought, and finally allowed to climb on one of their retired trucks, which, years ago when full of its rock load, weighed over 1 million pounds.

We ate a pleasant lunch at one of the many trailheads winding and looping around the old Victor mines, where in the summer we hope to bring the campers.

Our afternoon began at the Pikes Peak Heritage Museum in Cripple Creek, built in 2007. It is a beautiful facility, and we were given the scavenger hunt that school groups are given when in the center. Mike Piel was the only one who seemed to care enough about completing the scavenger hunt, and completed all but 2 questions, due to time. We also watched a very informative 30-minute film on the origins of the mines in Cripple Creek and Victor.

Last was the jail museum, where we were allowed to wander in and out of the old cells, graffiti from inmates still covering the walls. Some of us were even locked inside the cells—temporarily, of course.

With all this great new information we can’t wait to rework our summer Cripple Creek trip, and to create our new all-day trip to Victor!

Cooking With Fire #1: Spanish Tortilla

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Intro

Tea has been running rampant through the office. Our electric kettle, decorated with orange and brown flowers, first began its journey at the PPRS Research Station, made it’s way to South Platte, and finally to the offices of the Sanborn Blog. But don’t let word get out to the wonderful men and women working downstairs– the kettle barely makes 2 1/2 cups as is. Tea is our major defense against the cold days, along with fleeces, flannels, and beanies (or knit caps, toboggans, bobcaps, stocking caps, a tabby cap, a watch cap, or in Canada, a tuque; this interactive map will help you decide: How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk). But we’re here to talk about eggs and sprouts, not if you say hoagie or grinder.

Spanish Tortilla, along with Brussels Sprouts and Chicken

1 red pepper

1 onion

1 large sweet tater

12 eggs from Marty’s chickens

milk

broccoli

3 cloves of garlic

coconut oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

chili powder

chicken breast with lemon

Brussels sprouts

JB scrambled up the eggs along with a bit of milk. He put the cut veggies into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and sauteed them with coconut oil, salt and pepper to taste, and some butter. Once the veggies started to brown he poured in the egg and cooked over medium heat. Some recipes call to flip the tortilla halfway into cooking it, but JB chose not to. A little chili powder was added. On the side he baked chicken breast at 400 degrees till done, along with lemon, onions, and salt and pepper to taste. The Brussels sprouts were sauteed in a 12-inch skillet with salt and pepper.

The Spanish tortilla is best served with friends and family on a cold, snowy night. 3 year old children seem to like all elements of the Spanish tortilla, yet 5 year olds seem aversed to certain vegetables. Broccoli was a hit with all ages. If there is no side of chicken, along with growing children in the household, ham can replace the sweet tater in the tortilla. Theoretically.

JB takes a quick moment to battle local wildlife.

Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “10 Things….Summer Camps Won’t Tell You,” and I was struck by the odd contrast between the title and the actual content of the article.  The “10 Things” were all apparent quotes about the camp experience that had neither context nor sources. Beyond this issue, I realized that the Colorado Springs’ Gazette’s version was incredibly abbreviated.  The full story is here: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-summer-camps-wont-tell-you-2013-05-03 I am not sure why the content was completely butchered, but the story was awful to read and completely misleading to our local Colorado readers.

Perplexing structure and writing aside, I want to examine the source-less “quotes” as potential societal trends impacting the camp community, and perpetuated by this sort of poor journalism.  By looking at each of the “Top 10” with a more balanced and fair perspective, I think we can see that the Gazette (and Ms. Wieczner) missed an opportunity to present the ever-changing summer camp experience as what it truly is:  A fluid, agile environment of youth development professionals who are committed to excellent client and customer service and who, quite frankly, have a better understanding of what children need today than most other youth serving organizations.

True, as a camp director I have a particularly acute bias, but I am also a parent of a camp-aged child who—like most of his peers—NEEDS the camp experience every summer, and I am a certified secondary educator who sees the woefully paralyzed state of our nation’s public school system post-NCLB and knows that, for many, a camp experience will provide necessary character and values development that no longer exists in most educational curriculum.

As an editorial response to Jen Wieczner and the Gazette’s re-working of her article, I would simply point out—like we do at camp when we are mediating situations that arise in the unique, respectful community we create each and every summer—there are two sides to every story.  To equate the joy of making and eating s’mores around a campfire (gluten-free graham crackers provided) with friends with whom you have made authentic, real friendships (grounded in healthy risk-taking and shared, fun experiences) far trumps any access to cellphones.  As parents, we know (deep down) that these independent experiences with support from young adult counselors develop character and self-efficacy in our children in a way that we cannot replicate at home.

Because of cultural trends, summer camp is more important to whole-child development today than ever before in history, and our professional accrediting body, the American Camp Association does a brilliant job providing not only a body of research to support that claim, but also shares a great deal of non-biased information about accredited camps all across the nation.  Being an accredited camp means holding ourselves to standards that are above and beyond national and societal expectations.  Camp gives kids a world of good in a world of social and cultural stressors…so let’s see if we can answer the question Ms. Wieczner asks: “will campers have any fun?”

1.  “It’s called camp, but it feels more and more like school.” Unlike the mass-consumption, Hollywood image that equates a child’s summer camp experience to the movie “Red Hot American Summer,” camp has ALWAYS been about education.  Beyond the emotional intelligence camp develops in campers through community life and opportunities for free play, many camps have made the choice to offer campers more specialized study AND play in fields that interest them.  This trend is far more representative of the desires of both campers and parents to be able to “specialize” in something while at camp.  This specialized focus may be for future college prospects or it might simply be to honor a child’s own interests…a key way to help children enjoy the camp experience.  If a camper has helped pick which camp he attends, his ownership of the experience will be that much higher.

2. “There’s not enough bug spray in the world to protect you from these pests.” Nature.  As Woody Allen so eloquently said, “I love nature.  I just don’t want to get any of it on me.”  There are bugs in the woods, there are sometimes mice in the cabins, and there are even porcupines munching loudly (and quite rudely) in the trees above your tent while you are trying to sleep.  Critters and bugs can be a bit icky for some, and bedbugs are undoubtedly a concern, but—for some reason—I am much more concerned about sleeping in a hotel near a bustling airport than sleeping in a bunk at camp.  Plus interactions in the outdoors are typically memorable and create an ongoing sense of wonder, and a stewardship of and connection to the natural world.

3.  “PB&J and ice cream?  Not anymore.” Look.  Let’s be real. Going out to eat with my four and eight year old sons is an exercise in limited options.  Most camps have policies and procedures surrounding food allergies and dietary restrictions.  Some camps are completely nut free, some are not.  Some actively limit the amount of sugar, some do not.  Some provide daily vegetarian or vegan options, some do not.  Just like choosing a restaurant, you can choose a camp that will accommodate the nutritional needs of your child.  Yet, just like at a restaurant, you can’t make them sit at the table indefinitely if they refuse to eat…but you can take away dessert.

4.  “Your kid has a cellphone, but that doesn’t mean you can talk to him.” Exactly.  That’s the point.  How often do you try and get your child OFF of her phone?  Unstructured time in the outdoors, away from technology gives children the opportunity to develop authentic friendship, teamwork and leadership skills with REAL people…who, more often than not, are actually REAL friends, too.  As for not being able to talk to your kids while they are at camp, just think of it as a vacation for your kids…plus letter writing is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

5.  “Homesickness?  Try I-miss-my-kid sickness.” A tool we use at camp when campers are homesick is to help them understand feeling that way is normal and then we try and get them excited about all of their upcoming trips and activities.  Let’s try it for parents:  Being kidsick is normal.  Lots of other parents feel the same way.  Let’s look at your calendar for the month and see what exciting things you have planned.  Ohhh, look!  You have a dentist appointment next Monday, and this Thursday you are hosting your book club and you haven’t read the chosen book (Cloud Atlas) yet.  Then, the following week you have a waxing appointment and have to take your visiting sister-in-law (she has horse teeth, really?) to lunch. (No wonder you are kidsick.  Just know that blubbering about your 10 year old leaving for a few weeks is more understandable than sobbing uncontrollably when your 19 year old leaves for college.)

6. “There’s a bully born every minute.” One of the key differentiators between bullies and “upstanders” (peers who speak up when they witness bullying) is that most bullies lack empathy.  Teaching children friendship skills, and providing environments where individuals are respected for who they are is a key component of camp.  Pranks and cabin raids are more typical in Hollywood portrayals of camp than in camp itself.  Parent Trap is over 50 years old, and to think that our campers continue to both look and act like Hayley Mills in the film is cultural hyperbole.

7.  “It’s a dangerous world; we’re just camping in it.” Right.  Better to be camping in the outdoors than texting and driving, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex, and away from the fear saturated media.  Camp provides an incredibly safe place where kids can be kids, and—in all honesty—one of the overarching goals of camp is to actually give campers life and relational skills that will eventually make the world a safer place because kids who come to camp understand our shared humanity.

8. “You think getting your kids into college will be hard?  Try getting them into camp.” There are THOUSANDS of camps.  If the camp you are waitlisted for doesn’t give you other ideas for similar camps in the region that have similar programs or goals, then that camp doesn’t recognize the importance of capital C “Camp” for childhood/youth development.  And, as a parent, if you buy into the hype that there is only “one” camp for your child—then you are denying your child the opportunity to have a new and unique camp experience.

9.  “Our camp feels more like a reality show.” One of the most prolific and outstanding speakers at American Camp Associations across the country is family therapist Bob Ditter.  During training sessions, Mr. Ditter talks about “getting on the same train” as your campers—meaning, that in order to completely connect with kids, we need to know and understand (and even read or listen to) THEIR worlds.   So yes, we offer Katniss Everdeen archery competitions,  Zombie Apocalypse hikes, and Superhero horseback rides—not because these are culturally cool—but because these types of activities echo what our campers are into, relate to, and plus they are great springboards for even more innovative and creative programming.

10.  “Some counselors have to be taught to keep their hands to themselves.” Ah, just in case Ms. Wieczner readers hadn’t been scared effectively enough after noting summer camps’ apparent limited  fun, bugs, lack of communication, bullies, mass shootings, the threat of social isolation, and the ever-present and insidious nature of cultural trends spread through technology (which makes the whole cell-phone thing even more hypocritical), now we can also worry about our kids being abused at camp.  Yet Ms. Wieczner is correct when she says “assaults and abuse are rare at camp.”

Though there is plenty to take issue with, in the end I think Ms. Wieczner’s title brings up a very good point:  as parents, we have to be responsible adults, do research and ask camp directors hard questions about the nature of their staff training, the goals and objectives of the program, the mission and philosophy of the camp, and we also have to ask those “boogeyman” type questions too, just to allay our fears (many of which are spurred on by articles like Ms. Wieczner’s and liberties taken by subsidiary editors).

Camps that are worth their salt will be open and transparent about their policies and practices, and we (camp directors) like it when parents are thoughtful enough to ask:  “tell me about your hiring process” or “what sort of emergency/crisis management plans do you have in place?” or “why can’t I talk to my child when he is at camp?” or “how do you handle homesickness…and if I need to call or email you for reassurance, is that okay?”

When we are practicing and modeling the skills required to eventually let our children go and become successful, functional adults, our children will grow too.  If we have confidence in the leadership at our chosen summer camps and are even brave enough to consider sending our child to camp in the first place, our children will not only have fun at camp—they will flourish.

~Ariella Rogge~

Winter Is Here…What Do We Do?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Fly-tying during Stalking Education in the Wild 2012

There are two questions a camp director dreads: 1. Why does toilet in Kinnikinnik look like a Yellowstone geyser? 2. What do you DO in the winter?

Both questions require thoughtful responses (but the first question might also require a plunger and a biohazard suit).  Beyond hiring the 120 broadly talented seasonal staff members, recruiting 600 unique and fantastic campers, connecting with our alums, designing new programs like the Sanborn Semester, organizing mission-centric educational opportunities like Stalking Education in the Wild or our annual No Child Left Inside Family Fun Day, hosting the ACA Rocky Mountain Section regional conference, sending birthday cards (over 10,000 annually), and operating The Nature Place and High Trails Outdoor Education Center, we are committed leaders and educators in the field of youth development and in the camp profession.

As the culture shifts, camp is taking its rightful role as an important component in the year round education of every child.  COEC Board Member Rod Lucero said in a recent article in Camping Magazine, “One concept that emerges from most every camp activity schedule is the idea of “fun.” While “fun for fun’s sake” is a worthy goal, I would contend that fun with an articulated focus on education transcends the camp experience and extends to the pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.”  Sandy and Laura Sanborn believed in “fun and adventure with a purpose.” And we, like Rod, believe that “the purpose is education, and as the camp has evolved and grown, this mantra has remained fundamental to every aspect of the good work being done there.”

One of the 101 Nature Activities: Find a Tree Hike

Everything begins at home and we are committed to professional development of our year round and seasonal staff.  Through conferences, training sessions, and skill development workshops, our staff not only represents a seasoned group of camp professionals, we actually lead, teach, and design many training sessions for others in the camp community.

The National Convention of the American Camp Association was held in Atlanta in mid-February, and we participated in full force.  Executive Director, Jane Sanborn, was the program chairperson for this year’s conference (as well as for the upcoming 2013 National Conference in Dallas, TX) and worked on an outstanding educational program for many months.  Chris, Elizabeth, and Ariella led educational sessions at the conference. Mike, as President of the Rocky Mountain Region of the American Camp Association, participated in all of the leadership events held at the conference. COEC Board member Rod Lucero presented one of the keynote addresses, and Julie, David, and Carlotta attended the conference.

Additionally, Jane, Elizabeth, and Ariella have written curricula and participated as webinar panel experts for the ACA’s e-Institute.  The ACA just released a 15 hour online Certificate of Added Qualification for Middle Managers, and Ariella was one of the four writers of the curriculum.  Jane is the chair of the ACA’s Children, Nature and Camps Committee and co-authored the best-selling, “101 Nature Activities for Kids” with Elizabeth.

Then there is the hard skill training: BC is a AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Certified Top and Bottom Managers and supervise our rock-climbing staff; we train using the most current ACCT Ropes Course certification model; all of our summer trip leaders have WMI/NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification; we have an on-site Red Cross Lifeguard course; we require our peer supervisors (ridge leaders, wranglers, kitchen coordinators) to attend a specialized Supervisor Workshop; and all of our trip leaders go through a comprehensive Trip Leader and 15 Passenger Van Driver Training…plus all staff are certified in CPR and Standard First Aid and participate in our 10 day Staff Week training. This training includes everything from the latest in youth development research to experiential teaching techniques.  Whew!

Winter=Time to Turn Our BIG Dreams into Reality!

We are invested in the experience and our own continued growth and development.  We are actively involved in building a more professional camp and educational experience for ALL children through our staff development and the variety of outreach and educational sessions we lead.

This is a big part of our “purpose” and it is one we take pride in.   And with Jane repeating as program chair for the 2013 American Camp Association National Conference, we will continue to take a professional lead in the camping and youth development industry.

So we actually do work in the wintertime…maybe that is why summer is so darn incredible!

Adventure: Summer Camp

Friday, October 19th, 2012

A REAL Adventure

La Plata, Ouray, Huron, Democrat, Massive, Elbert, Oxford, Belford, Princeton, Antero, Sherman, Silver Heels, Quandary, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Buffalo Peaks, Pikes Peak, Shavano, Tabaguache. Campers from across the country and the world climbed these 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks when they came to camp looking for adventure last summer. Boys and girls age 8-16 stood on top of the world; saw a landscape covered in a sea of snow and rock; and relished an achievement that was uniquely their own and one that will change the trajectory of their lives.

Climbing a mountain is a real accomplishment and an exciting adventure. To crawl out of a warm sleeping bag before dawn and face the brisk morning temperatures is an act of courage in itself. The long climb upward, step-by-step, requires perseverance, commitment, and teamwork. With each step, a child asks himself, “Can I do this?” Perhaps there is deep doubt, but he keeps going. He keeps going because, somewhere, deep down, he WANTS to climb a mountain. He climbs not only because “it is there” but because he innately seeks experiences which help him grow and learn.

The Alpine tundra is beautiful, dotted by tiny forget-me-nots and other flowers. Often we are fortunate enough to spot marmots, ptarmigans and other mountain wildlife. The best moment of all, though, is stepping onto the summit and catching a first glimpse of the spectacular vistas. Climbers always gain a well-deserved feeling of pride, and the self-confidence that comes from “making it to the top”.

Overcoming Fear, Building True Self-Confidence

The best part of this self-confidence? It is completely self-generated. Sure, the counselors and trip leaders encouraged you and the rest of the group…but no one carried you up that mountain…you did it yourself. You overcame your fear, your doubt, and your insecurities—and you climbed a REAL mountain! As a 2012 parent said about her son, “He has learned to live and survive on his own and learned to “figure it out” vs. waiting for someone to do it for him. As a result, he’s much more worldly, self-sufficient, and confident in everything he does.”

Climbing a mountain provides so many benefits for young people. Youth development research tells us that young people need challenging and engaging activities and learning experiences in order to grow into confident, happy adults. Reaching the summit requires hard work, determination and a lot of self-discipline. Mountain climbing stretches perspectives as well as legs, and it takes place in some of the most stunningly beautiful places on Earth.

Unforgettable triumph!

There were many additional adventures and challenges in camp over the summer, and other groups reached their own summits by spending four or five days in the saddle on long horse trips; still others backpacked for four-days in the stunning Tarryall Mountains or traversed ridge after ridge on both the Colorado Trail and Wheeler Trails. Some stretched themselves by camping out, by saddling a horse, or by rock scrambling to the top of a high crag.

We are looking forward to another summer of adventure, challenge, success and growth. We hope you will join us.

October News Update

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Follow the Yellow-leafed Road

We are enjoying spectacular Indian Summer days here at camp.  The golden Aspen are almost at their peak and are stunning against the bright blue sky.  We’ve been spying on the herd of elk at Potts Spring and have also seen deer, porcupines, wild turkeys, bobcats, and, of course, the fat black Abert squirrels.  Many of our summer birds have headed south and the year-round bird residents are beginning to show up at our feeders more regularly.

Our High Trails Outdoor Education Center program with sixth graders from District 20 in Colorado Springs has been underway since mid-September. We also hosted a “No Child Left Inside” open house last Saturday and were very happy to have many local families join us for a day of hikes and nature-based activities led by our staff.   We are very committed to doing everything we can to help young people connect with the natural world.  The benefits are enormous—as Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” says:  “Children who have a personal connection with nature are happier, healthier, and smarter.”

On October 12-14, we are looking forward to hosting “Stalking Education in the Wild”, our outdoor education workshop for teachers, camp staff, naturalists and others who work with young people.  The workshop includes sessions on everything from geology and outdoor teaching techniques to creative writing and international folk dance.

At The Nature Place, Rob Jolly and his staff are busy working with the University of Denver on a team-building and leadership development program for DU’s MBA students.  We have collaborated with DU on this program, where every MBA student spends a long weekend at The Nature Place, for over a decade.  The groups rock climb, participate in an orienteering course, and work through many team building scenarios, all of which teach values-based leadership.

The horses are grazing happily in Olin Gulch and High Tor, where late summer rains helped to produce some tasty green grass.  Soon, they will head out to winter pasture at Fishcreek.

We are most excited about opening enrollment for another season of camp.  The summer of 2013 will be our 65th and we are looking forward to sharing adventures, friendships and lots of fun.  We have already begun enrollment, and additional enrollment information will be going out throughout the month of October.  If you know of interested families, we’ll be happy to send our brochure and DVD.  They can also request information from our website.  We hope you are enjoying the photos from the summer of 2012 which are appearing each month on our website.

We hope you are having a fantastic Autumn!

ACA Explore 30 — enter Big Spring Read-a-Thon

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Challenge: During the summer children experience “summer learning loss” when they are not involved in high quality programs with opportunities for skill building.  As a result, young people can forget up to 2 months of academic instruction, particularly in the areas of reading and math when they are not in school. Camps and other youth development programs provide the opportunity to reduce summer learning loss in an expanded learning environment where children are engaged experientially and have an opportunity for additional academic enrichment.

- taken from ACA Explore 30 web site

Our new Big Spring Library is fully equipped with books about astronomy, Colorado flora & fauna, as well as two full shelves each of fiction and non, children book series and picture books for those bed-time read-a-louds!  Plus board games, maps and other fun resources for campers and counselors to make camp an enriching environment!

We began a Read-a-Thon at the beginning of the session and about 23 counselors and 26 campers took part in the four-week-long challenge. The record was around 5,300 pages read thus far by a counselor, and not far behind was another counselor with about 5,100 pages read, and Liam Kelly, a camper, with 3,120 pages!

Stay tuned for next session’s Read-a-Thon!

Camp Bookie: Jonah Lehrer, “Imagine: How Creativity Works”

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

In a recent NPR interview, Jonah Lehrer tells us the in’s and out’s of how humans are creative.

In his new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” he explores how some companies are creating environments to foster creativity in the work place, based on those Ah-Ha moments we so rarely (but so awesomely) have.

It’s worth the full listen, for sure. But here are a few insights from Lehrer about the science of creativity and our favorite rebel folkster at High Trails, Bobby Dylan:

DAVIES: You open the book with a story about Bob Dylan at a point early in his career, when he was frustrated, creatively exhausted, ready to bail from the music business. And from this, came lesson about creativity. What was going on in his career?

LEHRER: So it’s May 1965, and he’s just returned from a grueling tour, six months tour. He’s just finished touring the U.K., and he is burnt out. He doesn’t know what kind of songs he wants to sing anymore. All he knows is that his old songs, these folks songs like “Times They Are A’Changing,” “Blowing in the Wind,” he’s done with them. He’s tired of being the poet of rock ‘n’ roll.

And so he tells the manager that he’s quitting the music business, he’s done with the singing, done with songwriting, he’s going to move to a cabin in Woodstock, New York, doesn’t even bring his guitar. He’s going to be a novelist and a painter.

Here’s there for a couple days when he is visited by this thing he calls the ghost. He gets a sudden urge to write, gets out his pen, gets out his paper and just begins to scribble. He later describes it as like this uncontrollable rush of vomit. And really what he’s trying to capture there is just this feeling that you can’t hold this back, it’s just this rush of words that needs to be written down.

And so he begins writing and writing and writing, writes dozens of pages, and within these dozens of pages is this chorus, and it’s the chorus of “Like A Rolling Stone.” Four weeks later, he’s in Studio A, Columbia Records, and after just four takes, they cut it on acetate, and that becomes his defining single, this six-minute single which really changes the sound of rock ‘n’ roll.


DAVIES: And as you’ve researched the subject, do you find that there are other people that have this experience of being, of being exhausted, of hitting a wall, of being empty and then, in this moment of insight, are suddenly given these new bursts of creativity? What’s going on?

LEHRER: Yeah, moments of insight are a very-well studied psychological phenomenon. There really are two defining features. The first defining feature is the answer comes out of the blue. So it comes when we least expect it. It comes when we’ve quit the music business, and we’re trying to paint a canvas in Woodstock, New York. It comes when we’ve given up, when we feel like we have nothing left to say.

It comes in the shower. It comes in the bathtub. It comes under the apple tree. So it comes in the least expected moments. That’s the first defining feature.

The second defining feature is that as soon as the answer arrives, we know this is the answer we’ve been looking for. We don’t have to double-check the math or carefully edit the lyrics: We know this is it. So, you know, the answer comes attached with this feeling of certainty – it feels like a revelation. So these are the two defining features of these moments of insight, and they do seem to play a big role in creativity, especially when people are looking for really radical solutions to very, very hard problems.

DAVIES: And this happens not just with artists like Dylan, it happens with people that are working on, you know, molecular biology, all kinds of fields, right?

LEHRER: Yeah, I mean, it’s described by Richard Feynman. He had some moments of insight in his favorite strip club. It’s, you know, it’s Archimedes in the bathtub. It’s Isaac Newton under the apple tree. This is a universal feature of human experience. We all have moments of insight. Even if they’re not quite as grandiose as writing the lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone,” we all have these epiphanies, and they come in the shower, they come when we least expect them.

Jonah Lehrer is a contributing editor at Wired magazine and the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist.

“The Last Quiet Places”

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. And now I think we’re realizing quiet is important and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.”

Gordon Hempton says that silence is an endangered species. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.”

Give a good listen to the most recent episode of NPR’s On Being, with Krista Tippett. I mean a good, good listen.

Good things come from a quiet place: study, prayer, music, transformation, worship, communion. The words peace and quiet are all but synonymous, and are often spoken in the same breath. A quiet place is the think tank of the soul, the spawning ground of truth and beauty.

A quiet place outdoors has no physical borders or limits to perception. One can commonly hear for miles and listen even farther. A quiet place affords a sanctuary for the soul, where the difference between right and wrong becomes more readily apprarent. It is a place to feel the love that connects all things, large and small, human and not; a place where the presence of a treee can be heard. A quiet place is a place to open up all your senses and come alive.

Sadly, though, as big as it is, our planet offers fewer and fewer quiet havens. …

In 1984, early in my recording career recording nature sounds, I identified 21 places in Washington state (an area of 71,302 square miles) with noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or longer. In 2007, only three of these places remain on my list. Two are protected only by their anonymity; the third lies deep within Olympic National Park: the Hoh Rain Forest in the far northwest corner of the continental United States. I moved near the Hoh in the mid-1990s just to be closer to its silences. In the Hoh River Valley, nature discovery occurs without words or even thoughts — it simply happens. Wondrously. But you have to listen.And to do that, you first have to silence the mind.

- from the book, “One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet” by Gordon Hempton