Posts Tagged ‘Youth Development’

The Thrill of Horseback Riding

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

When riding a horse, I feel connected.

Trees blurring past, the thunder of hooves.  I held tight to the reins, remembering to keep my heels down.  Fourteen hundred pounds of power galloping through the forest.  Horseback riding is a mystical, powerful adventure.

When riding a horse, I feel connected.  It’s a mixture of love, fear, and respect.  Humans and horses have a long history together, a productive relationship that has lasted centuries.  Before machines, horses were the machine, they were a power that helped pull our civilization together.  Before cars, horses carried us across the land.  When we ride horses in this modern world, it’s a timeless event.  And Sanborn Western Camps is one of the best places to ride.

At Sanborn, one of our many goals is to foster a sense of wonder in every camper.  We work to inspire a connection with nature.  And one of the many ways to achieve that connection is to swing up into a saddle and ride a horse.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.

There is something therapeutic about horseback riding.  Studies have shown that we truly connect with the animal.  Brain waves slow.  We even change our breathing to match up with the horse.  The slightest movement, a turn, the twitch of a muscle, it’s all communication.  The horse understands without words.  If a camper is stressed, the horse can sense that.  If a camper is relaxed, the horse relaxes as well.  It’s a feedback loop, animal to animal, a real time relationship.

Many years ago when I was a camper at Sanborn, I was afraid of horses.  I pretended I didn’t care, but the truth is I was scared.  The staff was ready for this.  The counselors and wranglers gently encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and give horseback riding a try.  So I did.

I thought we would jump right on a horse and ride, but the process was much more intricate.  The wranglers first taught me how to care for the animal, to understand it, to lead the horse gently, to speak to it.  They showed me how to brush the horse, tracing the contours of its power.  I began to relax and forget my fear.  I began to feel a sense of wonder.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.  I ran my hands along the sway of the horse’s back and wondered if a Ute boy or a young trapper did the same with his horse two hundred years ago, right where I was standing.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.  Then, with mud on my rented boots, I swung up into the saddle.  We rode slowly, ambling away from the Big Spring barn.  That sunny afternoon, I went on my first ride.  And I’ve never looked back.

When we ride, we develop all kinds of skills.  Horseback riding is a two-way process.  You can’t just sit back and do nothing, you must interact with the animal with physical and verbal cues.  As a result, riding develops subtle communication skills.  Riding also develops balance and coordination.  Your core gets a workout, and you must stay focused on where your body is in space.  After a long ride, the next day you can truly feel it, aches in muscles you didn’t know you had.

At camp we do all kinds of rides, from half-day trail rides to five day pack trips deep into the Rockies.  It’s a range of fun that fits perfectly with the range of campers.  My favorites are the long trips, adventures that are unmatched.  We ride deep into rugged country, places where only horses can take us.  We sleep under the stars and rise before dawn to care for the herd.  It’s a unique experience that you can only find at a place like Sanborn.

In our modern chaotic world, it’s important to find ways to relax.  Horseback riding can do that.  Horses are a direct bond with nature that we can all share.  When you ride a horse, you find both companionship and solitude at the same time.

Any chance I can get, I’ll take a horseback ride.  The rasp of an old saddle, the musk of the animal, the joy of a slow walk through an aspen grove.  The world looks better from the back of a horse.  The Ute Indians of the Rockies once said, “The way to heaven is on horseback.”  I think they might be right.

- M. Huffman -

From the Summer Staff Perspective

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Camp has an incredible impact on campers, but it also impacts our staff members in equally powerful ways. It allows us to reflect on the impact of our experiences and the strength of connections made during our childhood and adolescence. It gives us a perspective on the challenges of growing up that we don’t experience again until we have children of our own. And, possibly most important, it allows us to see ourselves through the eyes, actions and needs of another. We have incredible staff at Sanborn Western Camps because, as an organization, we ask them to put the needs of the campers before their own. The staff members who remain present and focused on the campers’ development end up being the ones who take away camps’ biggest lesson: how to empathize and care deeply for others–and to hold yourself accountable. As one of our long-time staff members and former campers, Iska Nardie-Warner, shared in her following response on self-reflection, “They will ask similar questions of you, and you might want [to have] your answers ready.”

Camp changes the way girls perceive themselves.

I was writing [this] and ended up getting super nostalgic for camp, the staff, and the campers. Anyway, I just thought I’d share some of what camp has given me these past 3 years mostly because I think that sharing in the moment is cool and not done enough, but also because tis the season you know?


Though I have had many reasons for returning to Sanborn, the opportunity to communicate to young girls the power that comes from living outdoors in a solely female community surely covers the main of it.


Fortunately for me, the past two summers have been spent living and working with the same girls. And I can honestly say that watching each and everyone of those unique, talented, and beautiful young ladies challenge themselves physically, emotionally and grow in themselves has been a blessing. We all remember the challenges of being a fifteen-year old girl and to help these special ladies recognize their connections to (and love for) each other and the strength they build when they rely not only upon themselves but each other as well is making a difference.


Camp changes the way girls perceive themselves. Less and less, you will observe, the girls worry about the need to look or act a specific way: instead, they focus on climbing 14,000 foot mountains, riding horses with control, and most importantly asking questions of the world, themselves. And don’t be fooled, they will ask similar questions of you, and you might want your answers ready.


The power of fifteen-year old girls is undoubtedly underestimated. There is something striking about waking each morning and having to explain yourself and your thoughts and actions, almost immediately, to your girls. Their insatiable curiosity prompts repeated recognition of the importance of self-reflection for a counselor.


Honestly, I cherish explaining why my opinions on the importance of female empowerment provide the drive behind my work as a counselor: Sanborn becomes the intersection of theory and practice, for me, and I only fully-understand that because of self-reflection, sometimes prompted by the intelligent young ladies that populate that camp. In other words, these girls challenge me just as much as I plan on challenging them each summer. And I know they will give me just as much as I am willing to give them.

"And I know they will give me just as much as I am willing to give them." Avery (left), a current camper, with Iska (right) during their long trip in Summer 2015.


I could never take my role in their life lightly, and plan to never take for granted the role they have played in mine either because they really are the most special, funny, witty, charming, intelligent, kind, poised, and lovable young women. I miss them to pieces and know that they will be some of the best JCs and people this world has ever seen. And Sanborn—as a place that changes lives forever (for the better)—would be lucky to have any of them that can return.

Cheers,

Iska

Thank you Iska for sharing your thoughts with us and our greater Camp community. We are so excited to continue impacting each other with our campers and staff members as the New Year approaches and brings Summer 2016 with it.

Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “10 Things….Summer Camps Won’t Tell You,” and I was struck by the odd contrast between the title and the actual content of the article.  The “10 Things” were all apparent quotes about the camp experience that had neither context nor sources. Beyond this issue, I realized that the Colorado Springs’ Gazette’s version was incredibly abbreviated.  The full story is here: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-summer-camps-wont-tell-you-2013-05-03 I am not sure why the content was completely butchered, but the story was awful to read and completely misleading to our local Colorado readers.

Perplexing structure and writing aside, I want to examine the source-less “quotes” as potential societal trends impacting the camp community, and perpetuated by this sort of poor journalism.  By looking at each of the “Top 10” with a more balanced and fair perspective, I think we can see that the Gazette (and Ms. Wieczner) missed an opportunity to present the ever-changing summer camp experience as what it truly is:  A fluid, agile environment of youth development professionals who are committed to excellent client and customer service and who, quite frankly, have a better understanding of what children need today than most other youth serving organizations.

True, as a camp director I have a particularly acute bias, but I am also a parent of a camp-aged child who—like most of his peers—NEEDS the camp experience every summer, and I am a certified secondary educator who sees the woefully paralyzed state of our nation’s public school system post-NCLB and knows that, for many, a camp experience will provide necessary character and values development that no longer exists in most educational curriculum.

As an editorial response to Jen Wieczner and the Gazette’s re-working of her article, I would simply point out—like we do at camp when we are mediating situations that arise in the unique, respectful community we create each and every summer—there are two sides to every story.  To equate the joy of making and eating s’mores around a campfire (gluten-free graham crackers provided) with friends with whom you have made authentic, real friendships (grounded in healthy risk-taking and shared, fun experiences) far trumps any access to cellphones.  As parents, we know (deep down) that these independent experiences with support from young adult counselors develop character and self-efficacy in our children in a way that we cannot replicate at home.

Because of cultural trends, summer camp is more important to whole-child development today than ever before in history, and our professional accrediting body, the American Camp Association does a brilliant job providing not only a body of research to support that claim, but also shares a great deal of non-biased information about accredited camps all across the nation.  Being an accredited camp means holding ourselves to standards that are above and beyond national and societal expectations.  Camp gives kids a world of good in a world of social and cultural stressors…so let’s see if we can answer the question Ms. Wieczner asks: “will campers have any fun?”

1.  “It’s called camp, but it feels more and more like school.” Unlike the mass-consumption, Hollywood image that equates a child’s summer camp experience to the movie “Red Hot American Summer,” camp has ALWAYS been about education.  Beyond the emotional intelligence camp develops in campers through community life and opportunities for free play, many camps have made the choice to offer campers more specialized study AND play in fields that interest them.  This trend is far more representative of the desires of both campers and parents to be able to “specialize” in something while at camp.  This specialized focus may be for future college prospects or it might simply be to honor a child’s own interests…a key way to help children enjoy the camp experience.  If a camper has helped pick which camp he attends, his ownership of the experience will be that much higher.

2. “There’s not enough bug spray in the world to protect you from these pests.” Nature.  As Woody Allen so eloquently said, “I love nature.  I just don’t want to get any of it on me.”  There are bugs in the woods, there are sometimes mice in the cabins, and there are even porcupines munching loudly (and quite rudely) in the trees above your tent while you are trying to sleep.  Critters and bugs can be a bit icky for some, and bedbugs are undoubtedly a concern, but—for some reason—I am much more concerned about sleeping in a hotel near a bustling airport than sleeping in a bunk at camp.  Plus interactions in the outdoors are typically memorable and create an ongoing sense of wonder, and a stewardship of and connection to the natural world.

3.  “PB&J and ice cream?  Not anymore.” Look.  Let’s be real. Going out to eat with my four and eight year old sons is an exercise in limited options.  Most camps have policies and procedures surrounding food allergies and dietary restrictions.  Some camps are completely nut free, some are not.  Some actively limit the amount of sugar, some do not.  Some provide daily vegetarian or vegan options, some do not.  Just like choosing a restaurant, you can choose a camp that will accommodate the nutritional needs of your child.  Yet, just like at a restaurant, you can’t make them sit at the table indefinitely if they refuse to eat…but you can take away dessert.

4.  “Your kid has a cellphone, but that doesn’t mean you can talk to him.” Exactly.  That’s the point.  How often do you try and get your child OFF of her phone?  Unstructured time in the outdoors, away from technology gives children the opportunity to develop authentic friendship, teamwork and leadership skills with REAL people…who, more often than not, are actually REAL friends, too.  As for not being able to talk to your kids while they are at camp, just think of it as a vacation for your kids…plus letter writing is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

5.  “Homesickness?  Try I-miss-my-kid sickness.” A tool we use at camp when campers are homesick is to help them understand feeling that way is normal and then we try and get them excited about all of their upcoming trips and activities.  Let’s try it for parents:  Being kidsick is normal.  Lots of other parents feel the same way.  Let’s look at your calendar for the month and see what exciting things you have planned.  Ohhh, look!  You have a dentist appointment next Monday, and this Thursday you are hosting your book club and you haven’t read the chosen book (Cloud Atlas) yet.  Then, the following week you have a waxing appointment and have to take your visiting sister-in-law (she has horse teeth, really?) to lunch. (No wonder you are kidsick.  Just know that blubbering about your 10 year old leaving for a few weeks is more understandable than sobbing uncontrollably when your 19 year old leaves for college.)

6. “There’s a bully born every minute.” One of the key differentiators between bullies and “upstanders” (peers who speak up when they witness bullying) is that most bullies lack empathy.  Teaching children friendship skills, and providing environments where individuals are respected for who they are is a key component of camp.  Pranks and cabin raids are more typical in Hollywood portrayals of camp than in camp itself.  Parent Trap is over 50 years old, and to think that our campers continue to both look and act like Hayley Mills in the film is cultural hyperbole.

7.  “It’s a dangerous world; we’re just camping in it.” Right.  Better to be camping in the outdoors than texting and driving, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex, and away from the fear saturated media.  Camp provides an incredibly safe place where kids can be kids, and—in all honesty—one of the overarching goals of camp is to actually give campers life and relational skills that will eventually make the world a safer place because kids who come to camp understand our shared humanity.

8. “You think getting your kids into college will be hard?  Try getting them into camp.” There are THOUSANDS of camps.  If the camp you are waitlisted for doesn’t give you other ideas for similar camps in the region that have similar programs or goals, then that camp doesn’t recognize the importance of capital C “Camp” for childhood/youth development.  And, as a parent, if you buy into the hype that there is only “one” camp for your child—then you are denying your child the opportunity to have a new and unique camp experience.

9.  “Our camp feels more like a reality show.” One of the most prolific and outstanding speakers at American Camp Associations across the country is family therapist Bob Ditter.  During training sessions, Mr. Ditter talks about “getting on the same train” as your campers—meaning, that in order to completely connect with kids, we need to know and understand (and even read or listen to) THEIR worlds.   So yes, we offer Katniss Everdeen archery competitions,  Zombie Apocalypse hikes, and Superhero horseback rides—not because these are culturally cool—but because these types of activities echo what our campers are into, relate to, and plus they are great springboards for even more innovative and creative programming.

10.  “Some counselors have to be taught to keep their hands to themselves.” Ah, just in case Ms. Wieczner readers hadn’t been scared effectively enough after noting summer camps’ apparent limited  fun, bugs, lack of communication, bullies, mass shootings, the threat of social isolation, and the ever-present and insidious nature of cultural trends spread through technology (which makes the whole cell-phone thing even more hypocritical), now we can also worry about our kids being abused at camp.  Yet Ms. Wieczner is correct when she says “assaults and abuse are rare at camp.”

Though there is plenty to take issue with, in the end I think Ms. Wieczner’s title brings up a very good point:  as parents, we have to be responsible adults, do research and ask camp directors hard questions about the nature of their staff training, the goals and objectives of the program, the mission and philosophy of the camp, and we also have to ask those “boogeyman” type questions too, just to allay our fears (many of which are spurred on by articles like Ms. Wieczner’s and liberties taken by subsidiary editors).

Camps that are worth their salt will be open and transparent about their policies and practices, and we (camp directors) like it when parents are thoughtful enough to ask:  “tell me about your hiring process” or “what sort of emergency/crisis management plans do you have in place?” or “why can’t I talk to my child when he is at camp?” or “how do you handle homesickness…and if I need to call or email you for reassurance, is that okay?”

When we are practicing and modeling the skills required to eventually let our children go and become successful, functional adults, our children will grow too.  If we have confidence in the leadership at our chosen summer camps and are even brave enough to consider sending our child to camp in the first place, our children will not only have fun at camp—they will flourish.

~Ariella Rogge~

Winter Is Here…What Do We Do?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Fly-tying during Stalking Education in the Wild 2012

There are two questions a camp director dreads: 1. Why does toilet in Kinnikinnik look like a Yellowstone geyser? 2. What do you DO in the winter?

Both questions require thoughtful responses (but the first question might also require a plunger and a biohazard suit).  Beyond hiring the 120 broadly talented seasonal staff members, recruiting 600 unique and fantastic campers, connecting with our alums, designing new programs like the Sanborn Semester, organizing mission-centric educational opportunities like Stalking Education in the Wild or our annual No Child Left Inside Family Fun Day, hosting the ACA Rocky Mountain Section regional conference, sending birthday cards (over 10,000 annually), and operating The Nature Place and High Trails Outdoor Education Center, we are committed leaders and educators in the field of youth development and in the camp profession.

As the culture shifts, camp is taking its rightful role as an important component in the year round education of every child.  COEC Board Member Rod Lucero said in a recent article in Camping Magazine, “One concept that emerges from most every camp activity schedule is the idea of “fun.” While “fun for fun’s sake” is a worthy goal, I would contend that fun with an articulated focus on education transcends the camp experience and extends to the pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.”  Sandy and Laura Sanborn believed in “fun and adventure with a purpose.” And we, like Rod, believe that “the purpose is education, and as the camp has evolved and grown, this mantra has remained fundamental to every aspect of the good work being done there.”

One of the 101 Nature Activities: Find a Tree Hike

Everything begins at home and we are committed to professional development of our year round and seasonal staff.  Through conferences, training sessions, and skill development workshops, our staff not only represents a seasoned group of camp professionals, we actually lead, teach, and design many training sessions for others in the camp community.

The National Convention of the American Camp Association was held in Atlanta in mid-February, and we participated in full force.  Executive Director, Jane Sanborn, was the program chairperson for this year’s conference (as well as for the upcoming 2013 National Conference in Dallas, TX) and worked on an outstanding educational program for many months.  Chris, Elizabeth, and Ariella led educational sessions at the conference. Mike, as President of the Rocky Mountain Region of the American Camp Association, participated in all of the leadership events held at the conference. COEC Board member Rod Lucero presented one of the keynote addresses, and Julie, David, and Carlotta attended the conference.

Additionally, Jane, Elizabeth, and Ariella have written curricula and participated as webinar panel experts for the ACA’s e-Institute.  The ACA just released a 15 hour online Certificate of Added Qualification for Middle Managers, and Ariella was one of the four writers of the curriculum.  Jane is the chair of the ACA’s Children, Nature and Camps Committee and co-authored the best-selling, “101 Nature Activities for Kids” with Elizabeth.

Then there is the hard skill training: BC is a AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Certified Top and Bottom Managers and supervise our rock-climbing staff; we train using the most current ACCT Ropes Course certification model; all of our summer trip leaders have WMI/NOLS Wilderness First Aid certification; we have an on-site Red Cross Lifeguard course; we require our peer supervisors (ridge leaders, wranglers, kitchen coordinators) to attend a specialized Supervisor Workshop; and all of our trip leaders go through a comprehensive Trip Leader and 15 Passenger Van Driver Training…plus all staff are certified in CPR and Standard First Aid and participate in our 10 day Staff Week training. This training includes everything from the latest in youth development research to experiential teaching techniques.  Whew!

Winter=Time to Turn Our BIG Dreams into Reality!

We are invested in the experience and our own continued growth and development.  We are actively involved in building a more professional camp and educational experience for ALL children through our staff development and the variety of outreach and educational sessions we lead.

This is a big part of our “purpose” and it is one we take pride in.   And with Jane repeating as program chair for the 2013 American Camp Association National Conference, we will continue to take a professional lead in the camping and youth development industry.

So we actually do work in the wintertime…maybe that is why summer is so darn incredible!

School Weeks Is Here!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

We are very excited that our school program staff week started this morning! We are looking forward to a fun and busy season. Our first school comes next Wednesday – Summit County 4th graders. Be sure to check out the HTOEC website and blog for more information on the program and spring season. After a quiet winter, it is nice to have new and returning staff on site. It is a great reminder that kids will soon be back on the property!

Students on a hike

We have a great staff from around the country – some new to COEC and some returning. It is fun to see familiar faces. Returning staff include Jessie Spehar, Will Ostendorf, Mike Piel, Jenny Hartmann, and Bea Raemdonck. Mike, Bea, and Will have been a part of the Sanborn staff in the past and are excited to be a part of School Weeks for the first time.

It is just as fun to see how quickly new staff is incorporated into the COEC family. Marie DiBennedetto is from Allenstown, PA and has been a part of various outdoor education programs in the northeast. Adam Delp is joining us from Michigan – but has spent much of his adult life in Colorado; he is currently enrolled in a Wilderness Therapy program. Brendan Brady is from New York state where he has recently been an environmental educator. Michelle Davis is also from New York state; she graduated from SUNY Potsdam where she studied Environmental Studies and Wilderness Education.

ACA Conference

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Last week 10 of us ventured to Atlanta for the ACA National Conference. The overall theme of the conference

Jane Sanborn and her entourage!

was Convergence: Vision, Learning, Innovation. This was an exciting opportunity for our staff to continue our professional development as youth and outdoor educators and camp professionals. And it was a great week! Our very own Jane Sanborn was the conference program chair. She and the conference team lined up wonderful session and keynote speakers, fun night programs, and a variety of exhibitors for the exhibit hall.  We were all able to go to a variety of educational sessions presented by child development and camp professionals – sessions that emphasized the importance of what we do best: provide exceptional outdoor experiences for children. We were able to network with other camp professionals. We left energized and motivated for the summer! It is fun for us to come back and share all that we have learned with each other and start incorporating new ideas into our summer and school weeks programs.

We had great keynote speakers including, Dr. Christine Carter (author of Raising Happiness), Richard Louv, Sanborn alum, Rod Lucero, and Niambi Jaha-Echols. Each speech was relevant to and encouraging of what we do at camp.

Dr. Carter started the week sharing the importance of teaching and cultivating life skills such as gratitude, kindness, and growth campers – all things that we know about and do at camp! Dr. Carter is a strong believer of Growth Mindset – the belief that someone is successful due to hard work and effort, as well as innate ability. At camp, it is important to us that campers are challenged to try new things and encouraged through the process. We believe that campers and staff can grow and learn from our trips and activities. Being able to try new things is one of the great things about camp and campers having the ability to choose their own trips and activities.

Richard Louv emphasized the role camps play in continuing to get children outside. In his speech he told us how he was jealous of his friend who left Kansas every summer to go to camp…specifically, his friend left Kansas and spent his summers at Sanborn. He spoke of the growing importance of camp and getting outside, as our world becomes more technology-driven.

Rod Lucero helped us better understand the importance of camps continuing the education from schools. Relevance, Rigor, and Relationships are the foundation of education, and according to Lucero, without them, reading, writing, and arithmetic don’t matter. At camp, we help make education relevant. The foundation of Sanborn is education. We continue to learn and pass our knowledge on to all Colorado Outdoor Education Center participants.

Niambi Jaha-Echols provided us with an inspiring and humorous closing session. According to Jaha-Echols, camp provides us the opportunities to transform into new beings – from caterpillars to butterflies. It is important to us that we provide campers with the space and support to understand and grow into the people they are supposed to be. We are lucky to have 6,000 acres, amazing counselors, and a great variety of trips and activities to help all campers grow as individuals into butterflies.

We look forward to continuing to share our learnings with you and incorporate them into our 2012 summer.







Evolving Education: how schools can kill creativity

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

(This is an introduction to a series entitled, “Evolving Education,” exploring topics such as children’s literacy, how to inspire creativity, and the our various types of experimental education)

Ken Robinson gives us his hilarious perspective on the education system and gives us some startling thoughts of how education is killing our children’s creativity. So the question is, as educators during the summer months and in schools, what can we do to awaken our student’s imagination again?

“What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this — he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. So why is this?”


“But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? (Laughter) Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.”

- Sir Ken Robinson







How Long Is Your Shadow?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

How long is your shadow?

“How long is the shadow of your leadership?” A recent article in the ACA’s Camping Magazine includes an article by Kerry Plemmons, a clinical professor at Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. The basis of the article is that camp is good for everyone. Plemmons and fellow professors bring students from DU’s business school to The Nature Place for a weekend early in their graduate school careers to help teach the students the leadership skills necessary to be successful business men and women.

The relationship between Daniels and The Nature Place started in 1990 when Rob Jolly and Sandy Sanborn approached Daniels with the idea of experiential leadership. As part of the 10th Mountain Division, Sandy saw the importance of strong leadership in challenging situations. He saw how organizations could be successful with a flat structure. He saw the long-term benefits of leadership opportunities in students of all ages. During the summer, we offer a Peaks to Performance curriculum where campers can partake in SOLE and CORE in 8th and 9th grade, respectively and are able to be Junior Counselors and Outbackers in 10th grade. We put into practice the beliefs that Sandy felt so important with campers:

  • Individual development: self confidence, virtue & courage, sense of self, leadership roles & styles, establishing trust
  • Team development: working with a team, encouraging & helping others, interdependency, membership and followership
  • Problem solving: managing others, creativity & innovation, environmental awareness

These are the same skills that DU business students develop and practice during a three-day weekend. As Plemmons points out, it is easy and fun to talk about leadership, ethics, and values in a classroom, but it is not until the skills can be put into practice that individuals are challenged, motivated, and successful at implementing personal change. Campers are challenged during the summer in a safe and supervised environment. Counselors are prepared to help campers work together and challenge themselves individually.

Daniels students are taught “the Shadow of Leadership” – we practice leadership skills modeled by others, and those skills

Working together on a plan

are hopefully passed onto other people we interact with; and ideally the shadow of good leadership continues to grow. Plemmons explains, “When you think of bad leadership, the influence of that person leaves as soon as the physical shadow is gone…Good leadership is able to influence people across boundaries of time and space through empowerment.” This is our goal for every participant (from the young camper, to the DU graduate student, to the corporate business person) who comes through the Colorado Outdoor Education Center – to be in the shadow of positive leadership and help that shadow grow.

It is important to us to keep asking, “How will you build capacity in others in a manner that lengthens the shadow of your leadership?”

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







HTOEC Week 1

Friday, September 16th, 2011

We just finished a great week with the 6th graders from Challenger Middle School. The students arrived Tuesday morning and jumped right into their outdoor ed experience with their first discovery group that afternoon – Setting the Mood. Led by trained facilitators, the students learned about using their 5 senses more, as well as about the High Trails sixth sense – Wonder. The students were split in half Tuesday evening – one group going to the hoedown (a fun and silly set of dances led by the High Trails staff) and the other went to the Interbarn our hands-on science center.

Students Arrival

Students Arrival at High Trails

Wednesday morning was adventure-filled with the first themed discovery groups. Students learned about Homesteaders, Prospectors, Mountaineers, Innovators, and Woodsmen to name a few. After a delicious lunch, students headed back out for their second themed discovery group. Unfortunately, a little rain cancelled the cookouts, but everyone enjoyed burgers in the lodge followed by an entertaining skit night.

The groups made it out for all-days yesterday and lots of fun was had by all. The HTOEC staff expanded on the activities done during the shorter discovery groups – Cowboys see our working ranch, Innovators tried some solar cooking, Woodsmen go to the working sawmill, Explorers go to the Bat Caves, and Mountaineers rock scramble on several of the bluffs around the main property. To finish off the day, the students that went to the hoedown on Tuesday headed to the Interbarn, and the students from the Interbarn went to the hoedown.

After a great rock session this morning, students went for their last discovery group – Putting It All Together. The students seemed to enjoy their week and learn a lot of interesting facts about nature, themselves, and Colorado history. We had a lot of fun this week and hope the students enjoy the rest of the school year. We look forward to Mountain Ridge Middle School coming next week!