Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Sense of Wonder

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Enjoying the sunset at Top of the World

Many of us can remember “a moment of wonder” at camp when time stopped as we watched a Red Tail fly through the sky, or when we witnessed a sunset so beautiful it took our breath away. Perhaps we were amazed by the stars glittering in the night sky, or by the colors of the wild iris in the field below Witcher Rocks. “To inspire a sense of wonder” has always been part of the mission of the camps, and we hope that everyone who comes to camp experiences many such moments at Big Spring and High Trails.

The importance of a sense of wonder for all of us, and especially for young people, cannot be over emphasized. Scott Barry Kaufman, author of “Wired to Create” recently spoke at an American Camp Association conference we all attended.  He provided research to show that a “sense of awe” as he termed it, greatly enhances curiosity and creativity, skills that are sadly diminishing among today’s youth. Other speakers at the conference demonstrated how the simple act of “noticing” in the natural world can lead to awareness, joy, and a deep connection with nature.

Use your imagination to build a fort like the Trappers would have done over a hundred years ago!

The term “sense of wonder” was coined by Rachel Carson in a 1956 essay. Though she planned to write a book on the subject, she died in 1963 before completing the project. However, her notes were used to create a book called “Sense of Wonder”, that was published posthumously in 1965.  When Carson wrote her essay, she was already seeing signs that many children no longer had access to the wild places that were abundant for our agricultural forbears.

Carson could not have predicted, however, the changes in society which have occurred in the past 60 years. In 2006, Richard Louv picked up Carson’s theme with his bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder”. The research is now significant and it all shows that children need time spent in the natural world in the same way they need food and sleep.  And, while we now understand the power of this need, studies also show that the amount of time children are spending in the natural world is decreasing each year.

Where will these seeds go?

Two significant, and simple, realizations have become clear through the research. One: it is through a personal connection to the natural world that a child experiences the most powerful benefits of a nature experience. This is the same emotional feeling described in the phrase “Sense of Wonder”. Two: young people are 90% more likely to experience this personal connection with nature if they explore the natural world with an adult mentor who also has a personal connection.

Rachel Carson was prescient in this; in her 1956 article she said “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

“To inspire a sense of wonder” is still an important part of our mission and we are becoming ever more intentional about ensuring that each person who comes to camp leaves with a personal connection to the natural world. A sense of wonder can also be enhanced in a garden, a park, an alley, or just by looking at the stars. So go outside today, notice what is around you—and take a child with you.

Flower Filled Fields

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Mariposa Lilies

After several years of drought, we have been blessed this summer by higher than average moisture. It began in May when we had several heavy, wet snows at the beginning of the month followed by daily rain at the end. The moisture continued through June with rain almost every day–in most cases, the timing was perfect and did not disrupt our program at all—although we did have a couple of downpours which had us wondering if we should put Ark Building on the program. Nice evening rains have continued into July.

The results of this moisture are everywhere. The High Trails Lake, which has not even been a puddle in recent years, is a truly magnificent lake again and we are canoeing, paddle-boarding, and fishing there. The Witcher Pond is overflowing and Lost Lake is so large that it is not lost anymore. Salamander Pond by the Tipi Village is home to many noisy frogs. The grass is waist high in some places and the camp is as green as it has ever been.

Indian Paintbrush

And the wildflowers! We have not seen this abundance and variety of wildflowers for many years and we are all reveling in their beauty. Thousands of Fairy Trumpets bloom along the roadside, and some of them are over two feet tall. Hummingbirds are drawn to them and the little birds are buzzing around constantly. The Indian Paintbrush, which were late in blooming this year, are now filling the meadows with their bright orange petals. They are taller than usual too. Columbine bloom in every forest glade and we have even seen a few of the bright red Firecracker Penstemon.  The Mariposa Lily, which has been extremely rare in recent years, is now common; the wild roses have more blooms than ever; wild flax is turning the meadows blue, and we’ve even spotted some rare orchids in shady places in the forest.

One of our all-time favorite books at camp is “The Immense Journey” written by Loren Eiseley in 1946. One of the chapters is titled “How Flowers Changed the World”. In this chapter, Eiseley describes, in exceptionally beautiful language, how

Wild Rose with a bug friend

flowering plants evolved on the Earth about 100 million years ago (recent in geologic terms). The development of the true encased seed of flowers allowed plants to move away from the waterways and to reproduce much more efficiently than more primitive plants dependent on spores. “True flowering plants grew a seed in the heart of a flower, a seed whose development was initiated by a fertilizing pollen grain independent of outside moisture. But the seed, unlike the developing spore, is already a fully equipped embryonic plant packed in a little enclosed box stuffed full of nutritious food”.

Fairy Trumpets

But the story doesn’t end there. Warm-blooded birds and mammals thrived on the nutritious high-energy seeds of the flowering plants and many of them evolved in ways that helped to spread the pollen and seeds of the flowering plants. As Eiseley says,

“Flowers changed the face of the planet. Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed.”

Those of us fortunate enough to be living with our abundance of wildflowers this summer, campers and staff alike, are taking the time to smell the roses and appreciate the wild beauty that surrounds us. We only wish you were here to enjoy them with us.

Best, Jane

Photo Credit:  All photos taken by Carlotta Avery.

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

the wild rumpus.

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


And he sailed off through night and day

and in and out of weeks

and almost over a year

to where the wild things are.

- Maurice Sendak, 1928 – 2012

Nature Based Children’s Books

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Our List of Great Nature-Based Children's Books on Pinterest

At camp, we love to read. As part of the American Camp Association’s Explore 30 reading program, Sanborn is building an outstanding library for our campers at both High Trails and Big Spring to encourage both independent reading and the long-held tradition of reading aloud in cabins, tents, and by the campfire.

We know reading inspires the imagination, enhances a sense of wonder, builds community, teaches life-skills, and limits summer-learning loss–much like the camp experience as a whole.  Books can take you to places you have never been, introduce you to creatures and people you have never met, and create environments and situations you have never imagined.  And, after reading a book, the story becomes part of you.

Thus it was a little discouraging as parents, educators, and advocates of the Children in Nature movement when we read the USA Today piece last week which detailed the loss of nature environments and themes in current children’s picture books. Researchers examined Caldecott Medal award winners and honorees from 1938 to 2008 and determined that, over the course of 80 years, children’s books are moving away from nature environments, themes and characters. According to the study:

•Early in the study period, built environments were the primary environments in about 35% of images. By the end of the study, they were primary environments about 55% of the time.

•Early in the study, natural environments were the primary environments about 40% of the time; by the end, the figure was roughly 25%.

As Richard Louv says this study demonstrates “a physical disassociation with the natural world.” He recognizes that “Nature experience isn’t a panacea, but it does help children and the rest of us on many levels of health and cognition. I believe that as parents learn more about the disconnect, they’ll want to seek more of that experience for their children, including the joy and wonder that nature has traditionally contributed to children’s literature.”

So to help you connect your kids to the outdoors through children’s literature, we have a Pinterest Board celebrating some of our favorites….and if you don’t see your favorite nature-based children’s book on the list–let us know and we will add it for you!

What are some of your favorite nature-inspired children’s books?

“I speak for the trees.”

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

In honor of Theodore Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss’) birthday, here’s a fun little musical adaptation of “The Lorax” for all to enjoy:

I know, right?!?

Volcanoes, Vampires, Zombies, and The Greatest Detective of All Time

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

"No case too small: The Mantra of Dedicated Youth Development Professionals"

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. Only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” –Joe vs. The Volcano

On this Halloween eve, I realized I should have dressed up as America’s Greatest Boy Detective…Encyclopedia Brown. The kids call him “Encyclopedia” because he is always reading. And when he isn’t reading, he solves the very mysteries and crimes that leave Police Chief Brown (his father) in a state of worry and confusion.

Encyclopedia Brown makes connections. In all of his reading and detailed observations of the world around him, he sees the interconnections that other people miss. That is why he is such a great detective…that, and his recession-friendly pricing of $.25 per day. According to Heather Havrilesky in this week’s New York Times Magazine’s “Riff” column, Encyclopedia is not only a great detective, but a darn good vampire.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Her article, “Steve Jobs: Vampire. Bill Gates: Zombie” discusses “why it’s useful to frame the world through a reductive dichotomy, based on monsters.” Vampires are narcissistic loners; zombies are zealous joiners. Whether that dichotomy is vampires and zombies; the lucky or unlucky; the intelligent or the ingenious; the creative or the steadfast; the experienced or the bookish; the 1 percent or the 99 percent; or any other dichotomy that plays out every day online, in schools, at work, at home, and everywhere else in between, the overarching fact is that these are all parts of The Whole.

And “the whole” is what keeps those of us in youth development wide awake, excited and infinitely optimistic.

Take The Genius of Jobs by author Walter Isaacson. In it, he says that “Bill Gates is super-smart, but Steve Jobs was super-ingenious. The primary distinction, I think, is the ability to apply creativity and aesthetic sensibilities to a challenge.” He goes on to posit that Jobs had the ability, like Benjamin Franklin, “to intuit the relationships between different things.” This ability to use his intuition and creativity to bridge the gap between the humanities and technology, to operate in a world of innovation and invention, is very much what current camp professionals do every single day.

How do we compete with texting, Facebook, Twitter, 3G networks, iClouds, Siri and the nightmarishly extreme amounts of screen time our campers are inundated with every day? Maybe we don’t compete…maybe we complete.

Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Jim Collins, of “Good to Great” fame, has written a new book titled, “Great by Choice” with Morten T. Hansen. In it, they examine companies that have “outperformed their industries by a factor of 10 in highly turbulent environments.” These companies are called “10Xers” for “10 times success.” The question the two ask is a fairly simple one: Just what is the role of luck in the success of these companies? In most cases, it isn’t necessarily the type of luck (good or bad) that make or break companies, it is what the companies—and the leaders within them—choose to do with the lucky, or unlucky, events. Bill Gates is lauded as someone who consistently has high ROL (Return on Luck) because “getting a high ROL requires throwing yourself at the luck event with ferocious intensity, disrupting your life and not letting up.” That sounds a great deal like teaching, parenting, and camp counseling.

Bill Gates “kept pushing, driving, working—and sustained that effort for more than two decades.” Maybe he IS more like a plodding zombie with his dogged work ethic, but he has the perseverance, the resilience, and the mindset to achieve great results. Steve Jobs had the creativity, intuition, personality, and ability to execute ideas. In both cases, there was luck, ingenuity, and a hardy dose of non-norming behaviors and ideas. And, in case you didn’t already know from your tech savvy teens, both were college dropouts (and so is Mark Zuckerberg…but that is another post altogether) yet they represent two of the most innovative, creative, and action-oriented individuals of our time.

According to Isaacson, “America’s advantage, if it continues to have one, will be that it can produce people who are also more creative and imaginative, those who know how to stand at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences.” Those who can work well with others and play outside together. Those who can innovate and relate. Those who choose to be awake and amazed.

Growth Mindsets Grow Great Things

What these individuals, living, dead, and undead all have in common is a little thing called a “growth-mindset.” Unfathomable as it might be to Encyclopedia Brown, perhaps someone’s “mindset” is very hard to statistically and scientifically measure and quantify. Yet Carol Dweck’s research has created some very compelling arguments that one cannot only determine if he or she has a “fixed” or “growth” mindset—but that individuals can actually CHANGE their mindsets and overcome great challenges. Similar to Collins and Hansen’s work, it isn’t so much about experiencing bad luck or failure…it is how you deal with it that defines you.

But this isn’t a radical concept to anyone who is committed to working with youth. The greatest moment for a camp counselor, a teacher, a youth leader, a coach, or a parent isn’t when everything works seamlessly—it is when a child who doubts her ability; an athlete who makes a bad play; a student who cheats on an exam; or a camper who worries about the mountain climb/the swim/the zipline/the nurse check-in/the new friends/the different food/the dark/the EVERYTHING—suddenly realizes that moment of failure or challenge is actually an opportunity. Then with, or because of, your supportive help and guidance, that child is able to get through the experience and grow.

The View at The Top

At that very moment, a child exhibits a true strength and sense of self that will continue to shape the path of his life. If he has the opportunity to break outside of the social norms of school and home life, he will gain more confidence in creatively expressing his ideas, take more chances in positive risk taking environments, learn that failure is requisite to success, and build up a stockpile of perseverance and resilience through his unique, personal and rare relationships and experiences. He will see himself, not as a narcissistic vampire or a mindless zombie, but as a creative, functional, “awake” human being.

These individuals are ones who can not only see, but will DO something with the interconnections around them. These individuals will solve some of the great mysteries of life, and will deeply enjoy being part of the whole. And, as Encyclopedia Brown would deduce, these individuals probably all went to camp, or had other remarkable adult mentors, educators, supporters, and youth development professionals along the way.

I rest my case.

-Ariella Rogge







Where are we? Colorado! What are we? Mountain Mamas!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Camp Kids at the "Rockin" SWC table

On Monday, we had the opportunity to be part of the Colorado Mountain Mamas Spring Fling.  Colorado Mountain Mamas is a hiking club for moms living on the Colorado Front Range.  They have a chapter in Denver and one in Colorado Springs.  CMM offers hikes for moms with babies newborn to 2 years in a pack (with three different levels of difficulty) and also hikes for toddlers ages 2 to 5.

CMM was founded in 2003 by Joy Opp (a former Colorado Springs native and 6th grade attendee of HTOEC) after the birth of her daughter, Amanda.  The club has grown to over 2,000 members trekking the trails with their seven hike leaders.

The Audubon Center--a great facility!

Their annual Spring Fling event attracted over 300 outdoorsy individuals to The Audubon Center at Chatfield Reservoir in south Denver to hike on the trails, hang out with the red-winged blackbirds, make cool crafts, check out great vendors, and play Nature Bingo with Mike and Ariella from Sanborn Western Camps!

We loved meeting all the moms, dads and grandparents who are passionate about getting their kids into the outdoors.  We gave away 3 copies of our new book 101 Nature Activities for Kids and donated one to Colorado Mountain Mamas and one to the Audubon Center for their future programs.   We encourage you to visit Amazon.com to order a copy for your family, classroom, nature club, youth group, or just to share with your neighbors.

101 Nature Activities for Kids

We often share some of those 101 nature activities on our  Sanborn Western Camps blog–so like us on Facebook so you won’t ever miss a post!  Our blog is also a great place to stay current on everything going on within the Children in Nature movement, find fun outdoor activities to do with your kids, and to find great tools and techniques to incorporate into your own outdoor parenting, grandparenting, and teaching style.

Additionally, April is Children in Nature Awareness month—and there will be plenty of opportunities to get your kids outside in the upcoming weeks.  Plan, or plan to attend, a Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) event for your favorite play group, a school field trip, or home school community.

Check out the Children and Nature Network on Facebook to stay up to date on ideas, activities, articles, legislation, and more.  Keep the outdoors part of childhood…keep hiking, playing, and doing what you are doing with your family, friends, and neighbors.

We love Mountain Mamas and Dadventurers–let’s get these kids outside!