Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Evolving Education: Rodrick Lucero & the Educational Landscape, Part One

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The following is taken from a keynote speech given by Rodrick Lucero during the 2012 ACA Conference in Atlanta, GA.

Get ready to be inspired.

… My discussion with you will focus on the relationship between what you provide to the education of every child and what schools provide.  My hope is that you will walk away from this keynote with

  • specifics to share with parents about our collective role in the education of every child.
  • a sense of how camp and schools are related in the 21st century
  • a description of skills that camps contribute to the schooling of every child
  • a little bit of research on the importance of camps
  • and renewed vigor in the important work that you do!

Campers:

In tears, a camper shares:  “Camp is such a big part of me…I grew up here; I found out who I am here; I have spent my childhood here; I figured out my values here; and now I know I can do anything!  I am more confident in school now.  I really want to take what camp has given me and share it with the world!”

Another camper notes: School is more fun because of camp, because I figured out who I was, I was able to “find my voice”…and as a result I am more of an active participant in my life…I like school because I am part of the process, not just watching it from the outside looking in.  I have finally learned that when I challenge myself, I can be a better me.”

And yet another:  It’s better to be on a summit with a group, it’s a shared journey, shared worked, shared struggle, and shared rewards!

A staff member writes:  Being outside encourages skills that a classroom can’t touch; problem-solving that combines visceral engagement with intellectual development.  Kids use their bodies and their hands to interact with the world; they have more chances to grow emotionally and socially.   Camp is like school on steroids; I have freedom that spans the out of doors and my “classroom” encompasses whenever I can dream up…kids are more engaged, receptive in nature.  After this experience, I will always make sure that there in an outdoor component to everything I teach.  Here we teach emotional intelligence with every interaction…everyone here is an educator because everything we do is intentional.

So what have these campers and counselors captured?  They have eloquently stated why camp is part of their educational experience.  The have described the soft skills, otherwise known as the 21st century skills that guide every student through every learning event of their lives from the Biology lab, to learning the “J” stroke with a canoe, to playing in the band, to saddling a horse, to team sports in Physical Education, and to engaging in a reflective essay in English, or the genuine appreciation for a sunset.  It is the development of these soft skills…these 21st century skill…that camp does well and where schools struggle…As educators, it is incumbent upon us all to work collaboratively with our local, state, and national school communities and articulate what our important contributions, let them articulate what they provide and intentionally plan for a vision of educational excellence for every child.  We can no longer live in the safe isolation that has defined our relationships for over 150 years.  The camp community and the school community absolutely need one another if they are to continue to be relevant, to continue to prepare young people for active involvement in our democracy, engagement in the environmental crises we are facing, and shared responsibility for all others across the globe.

So much of what we hear about effective education calls for the reform of the system.  However, maybe “reform” isn’t the answer.  Maybe “renewal” captures our charge with more clarity.  It is my supposition that each entity, schools, and camps, do better because of the other, while they can (and often do) exist in isolation their collectives outcomes will dramatically improve the life of each child who benefit from the good work in both environments.

The work in which we engage is best understood by what John Goodlad has called “Simultaneous Renewal”.  It is not in reform that we find answers, but in continual growth.  It’s a “space” where we recognize what is good and we build upon it.  It’s also a “space” where we identify needed change; those elements that are barriers to our growth.  Reform, on the other hand, is a call for throwing out the good work that has been done, and constructing a new “world order”.  But as we look at how we learn, we begin from what we know…doesn’t renewal sounds like a more realistic way to provide ongoing, effective, instruction!  Reform is much about ideas that have no foundation, no place in practice, and are therefore relegated to existence in rhetoric without any manifestation in the reality of the educational environment.

“Renewal” is hopeful and resonates with the power of a joyful educational system that is always in process…always climbing, always meeting children where they are and taking them where they need to be…it speaks to the “camp” experience and its place in the education of every child. It is this commitment to personal growth that we remember in our own camp experience, it’s the memory of last summer’s “renewal” that brings a camper back the next year, and staff back for several seasons!  It is what we do!

Simultaneous Renewal is a realization that innovations, ideas, and creative endeavors are robust when they have a tangible benefit for participant.  In our daily camp activity schedules are we insuring that all participants;  campers, counselors, directors, vendors, parents, staff, etc. are involved in the mission and engaged in making the experience meaningful.   Every participant must be engaged in the mission, and therefore must be actively part of the culture.  All participants must “belong” to the camp environment if they are to create meaning within the day to day operations.  Are cooks invited to campfires? Are mechanics invited to an appreciation breakfast put on by campers? Are mail carriers greeted with “ant cookies” made especially for them? So, I would ask you, how is renewal built into your camp processes, staff training, activity dockets, letters home, etc.?

The synergy created when human beings engage in meaningful experiences together is palpable.  It is why we love camp, it’s why campers return year after year, and it’s how we retain staff beyond one season. This “renewal” happens when meaning is defined around a purpose.  In my camp experience the founders of the camp used a mantra, “fun and adventure, with a purpose”.  In my first staff training experience it became clear what the “purpose” was…as Counselors, we were there to enjoy being in the out of doors with campers, but also to educate them about the natural world in which we explored.  It is here that the mission is found…a focused idea: an idea of purpose, an idea of learning.  It is on the first day of my first staff week where I became an educator.  I can recall an overwhelming sense of responsibility and excitement sweeping over every sense as I wondered how I would answer the charge to be an educator.  Would I be good enough? Would I know enough? Would I be engaging enough? Would I be funny? Would I be liked? What if I didn’t know an answer?

As staff training continued I came to a realization that has stayed with me thirty years later…it’s not about knowing the answers, critical thinking and effective instruction is about asking the questions…and then searching for possible answers together…the discovery…ah, the discovery.  The miracle happens every day, and every cloud becomes a shape to see, every ant hill was a city to be studied, every song was a mirror within which to see ourselves, and every challenge, an opportunity to help others, even while we struggled…and we learned…that the fun was in the journey, and that the journey of learning never ends…and the fun never ends.  And the answer to effective learning and effective education is, as Ellen noted in my session yesterday…the answer is CAMP.

So what are these 21st Century skills that we’ve been discussing, and how exactly do they help us learn, how do they help us all in our own renewal?

Because of camp…

We learned to persevere

We learned to be kind

We learned what was meant, by camp cookies that sang.

We learned how to take the next step, then the next as we climbed

We learned to live in a community

We learned that Facebook was not as much fun as a sunset

We learned that our I-Phone was not as engaging as kickball

We learned to make friends

We learned to overcome homesickness

We learned to lend a helping hand

We learned that a smile we could share was more important that our rotten mood

We learned to challenge ourselves, and our friends

We learned the power and subsequent respect of a thunderstorm

We learned to be a member of a team

and when to lead,

and when to follow

We learned the magic of a group effort

We learned the intimacy of being silent

We learned the humility of being a part of nature

We learned that don’t have to sing well, to sing camp songs

We learned that the showers get hotter when the toilets are flushed

We learned that we really have value

We learned that we really do have worth

And we learned that we really do matter

And we learned that sometimes we need someone else’s help

And we learned that in every interaction, and in every challenge there was

something for us to learn…and we learn…and we learn…and we learn…

… to be continued

Dr. Rodrick S. Lucero is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation in the School of Education at Colorado State University and has 10 years’ experience as a camp staff member. He was a well-respected high school teacher and high school administrator for 21 years before moving to his current position. His educational career has been heavily influenced by the relevance inherent in a natural environment and he continually advocates for a myriad of learning environments in order to educate every student effectively. It is at this complex intersection that Rod has fused his passion for nature and his passion for educational opportunities for every child.

Easter Egg Hunts: An Opportunity for Nature Adventure!

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

One of the great annual traditions of the year-round staff of Sanborn Western Camps and the High Trails Outdoor Education Center is our Easter Egg hunt and staff dinner.

Easter egg hunts up here take place outside, in all weather…many years we are digging through the snow to find eggs (and, yes, this event is NOT reserved for kids under the age of 12).

Last year, however, we had one of the most fun hunts in recent memory.  It combined nature activity, sensory awareness game, and great teamwork.  If you are looking for a way to refresh your Easter Egg hunt, this will make the hunt memorable, fun, and engage the entire family!

Setting Up the Hunt:

  • Hide the eggs in both easy and challenging locations
  • Use the natural landscape to hide the eggs in unique ways (in the crook of a tree, in a hole, under a bush) this makes the hunt more exciting and fun for everyone
  • There should be an “Egg Master”, or a time limit so someone knows when all of the eggs have been found, or time has expired

Framing the Hunt for Participants:

  • Each person needs a partner; pair children with adults if possible or younger children with teens
  • The oldest partner needs to be blindfolded
  • The youngest partner “leads” his/her partner to the hidden eggs….BUT CANNOT TOUCH THEM TO GUIDE THEM (this can change if you have a very young child)
  • Only the blindfolded partner can touch the eggs
  • If you want, have a time limit (5-7 minutes) and then switch roles

After the Hunt:

  • Use the hunt as an opportunity to talk about where animals hide their eggs or make their nests
  • If possible, head back out and see if any eggs were missed while trying to find “real” nests and animal homes in the same area
  • Collect items found in the area to build your own nest…you can use it to contain all of the chocolate eggs you collected during the Easter egg hunt!

Have fun and share YOUR favorite Easter egg hunt!

The Sanborn Semester: Education at Its Peak

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Live It.

We begin the new year with some exciting news!

We are launching a new semester school program, the Sanborn Semester, to begin in January 2013. This unique semester program is designed for achievement oriented, college-bound high school juniors and seniors.

Students will live at The Nature Place from mid-January to mid-May and take core subjects (English, History, Science, Math, Foreign Language, etc) taught in an experiential and integrated format. In addition to the academic subjects,
students will participate in a unique Perspectives course which is focused on leadership, service learning, environmental ethics, and research. They will provide community service by becoming teaching assistants in our High Trails Outdoor Education Program, and they will also have the opportunity to take advantage of the many special outdoor opportunities the Sanborn property provides—horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, biking and more.

Learn It.

Why, you might ask, would a summer camp undertake a high school semester program? The answer is simple: We are educators and we have always been educators. (Some of you will recall the stories Sandy used to tell about the years he was Superintendent, Principal, only Teacher, and Janitor at the Florissant High School) We know that young people thrive when they have contact with the natural world; we know that the technology we are surrounded with can create distraction in a teen’s life which leads to diminished focus; we know that a program which integrates academic skills with social and emotional skills provides a solid foundation for 21st century success. And we know that our brand of experiential curriculum works on many levels. It excites and inspires students; it reignites curiosity and wonder; it makes learning fun and relevant again; and it helps to create a passion for lifelong learning.

Be It.

Our year-round professional staff is extremely excited about the opportunities which the Sanborn Semester presents, and are committed to providing a truly transformational experience for the students who join us.

If you know of any outstanding high school students who might be interested in the program, please let us know
and we will be happy to send them additional information about the curriculum, the program, and community life.

We would also be happy to send information if you are connected with a school and know of students who might be interested in this opportunity. You can also check our website www.sanbornsemester.org

We look forward to hearing from you!







Meet The Outdoor Play #GNO Twitter Party Panelists…proving that play trumps politics any day!

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Visit www.momitforward.com to learn more about #GNO!

Tonight, from 9-11 p.m. EST (7-9 p.m. MST), Sanborn Western Camps is sponsoring a #GNO Twitter Party with host Mom It Forward about the Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids (and Adults!).

The Twitter hashtag #gno stands for “Girls (& Guys!) Night Out”.  Once you are on Twitter, do a search on the hashtags #gno and #sanborncamps to join the chat or follow the chat and tweet using Tweetgrid.  This promises to be a very informative, fun conversation with folks from all over the country.  It will get you pumped up to get your whole family outside this weekend (and maybe even tomorrow morning)  as well as give you information about the importance of play, summer camp, the Children in Nature movement, educational trends, and much, much more!

As some additional motivation to stop by, Sanborn Western Camps is giving away a full Sanborn Junior tuition (or a 1/2 tuition for the full term) for summer 2012 or 2013,  based on availability.  Visit momitforward.com for more details on how to enter.

We wanted to take a moment to thank all of our panelists for tonight’s #gno party.  They are incredible people to follow on Twitter and in the blogosphere.  We look forward to their insights and contributions during tonight’s event.  Play on!

Our tremendous panelists include:

@acacamps The American Camp Association (formerly known as the American Camping Association) is a community of camp professionals who, for nearly 100 years, have joined together to share our knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. Because of our diverse 7,000 plus membership and our exceptional programs, children and adults have the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — lessons that can be learned nowhere else. Dawn Swindle, head of ACA Publications (both print and web) will be tweeting using @acacamps and also @acacampparents during tonight’s #gno Twitter party.  With her years at ACA, and as a long time camp professional, Dawn is a great resource for parents and camp professionals alike.  Learn more about ACA and their rigorous camp accreditation process by visiting www.acacamps.org.

@acacampparents CampParents.org is a comprehensive summer camp resource for families—offering expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, child and youth development, and issues of importance to families. ACA helps you find the right camp for every child.  Learn more about ACA and use the impressive camp finder tool at www.campparents.org.

@activekidsclub Kari Svenneby is not a professional tree hugger, though she is a proud wildcrafter and self-proclaimed “Polar Bear Mother.”  She is an urban mother, librarian and classically trained chef championing the benefits exposure to nature gives children.  She is so passionate about getting kids outside, Kari made it is her business. When looking for inspirational ideas about the natural world in magazines and online she found very little. Her passion turned into a business idea. She has set out to make an exciting website connecting children with nature for adults and kids.  Thus activekidsclub.com was born.  Kari is a “love refuge” from Norway who speaks 6 languages, and her posts and tweets offer a unique cultural perspective on natural play that are not to be missed.

@banteringblonde Fiona Bryan is a techno-goddess.  She blogs about social media and all things “banter-worthy” at Banteringblonde.com, was a 2009 Top #50 Tweeple on PRSarahEvans.com, and writes regularly for the popular blog Technorati.  Her passion for motivating and empowering women to be positive role models for their families led her to found MomActive in early 2009.  Momactive is a multi-media outreach initiative that includes a weekly Blog Talk Radio program, MomTV live stream video program, and the MomActive.com community and blog.  Fiona hope to check off a bucket item list sometime this spring when she takes a trip down The Nature Place’s zipline with her friend, Ariella Rogge from @sanborncamps.  As a former camper and current Director of Marketing and Public Relations for New England Music Camp (@nemusiccamp), Fiona appreciates and understands the growth and wisdom that comes from a summer camp experience.

@ChildrenNature The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.  Typically hosted by Suz Lipman ( see below for more info about @slowfamily) who is a writer, blogger at www.slowfamilyonline.com, soapcrafter, jammaker, hiker, retro-enthusiast, and who claims she will work for peace, justice & cheese.  For @ChildrenNature, Suz shares incredible information, research, and cutting edge ideas with parents, educators, researchers, camps and like-minded organizations who are passionate about getting kids outdoors. 

@GoExploreNature Debi Huang is a Los Angeles-based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys.  Her blog, Go Explore Nature, is a place for her to share her family’s nature adventures. She hopes to inspire you to get your family outside, too. She has weekly reviews of nature adventures (her recent holiday beach trip was a favorite of the frigid mountain set); she also shares stories, inspirations and lessons learned from nature; and she has THE cure for the #FF blues: “Fun Friday” activities that feature simple ways to connect your kids with the natural world (reader favorites include a winter scavenger hunt and taking a color walk.)  She is a prolific blogger and an anchor in the Children in Nature movement.  But our favorite thing about Debi?  She has been writing letters (REAL MAIL!!) to her Big Explorer and Little Explorer since before they were born.

@hoo_dee_hoo Meredith Sinclair is a Chicago-land mother hung up her teacher hat after having kids, started a blog to “find” her writing voice, and now writes and vlog on her own site and Chicagoparent.com about daily life as a full-time mom of two young boys and the challenge of maintaining her vengeful girlie side in a home fueled by undistilled testosterone.  She believes PLAYtime is vital to our health and well being…not to mention it makes us all WAY less grumpy…however, if you ARE feeling grumpy, you should just take a moment to watch Meredith talk about the game Pajaggle in her Holiday Play-list post.  Her enthusiasm, and great ideas, are contagious!

@ImaginationSoup Melissa Taylor is a freelance writer, an award winning educational blogger at ImaginationSoup.net, an award winning teacher with a M.A. in Education, the Book Editor-at-Large for Colorado Parent Magazine and a parent of two children, ages 5 and 8. As a teacher, she won Outstanding Teacher in Douglas County Schools. She worked or the non-profit P.E.B.C. as an instructional coach and trainer and hosted groups of teachers in her classroom for learning labs.  Taylor understands instruction, literacy, assessment, differentiation, learning styles, multiple intelligences, learning disabilities and curriculum. Taylor hopes Imagination Soup will gives parents plenty of ideas to keep their kids learning every day…mostly by keeping learning fun and playful!

@JylMomIF Jyl Johnson Pattee lives, works, and breathes a special kind of magic.  As the founder of MomItForward.com, Jyl combines a passion for communication and people, and she launched the site in 2008 with the mission to “change the world one mom at a time.”  We think the concept is a perfect use for value-added social media (and a great metaphor for human relations all the way around)—great ideas are TOO great not to be shared.  She is THE hostess of the weekly #gno parties on Twitter, which started in September 2008. Jyl is known as a “connector” who brings good ideas and people together both on and offline to make a positive impact for causes and brands through education and sharing of experiences.  Jyl is also a tremendous mother to two active boys, an intrepid traveler, the creator of the EVO conference, a wonderful writer, an occasionally irreverent wife to Troy, and a great friend to any parent online.  Please take the time to visit her and learn more about Jyl, the EVO conference, the Mom It Forward movement, #gno and much, much more at www.momitforward.com.

@kaboom KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to saving play. Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, a fact that is having disastrous consequences on their health, achievement levels, and overall well-being. To fight this play deficit, social entrepreneur Darell Hammond founded non-profit KaBOOM! in 1996 in Washington, D.C. with a vision of creating a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since then, KaBOOM! has mapped over 89,000 places to play, built more than 2,000 playgrounds, and successfully advocated for play policies in hundreds of cities across the country. KaBOOM! also provides communities with online tools to self-organize and take action to support play on both a local and national level. Hammond chronicles the founding of the organization and the importance of the cause of play in his The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. The book details how businesses and communities can work together to save play for children across the country. All author proceeds support KaBOOM!. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.

@sanborncamps Ariella Rogge, Program Director/Assistant Director/Outdoor (and indoor) Educator/Social Media Junkie/Mom of Two Boy Wonders/Toilet Plunger, manages the @sanborncamps Twitter account both day (and more consistently) by night.  Ariella has been involved in some capacity (see “Toilet Plunger”) at Sanborn Western Camps since she was 12.  She is a true believer in the transformational power of the camp experience for all children because for her, like Richard Louv (author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder) says, “The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.”  She would love to answer any questions you might have about summer camp (or help direct you to the right person!)—either at Sanborn or anywhere else—feel free to email her at ariella at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.

@slowfamily “Slow down. Enjoy lost arts and each other. Trade frenzy for fun.”  Suz Lipman’s About Slow Family page is about as far from a traditional bio as one can get…and that is exactly as it should be.  Conceived to connect to that part of ourselves and our families that somehow got lost in the shuffle of our busy lives, the Slow Movement speaks to all of us who have had enough:  “Enough” to super-parenting and consumerism and running around (“racing to yoga”, as it were) and not being happy anyway. As Suz says, the Slow Movement is really about having more fun. It’s also about being authentic, deciding what’s really important, restoring a sense of wonder, appreciating and helping one other, and taking time to enjoy and honor life’s simple pleasures in the relatively short time we’re all here together.  Amen to that!

@TroyPattee Troy Pattee is a Man Among Women.  Troy is THE “G” in #GNO.  Troy’s wife, Jyl, founded the Twitter #GNO (Girls Night Out) party—and has brought her affable “Guy” with her to every event.  @sanborncamps first connected on Twitter with Troy—and later with Jyl—because he has an unnerving propensity to be skiing EXACTLY when we wish WE were skiing (and, we’ll admit it, sometimes the snow IS better in Utah).  Troy has a fabulous blog called Dadventurous.com where he will be sharing tales and adventures with other like minded dads…and—knowing Troy–probably moms, too.  Check out the blog at www.dadventurous.com and hang with him during the weekly Tuesday night #gno Twitter parties.

@windycitymomma Renee Keats is an urban mom living in the suburbs who defies classification, writes thoughtful blog posts about her adventures in (and out) of her neighborhood (which she calls Utopia/Pleasantville) that can be found at Windy City Momma.  She lives in Pleasantville with her husband, daughter (K), and a wickedly funny cat named Sabine who has changed family dog’s (Maya) name to “Beast.”  She loves having green space, growing a mostly organic garden and quotes from John Hughes movies almost as much as a circa 1987 Big Spring camper.

Holiday Listening Skills: The Reason for The Visit

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Taking time to listen...all year long

How are your listening skills? Today is the Colorado Outdoor Education Center’s annual holiday luncheon at The Nature Place.  It is our opportunity to get everyone from the different departments at COEC together for a meal and some quality story telling, some questionable singing, and some good listening.  This is a holiday tradition that has been part of Sanborn for decades.

Story telling is an essential part of the holiday season, it allows us to take a deep breath and immerse ourselves in the history of the past year with our friends and family.  It allows us to remember those we have lost, and celebrate the triumphs of childhood and share our quest for sanity in parenthood.  It allows us the opportunity to listen at a deeper level.

In the excellent article, In Africa, The Art of Listening, author Henning Mankell reminds us why “humans have two ears and only one tongue”.  Much holiday family time revolves around “visits” to different places to see different people…yet a “visit” is also a time to chat and, more importantly, to listen.  It is around these holiday tables that I learned my history and began to define my own set of stories to help explain my distinct sense of self.

One of my family’s favorite stories was about Sandy Sanborn.  My uncle, Charlie, does an amazing Sandy impression and his favorite story is a humorous retelling of The Day The Sheriff Came.  “Chandler” (as my uncle was known) was the Garbage Man at Big Spring.  The day the sheriff arrived (for reasons never known), Sandy had my uncle hide—and then began to tell everyone that “Chandler” was a wanted man.  At the next meal, a shot was fired outside the lodge, and–in dramatic fashion–my uncle crashed through the front doors….covered in ketchup.  (This was always the point in the story my dad would mutter, “My kids are NEVER going there…”)  I don’t remember what happened next—but I’m certain it involved Sandy’s deep belly laugh…a laugh that I had heard imitated for years before I actually heard it in person.

Children LOVE your stories.  They will readily become enraptured as you tell stories about your favorite gifts, most memorable holiday moments, and the history of the traditions you practice and remember.  They want to hear your stories about everything: school, camp, love, adventure, embarrassment, and mistakes.  A good story will teach a lesson…but the listener might not realize the lesson for years to come.  Your stories will shape their paths, and they will return to them again and again to gain more and more knowledge about the world.

In a world where information is ubiquitous, time is a valuable resource, and there are innumerable technological distractions that take away from these “visits” it is important to take time to pause, reflect, remember and share.  Whether we know it or not, we all crave the knowledge those moments provide.  As Mankell says, “Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.”

During this holiday season, we hope you take time to tell a story or two, listen to the stories being told, and watch for the new stories being created.

Happy Holidays!






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







The Teenage Brain: A Beautiful Thing!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

A Natural High at the High Ropes Course

Teenagers rejoice! In the October issue of National Geographic, an article entitled Beautiful Brains reveals that many of the traits that cause you (and your parents) headaches and heartaches actually make you, from about age 10-25, some of the most adaptable individuals on the planet.

In a nutshell, the research shows that your love of excitement, novelty, risk, and the company of peers is not only normal, they are universal traits of adolescence. For some “these traits may seem to add up to nothing more than doing foolish new stuff with friends,” but for you—they help prepare you for life on your own.

Teens’ love of excitement and novelty, “sensation seeking”, peaks at age 15. The desire to meet new people and try new things can, theoretically, lead to negative outcomes (depending on the people and the things). Yet, in most cases, sensation seeking is a supremely beneficial trait: by seeking opportunities to meet other people in new situations—much like camp–you better prepare yourself for a world full of people who aren’t exactly like you. Thus, you create a rich pool of varied friends and relationships with your peers, and supportive, healthy adults outside of your immediate family.

New Experiences Above the Clouds

Teenage risk-taking involves the most hand-wringing from their parents, and has recently been attributed to teens “undeveloped” brains. The article showed, however, “teens take more risks not because they don’t understand the dangers but because they weigh risk versus reward differently: In situations where risk can get them something they want, they value the reward more heavily than adults do.” In many cases, the reward is recognition, acceptance and the admiration of their peers.
This “reward” may not seem substantial (especially if, as a parent, you are dealing with any sort of teenage—or tweenage—girl drama), yet teens “gravitate toward peers for another, more powerful reason: to invest in the future rather than the past.” We are born into a world made by our parents, but it is whether we can successfully create and remake our own world that matters…and we need good, healthy friends to help us do it. This reminded me of a story from one of our SOLE trips this summer.

Making dinner on SOLE trip

Every day of the trip, staff members assigned certain “camp life” tasks to certain groups when they arrived at camp. Some campers would put up tents, others would hang the bear bag, while others would prep for and cook dinner. One day, the small group that was supposed to be hanging the bear bag was just hanging out. When asked about the bear bag, they replied, “Oh, we didn’t see how you put it up yesterday, we were waiting for you to help us.” The counselor kindly, but firmly, said, “Figure it out.”

Both the counselor and the campers related that story to me after the trip. The counselor was struggling with what she must not have done during her demonstration; the campers were beyond ecstatic and delighted because, “It took a long time, but we did it ourselves!”

So the counselor should feel validated when author David Dobb states, “when parents engage and guide their teens with a light but steady hand, staying connected but allowing independence, their kids generally do much better in life.” And, after 63 years of doing just that with each and every one of our campers, we know it is true.

As always, the images from the National Geographic article are stunning…but we like to think our own images tell a bit different story of risk-taking, novelty, excitement, and the company of peers. Enjoy!







A Parent’s Guide to a Sanborn Camper’s Letter

Friday, June 24th, 2011

SANBORNISMS: Over the years many words have crept into the camp language that are not found in Webster’s. If you are receiving letters from a camper this summer, here are a few definitions to help you with translation.

ABLE WAITERS. Campers at Big Spring who choose to come to each meal 30 minutes early, eat early, and then serve food to other campers when the main meal starts. Benefits include an excellent salary (chits which may be used at the camp store); special treatment from the cooks; and a high degree of prestige. MABLES are the servers at High Trails and everyone takes a turn. Benefits are the same.

ASSISTANT COUNSELORS. Commonly called ACs, these staff members wash the dishes after each meal and keep camp buildings clean. They also work in many areas of the camp program and add a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to every aspect of the camp community.

BOMBER. A long, day hike which can be chosen from the trip sign up sheet and sometimes from the in-camp program. These hikes range in length from 5-25 miles and cover a lot of beautiful territory. Near the end of the term there is even a Bomber Hike to climb Pikes Peak offered to older campers.

CHIT. The currency at Sanborn Camps, chits are accepted at the camp stores. They may be earned by excellence in tent or cabin clean-up, able or mabel waiting, and a variety of other good deeds.

CHIPPY DIPPY BARS. A delicious chocolately homemade dessert.

FLUBBER. A magical substance which is a solid one minute, a liquid the next. Named after the amazing goo which starred in several Walt Disney movies, this stuff is lots of fun to experiment with.

GORP. A high energy trail snack which is used on camp trips.  It usually consists of M&M’s, raisins, and peanuts although creative trip leaders may also add granola and other special treats.

INTERBARN, THE. A large science center located between Big Spring and High Trails, the Interbarn houses fun, creative displays like the giant walk-in replica of a living cell and the Talking Rock. A lot of fun activities take place here during the summer—including flubber-making bubble-blowing, “Mad Scientists”, hot air balloon making and much more.

JUNIOR COUNSELORS. Commonly called “JCs”, these are the oldest campers at High Trails. In addition to participating in an advanced activity program, their program includes leadership training and opportunities.  OUTBACKERS are the same campers at Big Spring.

RIDGE LEADER. A senior staff member who supervises several tents/cabins. They are here to support staff and campers, lead trips, organize program areas, and many other behind the scenes jobs.

SCHMERLTZ “THE WORLD’S GREATEST GAME”. Invented at Big Spring, in the 1950s, this game which began with socks packed with dirt has achieved fame as the “Foxtail” game which is now commercially sold. Although we’ve replaced the dirt with a ball, we still use a sock. Two teams face each other on the playing field and throw the schmertlz toward a goal — there are a wide variety of ever-changing rules — but it is always “the world’s greatest game”!

SIERRA CUP. A metal cup with a handle which is used on camping trips for eating and drinking. Easy to clean and carry, it is the only dish you’ll ever need!

VESPERS or SUNDAY ROCKS. On Sundays Big Spring and High Trails each hike to a high point to watch the sunset, reflect on the week, sing songs, and share inspirational quotes. This is a non-sectarian service that celebrates camp values and the beauty of the natural world.

WRANGLER. A staff member who specializes in teaching horseback riding. They lead great horse trips and are exceptionally good at helping everyone from beginning to advanced riders improve their horsemanship skills. They are renowned culinary artists of the back-country.

National Get Outdoors Day

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Saturday, June 11, is National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day). The ACA is promoting the fourth annual GO Day in order to “encourage healthy, active outdoor fun” across the country. While there are a number of events taking place at different locations, we encourage you to create your own GO Day. The overall goal for the day is to reconnect youth with the outdoors.

A typical Sanborn GO Day

Our campers don’t arrive until Sunday, but we will spend the rest of the summer having GO Days. We have numerous traditional and non-traditional outdoor activities. We think that is part of what makes participating in GO Day so fun – you can do whatever you want, as long as it is outdoors!

The Big Spring staff returned from their overnights yesterday, and the High Trails staff returned today. They spent two days out of the trail learning different parts of the ranch, mastering how to cook excellent overnight food, and partaking in a variety of nature activities. Most importantly, all the staff are very excited to share their new knowledge with the campers in just a few days!

We would love to hear what activities you are doing for GO Day!

All of the Little Parts

Monday, June 6th, 2011

High Trails Staff "Chips Off the Old Block"

Last week we welcomed our 2011 staff to Big Spring and High Trails and the camps are once again alive with the sounds of hiking feet, laughter in the Lodge, and splashing at the pools. It is always exciting to reconnect with old friends who are returning to the camps and to begin to get to know our new staff. For them, everything is fresh and new and it is energizing to look at the camps through their eyes.

During staff week we always stress that the summer of 2011 is our only focus now, and that the community we will build together this summer is unique. We also remind them, however, that they have now joined a long history of campers and staff who have contributed a part of themselves to create what Big Spring and High Trails are today.

Those contributions are evident in the songs we sing: our songbook still contains at least four songs written by campers or staff over the years. It also contains songs where we have changed the words and made them our own. “High Trails where the people you meet are your friends” was created by a cabinside group in 1965 and we sing it still. “I Zigga Zumba” comes from the earliest history of Big Spring.  Those contributions are also evident in our Words of Wisdom quote book where we have collected the inspiring things that you said or thoughts that you brought to camp with you.

There are a significant number of landscape features or buildings that you named and the names have stuck. Just yesterday I was explaining to a group of staff drivers that our maintenance building is called “Leo’s” in honor of David Sebring, who was here 1961-68. Were you part of the JC group that built the stairs in front of the craft shop? They are still there.  Did you, as an Outbacker, help build the Bridge below the Big Spring Infirmary? It still stands.

Your games and program ideas have also come down through the ages. We know who invented Schmerltz (Peter Whitely and Phil Marthens) but who first invented Marshmallow Baseball? Libby Malone brought the Bring Me Game to camp and another alum taught us all Hungarian Frisbee. The list goes on and on.

And, there are the immense contributions of those alums whose children are now 2011 staff members. People like Kassie Marshall (HT 70-71, 73) and Paige Vicker (HT Staff 83) whose daughters Emily Katz and Taylor Klauber are counselors at High Trails; or Jay Metcalf (BS 66-71, Staff 75-80) who has two daughters, Emily and Linnea, on our staff. Sophie Ohaus, daughter of Karl Ohaus (BS 68-75, Staff 77-79) is working at High Trails as is Bea Raemdonck, daughter of Leslie Riss (HT 63-68; Staff 69). Joe Aniello, son of Susie Wells (HT 76,78) , Kurt Blose, son of Nancy Heitsch (HT 77), Josh Feldman, son of John Feldman (BS 69-70) and Andrew Morton, son of James Morton (BS 69-71) are on the staff at Big Spring this summer.

And, of course, when campers begin to arrive next Sunday, we will have the great joy of welcoming many of your children to Big Spring and High Trails (almost 200 of our campers this summer will be the children and/or grandchildren of alums). So, even though you are not physically here for the summer of 2011, your spirit and contributions live on. Sandy always used to say that “Everyone leaves a little part of themselves at camp.” Believe me, those little parts are still valued here.