I struggle with lectures. I especially struggle when I have no control over who I am listening to or what I get to do. This is the difference for me between learning in high school and a conference or youtube. I hated “learning” in high school and was not motivated or gritty about my school work. I was always in trouble for not taking notes or “collaborating" on homework. This became more true in college, where I, afraid of not getting a job or looking stupid, majored in industrial engineering knowing it didn’t make me happy. I skipped class, "collaborated” more, and skated by, finally getting a degree I hope never to use.
Here is where the story takes a turn. After years of never wanting to learn anything in a comfortable college environment, Laura and I travelled across the country, living in the back of a Honda Civic, trying to learn as much as we could. We were finally free to do whatever we wanted and we chose to seek out learning and great camps, because we loved camp and had the freedom to choose. I love going to conferences. Sitting and listening to long presentations where I diligently take notes and follow up with presenters. What’s different?
"Research has shown unequivocally that children learn best when they are interested in the material or activity they are learning.” (New York Times Article By Susan Engel Phd)
With this idea of interest based learning in mind we are beginning to plan staff training. We will use tons of tricks to help grab the interest of staff, like photos, jokes, stories, great presentations, and group work, but we are also working to give staff control over what they want to learn.
3 Ideas We Love…
Summer Camp Conference for Summer Camp Counselors
At Camp Stella Maris and many other camps we have seen the idea to simply spend a morning with a bunch of different session running at the same time, similar to a conference. Counselors then aren't being told what to learn but are free to discover. At 9 AM we have Crazy New Games is Jim, Homesickness 2.0 with Gary, and Why Camp? with Sarah. At 10 AM… This set up lets counselors choose what they are interested in and gives some knowledgeable staff members a chance to lead.
Google runs a small conference focused on moonshot thinking with some of the best minds in the world and the format is fascinating. They do a series of 2 or 3 twenty minute lectures then have a half hour to an hour to discuss. These discussions of each topic happen at small tables that the participants choose. At camp for example it could look like this. We play 3 TED talks in a row, Leadership Starts With Why, The Power of Vulnerability, and The Power of Introverts. A leadership staff member is assigned to each. The individual staff members then choose which video to discuss and find that leadership staff member. In these small chosen groups they discuss, following the "What? So What? Now What?" debriefing model, things like...
What does this mean? How does this apply to camp? With parents? Campers? Staff? Ourselves? What tangible things can we do this summer? How does this idea interact with the other videos of sessions?
Open space is the idea that the participants ask for what they need to learn and other participants run workshops to help facilitate. At Friends Camp their whole staff training is done this way. Nat Shed, the director, sits in on the forming of the training plan and interjects when he thinks there are missing pieces of ACA requirements, but for the most part returning staff know the boring stuff needs to be covered and often come with cool new ideas to cover dry material.