Archive for April, 2012

Can Documentaries Connect Us With Nature?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

In a recent New York Times Opinions Page discussion, nature savants debate the issue of nature documentaries supplementing for the real deal.

“Humans have always been fascinated by nature, but these days many of us are following our curiosity to the multiplex or the couch, rather than the backyard or the beach. Families are flocking to theaters for the new Disney documentary “Chimpanzee,” and grown-ups have been tuning in at home for the Discovery series “Frozen Planet.” (And now dogs can watch squirrels on TV.)

Are films and shows like these helping to connect viewers with the natural world? Or do they contribute to “nature deficit disorder,” replacing the experience of spending time outdoors?”

Check out what some experts are saying about the matter, including Ming Kuo, Fred Kaufman, and our man of the year, Richard Louv.

Well, what do you think?

Wordless Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it
and dependent upon it,
can still ripen a bunch of grapes
as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

-Galileo

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.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Word(full) Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Evolving Education: Learning From Our Given Cultures

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

There have been a number of eccentric communities I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing over the past, well, let’s say five years. I’d chock it all up to this sort of collective wanderlust spirit, sort of this fire-burning-inside/on-the-bus off-the-bus/spirituality quest, sort of this kind of journey to find space, to find community, to find work (and play) with intention.

While driving back home to the ranch from Denver a few weekends ago, I happened to pass by a neat looking outdoor education center/camp off the side of the road before I hit greater downtown Deckers. The sign read: Woodbine Ecology Center, and I had to take a peek.

The neat thing about this outdoor education center is that they believe wholeheartedly in being a sustainable community through indigenous Ute practices.

“The point of Woodbine is to provide a base from which indigenous peoples can join with other communities of goodwill to forge a more just and sustainable future for all future generations.”

I mean, you can’t argue with that. I think we do what we do at HTOEC and Sanborn very well. And similarly, I think what Woodbine is doing is incredible work for visitors and students alike. And a lot of that has to do with the rich Colorado history we’re able to pass along.

But one of the main reasons they do what they do is because of (well, here comes that buzz word again) … intention.

“We have indigenous children who are third- or fourth-generation urban dwellers, many of whom have lost any connection with their histories, values and culture, with their songs and ceremonies, and with their elders and the wisdom their ancestors have passed to them about living in their homeland.”

There’s a lot to learn at these sort of places. And I have to say that different paths work for different people.

And each person, thus, is able to thrive in the way in which they can (and want to), whether it be (shameless plugs …) living off the grid in geodesic domes and treehouses (and walking labyrinths for hours), designing biblical gardens as summer camp, teaching low-income families about aquaponics systems in urban areas, or just brewing a good cup of chai mate (and having an awesome folk dance on Shabbat!).

So I think we all have the same goal here. We can all find validity in each of our fields.

And I think that’s especially important. We should never, ever think that what we’re doing–the way in which we teach children, build our homes, feed our communities and share ideas to future generations–is better or worse than the work of our neighbors’.

Different paths work for different people. And we should all be excited to learn with each other.

Summer 2012: The 50th Summer of High Trails

Monday, April 9th, 2012

2012 is the 50th Anniversary of High Trails so it seems like a little trip down memory lane is appropriate. High Trails opened in 1962 with the lodge and four cabins: The Infirmary, Jumping Juniper, Gold Hut, and Kinnikinnik. Big Spring had been around for 14 years and a lot of the boys who attended Big Spring had sisters who were also interested in camp, so they were ready and willing to come to High Trails. In 1962, there were about 35 girls in each term.

This was before backpacking, so for cabinside overnights the girls would hike to a spring tank on the property, and Nasty Ned or another guy would deliver their Baker tents (three sided green canvas contraptions which had ten foot wooden poles and weighed about 50 pounds—five people could sleep in one but they were not at all watertight), food, large heavy grills and number #10 cans for cooking (no cook kits then).

The whole camp went together by hired bus on off-camp trips and the regular bus drivers became part of the community. These included three or four day trips to Ashcroft near Aspen which included a visit to the sled dogs at Toklat. These included Yukon King, Sergeant Preston’s famous companion (for those of you under 70, “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” was a popular radio/TV show. Just so you know, I had to look it up on Google). Another “long” trip was to the Sand Dunes—the tents here were huge bus tents which weighed hundreds of pounds and had to be set up by the bus drivers. They slept about 25 and were stifling— everyone slept outside unless it was pouring rain.

The whole camp went to the River together (none of the rafts had bottoms and no one had a life jacket so Jaws could be pretty exciting) and to Cripple Creek to watch the melodrama. For in-camp program, everyone chose “Big Deals” and “Little Deals”–programs that met several times each term. There was a horseback riding Big Deal, a hiking Big Deal, a crafts Big Deal and even a dance Big Deal. And on Sunday, everyone wore tan and white, Laura’s favorite colors, had coffee cake for breakfast, and went to Sunday Rocks in the evening (we still have coffee cake and go to Sunday Rocks but the tan and white “uniform” is no longer.)

There were coed events with Big Spring and the advent of High Trails changed Big Spring in some profound ways. Probably the most significant change was that the boys started showering at least one a week. Status was also added to the roles of trash man, who got to pick up garbage at High Trails, and Assistant Counselors, who got to do dishes at High Trails on a rotating basis. Now, of course, the HT Assistant Counselors are girls and the girls do their own trash—but most of the boys still shower on Saturday before the coed event. This was also the beginning of the Camp Marriage Count (now at #66).

Ah, those were the good old days……

Enjoyed this journey down memory lane?  Get a monthly update (and often a giggle) by signing up for our Alum e-News.  To subscribe send an e-mail to jane@sanbornwesterncamps.com and write in the subject line, “Add Me to the Alum e-News”.  We won’t sell, distribute or otherwise try and use your email to buy stuff at the camp store.

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!

Wordless Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

“Everything is simply happy.
Trees are happy for no reason;
they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents
and they are not going to become rich
and they will never have any bank balance.
Look at the flowers- for no reason.
It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.”

- Osho

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

“There was a child went forth everyday,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.”

- Walt Whitman