Note: The terms “Left Brain” and “Right Brain” are used in this commentary to explain skill sets that predominately incorporate the appropriate side of the brain. In truth, almost all skill sets use both sides of the brain to some degree.
In modern formal education, much of the focus is on “measurable results”. As such, most of the material taught is methodical, formulaic and with specific answers that can be standardized and compared. Logic and factual data are the foundation of this measurable knowledge. This is a very Left Brain model.
We need Left Brain education. Without it, we would be reinventing the wheel. However, the flaw in the current system is that it is terribly lopsided toward the Left Brain model. The Right Brain attributes – creativity, big picture comprehension, emotional intelligence, inspirational communication and other less easily measured (and definitely non-standard) types of knowledge – are given far less focus and energy. This is unfortunate… because the brightest problem solvers and most influential thinkers of our time are people who tend to have very strong skills in both sides of the brain.
We sometimes hear of parents who don’t enroll their children in our story-based, creative summer camp because they prefer to enroll them in “more structured” camp where they receive more formal education – because the parents view our creative summer camp as “just play”. The truth is that our camps are providing children and teens with a much needed Right Brain supplement to their predominately Left Brain education. Along with exposing campers to extremely important skill sets such as innovation, exploration and communication, our programs also provide a dynamic environment where participants stay physically active and sharpen their social skills (not to mention make friends!).
In today’s society, where kids and teens are inundated with screens (TV, computer, telephone, etc) and many children’s social development is focused on Facebook and online games, getting kids and young adults to “unplug” from the screen and engage in live, dynamic play where they need to use important skills such as reading body language, receiving and providing constructive feedback, active listening, creative problem solving, working within a group, and more, is vital to the development of a modern youth who has been born with the label of “Digital Native”.
At our creative summer camp, kids are taken on an adventure where they get to exercise the Right side of their brain. Too often, play time is seen as a waste of time in a society where Left Brain thinking dominates our educational system. This is an important acknowledgement as we see more and more systematized, linear logic careers being outsourced to other countries. This will continue to progress until the shift in our economy (and hopefully our education) makes us realize that our greatest resource is the well-balanced individual who has been given as much educational opportunity to develop their creative side as their logical side.
At Wizards & Warriors Summer Camp, we have developed a focus on three important skill sets in our story-based summer camps…
Innovation: Creative problem solving, design, imagination
Exploration: Discovery, experimentation, dynamic open-ended questioning
Communication: Connecting with other people, establishing understanding with the self and others, developing empathy
The power of interactive stories, that do not have a pre-determined ending, is that our tool (the story) can be shaped to the group or individual as necessary. We provide an immersive environment with props and costuming. This helps engage the participant on an emotional level (aiding in stronger development of neurological pathways) and increases the memory retention of the learning experience.
Our age-appropriate stories are selected carefully from tales derived from literature, mythology, and history. The governing concept is based on Joseph Cambell’s The Hero’s Journey. Except that our heroes don’t just read about the journey… they experience it live and have a role in the outcome.
Our staff and counselors are trained on a recurring basis in improvisational methods as well as appropriate content. As well, weekly mandatory meetings keep our program staff current on the latest in teaching methodology, child psychology and event management skills. Feedback is provided in a “Positive Coaching” manner where the emphasis is on learning over winning and our focus as counselors is to “catch our campers doing it right”.
We invest a great deal of time and effort into our programs and camps. We strive to engage our campers in a manner that is often neglected in current education and sorely underrepresented in modern day entertainment: We want to capture as much of their imagination as possible… to have them actually desire a time to unplug from the electronics… and to have them find exciting possibilities through their imagination.s as counselors is to “catch our campers doing it right”.
This, we believe, is worth our effort and our parents’ commitment.
Why, How, and What of Guard Up:
Our mission is to help our students:
- Embrace Learning as a lifelong endeavor. We want to motivate our students to pursue what they are passionate about by finding mentors and resources to help them grow.
- Be Heroic. We want to inspire our students to find those situations in their life where they can make a difference and act with courage, honor, and compassion.
We accomplish this by:
- Presenting our students with challenges which require them to investigate and as questions while looking outside of the immediate environment for solutions and allies who can help them learn.
- Incorporating the concept of “Transference” into our games, lessons, and adventures, which helps students consider what they are learning and how to apply it to their life outside of our company.
We inspire your children by providing the following:
- Dynamic, interactive adventures filled with constant scenarios that require teamwork, investigation, and introspection about their values.
- Characters and creatures from real world mythology, literature and history which inspire kids to learn more about the world in order to succeed at their quest.
- Challenges with results that change depending on the student’s choices and open discussion about how the difference they make in the story can mirror the difference they make in the real world.
“When I took a tour of the camp I saw what I expected to see — children having fun “acting” like wizards and warriors. I also saw these same campers enjoying exhilarating immersion into the dark arts of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. It was magical. I came away thinking that the staffers were the true wizards and warriors. They had figured out how to make learning inspired, not required.”
Assistant Professor, Game Development and Simulation
New England Institute of Technology