Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’

Illuminations of the Winter Solstice

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Without the night, how can we appreciate the day?

4:41 p.m. until 7:15 a.m..  Fourteen hours and thirty-four minutes from sunset to sunrise…and that doesn’t even factor in the long, early morning shadow of Pikes Peak or the afternoon dusk as the sun drops below the ridgeline behind Big Spring around 3:30. On this longest night of the year, it’s dark and cold at camp, with snowflakes spinning down as the storm settles into the mountains to the west, but it’s beautiful…and good.

As Clark Strand wrote over the weekend in his New York Times Op-Ed piece, “Bring On The Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice,” we need this long night to remind us that night is “the natural corrective to that most persistent of all illusions: that human progress is the reason for the world.” Granted, without all of this manufactured illumination and technological progress, I would not be tapping out this post on a computer, but—instead—be huddled under the same blankets scribbling by candlelight.

Yet Strand’s cautionary tone also provides validation to those of us who have had the opportunity to eschew “progress” for the natural rhythm of the seasons. Who among us does not remember hustling around an alpine base camp at dusk (possibly because the batteries in our flashlight or headlamp died days before) preparing for an “early” bedtime simply because the sun had set? Or, even more magically, watching the campfire die down to embers and find ourselves speaking more and more quietly as the darkness enveloped our senses and revealed the stars.

Though the Winter Solstice is often called the first day of winter, for me, it represents the first step of the sun’s long journey back to the north. Right now, she is so far to the south, the shadows I cast as I walk trail far behind me, or sometimes stretch across the road completely. Over these next few months, the shadows will become shorter and shorter, bringing me back to the center, bringing me back to summer, bringing me back to myself. Yet my gratitude for the solstice is deep and solid, for without the dark, how can I celebrate the light?

Strand said these long nights were once for connecting with others and with yourself. Before electricity, people “told stories and, with so much night to work with, woke in the middle of it to a darkness so luxurious it teased visions from the mind and divine visitations that helped to guide their course through life.”

We know what he means, we have experienced it time and time again in the woods. Remember it now: you wake from a restless sleep caused by an errant pinecone in your left hip, you listen to the breathing of your tentmates, the rustling of nylon sleeping bags, the soft whump of a moment’s breeze on your tent fly, and you exhale. You push your mind beyond the tent, back to the laughter around the campfire, the faint taste of hot chocolate still in your mouth, and to the millions of stars above you. Around the campfire, someone said, “Isn’t it crazy that any one of those stars could have planets just like ours around them?”

As you look up, your mind begins to expand, trying to make sense of it, wondering if it is possible, if it is true. And someone else whispers,  “Some of those stars might not even be there anymore…what if we are just seeing the star’s light that is still traveling toward us over millions and millions of light years?” Your mind continues to stretch and your heart expands because this is an amazing moment with amazing people and you are so comfortable with yourself, with your friends, with this place that you can actually wonder, out loud, “what if?”

And then, you find a comfortable, simple silence together………until, “OOOOOOHHHHHH!” and everyone wishes quietly on the same shooting star, wishes quietly that this night will never end.

-Ariella Rogge-

Sanborn Summer Staff: True Professionals

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Mentor, Leader, Youth Development Professional

There has been quite a bit of buzz about camps recently. The New York Times ran a number of articles in its Motherlode parenting blog over the weekend. In one, Dan Fleshler doubts the resume building value of working as a camp counselor, and in the other, Michael Thompson extolls the benefits of having college-aged camp counselors who can “out-parent” parents. Finally, KJ Dell’Antonia struggles as a new-to-camp, first-time camp parent who wonders, “Is It Too Late to Send Myself to Camp?

All of these articles speak to the education and human development that occurs at camp. The campers grow, the staff grow. The American Camp Association has detailed the 13 Core Competencies that camp staff members will develop while they work at camp.

As a camp counselor, you will gain professional skills that are applicable to many future careers. Staff learn skills that enhance Youth and Adult Growth and Development. They are exposed to and design different Learning Environments and Curricula. Program Planning allows counselors room for creativity, innovation, and developing advanced organization and teaching skills. Counselors learn how to Observe, Assess, and Evaluate the efficacy of their teaching and counseling skills. They develop Professionalism and Leadership by working with career camp staffers who truly understand the larger place of camp in the “whole education” of every child. Young counselors recognize the value of Health and Wellness for both themselves, campers and within the creation of work/life balance. Staff members practice Risk Management–in urban, rural and extreme outdoor environments. Cultural Competence allows staff to develop respect for, an understanding of and for ALL people, no matter what their background. Counselors make connections with Families and Communities that provide the opportunity to expand their own networks as well as help them see the positive impact of their job. Children and adults who have positive experiences with Nature and Environment are happier, healthier and smarter…and ALL of our camp counselors are nature counselors. Sanborn has incredibly progressive Business Management and Practices and policies, and many senior staff have the opportunity to manage other staff members and receive professional training on business leadership and management. At camp, Human Resources Management doesn’t stop after counselors are hired…counselors are given regular formal and informal feedback about their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement so they can improve immediately and transfer those improvements to the campers. Camp staff also engage in Site and Facilities Management while they are responsible for the upkeep and care of expensive camping equipment, camp vehicles, and the overall care of the facilities…plus they are teaching campers how to care for those things, too.

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 Next Generation of Cowgirls (or Legendary Women) in Training

Monday, January 24th, 2011

High Trails Cowgirls

Yesterday in The New York Times Magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote an article titled “Cowgirl Country.”  In it, she examines some of our current female politicians through the romanticized, and somewhat marginalized, American myth of “female strength and individualism”: the cowgirl.

Up here at Sanborn Western Camps, we have our own brand of cowgirl—and though she is not typically an outlaw—she often embodies the frontier and pioneer spirit of the very women who helped settle the West (and who started SWC as well—thank you, Laura Sanborn).

Even Cowgirls Get the (power of a) Bluebird, Colorado Day

Since “frontier womanhood has emerged as one of the only historically American models of aspirational femininity available to girls,” it is not surprising how many of our campers and staff—like Traiser’s frontier women “who pushed West, shot sharp, talked tough and sometimes drew blood”—love the West, are very intelligent and sharp, can be tough on themselves, and sometimes draw (their own) blood during our high mountain adventures.

Yet our cowgirls transcend the “only tradition in which America has historically been able to celebrate its mighty women” by embodying all of the strengths of a cowgirl, with all of the insights of a wise woman…or, more accurately, the wisdom of a group of strong women.

Our Cowgirls=American Spirit...and so much more!

Last summer, we kicked off the “Grow Strong Project” at High Trails Ranch for Girls.  “Grow Strong” is an acronym for Growing Responsibility in Our World; a Sisterhood Transforming and Renewing Our Never-Ending Growth.  Throughout the summer, campers and staff alike were celebrated for traits they had and choices they made which demonstrated specific characteristics of a girl or young woman who was “growing stronger” at camp.

From the Grow Strong Journal:

Our challenge as a staff is to inspire our campers and help them implement what they learn during their time at High Trails into their everyday life.  It is our goal to inspire action that goes beyond our 6,000 acres into their daily routines, into their communities, and into our world.

We must challenge them to go beyond conversation, to actually show us (and themselves) what they are doing, the action they have taken, and the impact it has had (or will have).  We must also look at ourselves and how our internal character and value development is evolving over the summer through our actions as role models and leaders.

Some of the character traits we are hoping to model for, instill in, and celebrate with our campers are:

* Loyalty * Respect * Responsibility * Honesty * Perseverance * Initiative * Resilience * Flexibility * Trust * Communication * Service * Generosity * Modesty * Grace * Kindness * Problem Solving * Leadership * Patience * Knowledge * Courage * Discipline * Dedication * Awareness * Stewardship * Friendship *

Strong Women Make Strong Role Models

By recognizing our strengths as individuals and as a community, we are able to see the power, wisdom, leadership and beauty of women—and “to expand our vision of how women might, and do, embody America’s spirit.”

Our High Trails campers and staff DO embody America’s spirit in every adventure, every smile, every hug, every whoop, every triumph, every challenge, every laugh, every story, every lesson, every moment they grow stronger by being in the outdoors and being with each other.

It is with awe and wonder I reflect on each summer I have spent at High Trails because I know that these “camp cowgirls” do not only “hint” at “other kinds of mythic female strength”—they live the “collaboration, friendship, and support” day in and day out.

And whether they become “businesswomen, brainiacs, or feminists,” they will always be visionary, female pioneers (and cowgirls) who know they grew stronger (and taller) from walking with the trees, and each other, at High Trails.

Nature Activity: A Small Sounds Tapestry

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A Small Sound Tapestry example from Hannah Hinchman's book

There is a Boeing 767 flying through my office.  It is nighttime in the mountains in the winter.  It is approximately 19 degrees outside, and completely still, calm and quiet.  Yet right now I am being bombarded, literally, by a giant fly who would like me to turn off the office light so he can…most likely…die.

The house is popping and sighing in the cold.  My “unusually loud” (spouse’s description) keyboard strokes, the whispering, continuous hum of the computer and the dog’s occasional snorts and whines are all I can hear in this little insulated cabin in the woods.  And the fly.

I have been thinking a great deal about the sounds of the natural, and unnatural, world after leading an activity during Stalking Education in the Wild where participants created “Small Sound Tapestries”, an idea I found in Hannah Hinchman’s book, A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place.  A sound tapestry is a visual representation of the sounds in the natural world around you.

It is a fantastic activity for all ages.  You sit, listen, and sketch what you think the sound looks like in color, size, and movement—you allow the sounds to overlap, stand alone, or otherwise define themselves on paper.  You seek to capture the visual essence of all the small sounds, and the layers of sound, around you.

Headphones are no longer complimentary on domestic flights

Armed with colored pencils and our journals, my fellow naturalists set out to sketch the shapes of the sounds around us.  After the sounds of crunching grass underfoot faded, the depth and richness of wind sounds filled Olin Gulch.  There was the deep, constant rumble of the wind through the Ponderosa Pines on either side of the Gulch; the mid-tone oscillating, undulating, vanishing wind through the deep grasses in front and beside me; then the almost shrill and pointy bits of almost winter air zipping past and above me—the memory of which I carried with me later while my earlobes throbbed with pain as the blood finally flushed out the cold.  On my tapestry, I also recorded the shriek of an irritated Stellar’s jay, the brief whir of a small and brave insect, the sneeze of a friend…and the interminably long interlude of a jet planes’ approach, fly-over and departure.

Of all the sounds on my tapestry, that one was the most constant, the biggest and the ugliest.  It was neither a small sound, nor one that I could ignore, so I stuck it at the bottom of my page, titled it “Annoying Jet” and tried to move on.  But it roared on and on.  Even after it was gone, I could still hear—in the rumbling of my brain—those engines 6 or 7 miles above me.

Gordon Hempton recording for Soundtracker

A week later I read an article in The New Yorker entitled “Letter from California: Blowback” regarding a campaign to ban leaf blowers in Orinda, California because of their impact on the “soundscape” and overall health of community members; and tonight, via Mountain Gazette, I discovered Nicolas Sherman’s film, “Soundtracker” about Gordon Hempton—a sound recordist who is trying “to find and record the vanishing sounds of nature in an attempt to capture a disappearing sensory experience.”  In a New York Times article, Hempton says, ‘‘We have become insensitive to listening,” he said. ‘‘The most important thing you can do to become a better listener is to simply go to a naturally quiet place and allow your senses to open up again. When you become a better listener to nature, you become a better listener to your community, your children, the people you work with.”

So I’m off to listen to the not-so-distant howl and yip of the coyotes, the crunch of a pinecone beneath shifting horse hooves, and the vanishing hum of the soon-to-be-very-cold-jet-propelled-fly that I just let outside.