Archive for May, 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.
Ahem…since I am one of the loudest people to grace the hoedown stage/Big spring lodge I feel I must take the floor!
- Ian Stafford
This morning I was delighted to find out that the Endurance Rally Association had chosen to route part of it’s legendary Trans-America Challenge down Teller County Road 46A…and right past the Sanborn Western Camps front gate.
These amazing classic cars (all pre-1973, and many far, far older), make the journey from New York to Alaska in about 30 days. It is a fully supported rally, with mechanics and support vehicles along the way, and the race organizers even post a daily blog sharing the highlights of the day’s journey.
Beyond the fun of seeing all of these intrepid drivers (who often waved and honked as they revved on by), the best part of waiting for the cars was listening for the distinctly deep and throaty sound of these older cars as they came around the tight curve on 46, and opened up their engines on their approach toward the Sanborn sign. In between the cars, the sound of the wind and the screech of Red-tail hawks riding the morning thermals were the only other sounds one could hear.
We all wish the drivers and their cars the best of luck during as they continue their drive from Durango tomorrow on into Arizona. As fellow adventurers, we know they will marvel at the expanse and beauty of the American West as we do every day of the summer!
Author’s Note: We are beginning to suspect Florissant truly may be the Center of the Universe…or at least, the Center of Adventure. Next fall, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will ride from Breckenridge to Colorado Springs, following the route over Hoosier, Wilkerson, and Ute Passes that many campers and alums would find quite familiar. The riders will pass the main camp sign (on Highway 24) on Thursday, August 24th. If you are interested in using camp or The Nature Place as a “base camp” for your OWN ride to Wilkerson Pass (or just want to stand by the Sanborn sign and cheer the riders into Florissant) please give us a call at 719.748.3341 or email ariella at sanbornwesterncamps dot com.
“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
“There is something new under the sun, every day, all over the world …
Atlas Obscura is for people who still believe in discovery.”
This is the mantra of Atlas Obscura, a neat collection of the world’s weirdest, most wonderful places, and what you’ll find there.
No matter where on Earth you are (literally, they have every continent, every state, even the littlest of towns), there are places to discover such oddities as “miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper.”
Pretty neat, huh? And wait, look-y here!
Our very own Florissant Fossil Beds made the grade:
“Fossilized stumps of a redwood forest litter the site, which is the most prolific source of fossilized insects anywhere in the world.”
I mean, I’d go check it out.
The following is the second part of Rodrick Lucero’s keynote speech from the 2012 ACA Conference:
The journey to being an educator has been repeated over and over again in the last 150 years as emerging teachers “cut their teeth” in the day camp and residential camp environments. It is here that they learned the art of teaching…the way to apply content (relevance), the way to challenge students to think critically (rigor), and the way engage campers as members of a community (relationships). Relevance, Rigor, and Relationship have become the new “three R’s”, as the former (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic) cannot be effectively learned without the new “three R’s”. Famed Psychologist, Abraham Maslow reminds us in his Hierarchy of human needs that if we as educators can take care of the human-ness of our students, their psychological safety, their physical safety, and their sense of belonging, then and only then will we be able to teach them, and learn beside them, and discover with them in ways that engage their learning. There is some research out there that discusses the “summer dip”. I’m not sure that I buy into much of this research, but I do know that there is no summer dip when kids are actively engaged in camp activities that encourage them to apply what they know…this is learning, and it is different than memorization.
It seems to me that schools do a great job of asking students to engage in the theoretical learning, learning that is taken at face value as valid. Whereas camps ask students to apply the knowledge that they have learned in school, and use these learning in their explorations of the natural world. One might read about the Milky Way, and its place in the cosmos in the context of their Environmental Science class. They might even be able to identify constellations from a computer generated model…but it’s when they lay on grassy hill at night that the Milky Way becomes real, and the constellations jump from the computer screen and become material upon which to engage the imagination, Cephus the king, Cassiopeia, and Orion, indeed!
So, if we imagine schools as primarily engaged with rigor and camps primarily engaged with relevance then where do relationships fit? They belong in both. The ability to make and maintain friendship is a condition of our human existence…Children learned this from their first years. We need relationships.
So, then it is up to us in the schools and the camps to make sure our environments are filled with opportunities to make and maintain these human connections and friendships. It’s in the eyes of others that we learn more about ourselves, and which becomes the “cement” or “glue” that holds us close to our most treasured learning experiences. It is in the mirror of relationship that learning gains meaning and where it finds a context with which we can base our next learning.
So, we create the inescapable bond between traditional educational environments (schools), and less traditional educational environments (camps). Much of what I have discussed thus far is about students and campers, but what about the camper directors, the principals, the counselors, and the teachers…those adults who have committed themselves to making the world a better place. Those who realize that an investment in a child is the only way to insure a democracy and a future for the planet…maybe we need to send our politicians to camp??? I wonder what might happen if they were placed in a situation where they HAD to help each other climber that mountain, or cross that river? Maybe some lessons could be learned…but I digress?
Camp personnel are every bit the teachers and leaders of schooling in America. It is time for the camp community to take their rightful seat at the educational table, and partner, regularly!! With schools…about innovations that are mutually beneficial…This is a way to do what we do well in our business models and business plans…Simultaneous Renewal! As Camp Directors train their new crop of counselors are these counselors taught the fundamental importance of their work, in making the world a better place to live…do they understand that every day and every situation is a teachable moment. How will they “teach” when the disagreement over a care package arises? How will they teach when a camper is homesick? How will they teach the appropriate knots that make rock climbing safer and more enjoyable? How will they teach the beauty of quiet? How will they teach the importance of genuine care and concern?
I think camp counselors are luckier than teachers, because we get to spend more concerted time with our charges. We get to know them in an informal way that is often more deep, more human, more real. We get to see the hurt, the fear, the confusion, the laughter, and the silliness, and we get to use the tools of our trade to help them overcome their vulnerabilities…they can do the high ropes course, they can take the hand of a younger camper to help them overcome the heavy back-pack, they can get outside of themselves and see the PURPOSE! Camp Counselors get to engage students in the depth of their learning, while schools are adept at providing the breadth! This is the simultaneous renewal that both entities bring to the table…what they bring to the education of every child.
There are other partners in our camp work that I have yet to discuss; the parent community. How do we educate our parent community on the importance of camp at times of dwindling resources, and longer school years.
First of all we need to understand that the parent community is an important member of the team that educates their child. It’s critical that we spend time building partnerships, formal and informal with our parent community. How will they be renewed by sending their child to camp? Just like their campers, are parents being engaged in the process…and if we were to look at Maslow as a framework, are we taking care of parents needs for physical safety, are we sharing with them how our staff is being trained for supervision at the pool, on the mountain, around the river, what kind of food is being served etc…for their psychological safety, are we sharing with them how our staff is being trained to handle bullying, homesickness, disagreements, etc. How are we inviting parents to “belong” to the camp community?
This is obviously a difficult balance, as it’s important for parents to allow their children to explore their world, to become more independent. I think that if all parents are involved in a non-intrusive way in the camp community, and if institutionalize their involvement there will be less need for “more” intrusion.
So, as I reflect upon my comments today, it’s clear that we have made an argument for the importance of camp in the educational life of every child…
If we can argue that camp is critical to the development of a child, then I believe that we, in this room, have to make it a priority to include access to the opportunity of camp to every student…this will cost us financially, but in a very real sense I don’t believe that we can afford, as a society, to have opportunities for some students and not for others…How can we make camp accessible to all children!
… How can this be done, I have no idea, but I enjoy the thought that at some point in our lifetimes, every child can go to camp, every child can have a mentor, and every child can challenge themselves as they figure out their place in the world. If we can do this well, schools won’t feel the need to elongate their calendars, because their partners at camp will continue the educational enterprise in June, July and August…nothing will be lost, but a well-educated democracy of social justice focused citizens will continue to grow and flourish.
I am here because of each of you, the camp collective, the camp community. I am here because of camp. My life was forever changed thirty–one years ago on June 7th…the first day of the first staff-training I experienced, when a camp director told me that camp was about “fun and adventure, but with a purpose”…and on that day I went all in…and continue to engage in “fun and adventure, with an eye…always…on the purpose”.
On that day, I became a camp counselor and it was then that I began to grow beyond myself and it was then that I began to understand the responsibility of my privilege, and it was then that I began becoming a man. Camp holds me accountable to every decision I make, to this day. It’s strong hold on my integrity, and the ethical principles (that I have come to value) have made it impossible to sit back and watch injustice…it is camp that engages me to make the world a better place.
We are all camp,
We are united in the camp spirit,
and We are the future,
We are relevant
We WILL make our mark
We will engage every child in their own learning
We will continue to believe in our mission
We will not be deterred, failure is not an option…because failing our kids is not, nor will it ever be an option!
The answer is ….CAMP
We are camp…
And we are the answer!
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.