Applying Theory, Reviewing Safety, & More at Leadership Retreat

Amanda Fox15 Jun, 2015
Trip leaders taking a break for some fun outside!
Trip leaders taking a break for some fun outside!

Every year, Adventure Treks kicks off the summer with our five-day Trip Leader Retreat in Oregon, where our leadership team gathers in a cabin near Mt. Hood, next to the Salmon River, for senior staff training.

Our 14 trip leaders and four regional directors hail from 11 states, average 29.5 years old, and have 129 collective years of Adventure Treks experience, with an average of 7.3 seasons of AT experience each. (Two were former Adventure Treks students!) I’m proud to be a part of this group of mentors who will be training our new instructors and overseeing the success of our trips. As an Adventure Treks parent myself, I’m also thrilled to have these role models interacting with and inspiring my own kids!

The other half of our awesome trip leader team.
The other half of our awesome trip leader team.

So what do we do at Trip Leader Retreat? Besides forming our leadership team community, we apply leadership theory and current child psychology and brain theory to Adventure Treks. We also learn and relearn the specific details of each trip itinerary, and we use this time to review safety and the policies and procedures that lead to successful trips. Together, we share the tips and tricks we’ve gleaned as we work hard to make every trip exceptional.

DMAC loves talking to our trip leaders!
DMAC loves talking to our trip leaders!

As we prepared for our all-staff orientation that began June 9, I wanted to share what we have been reading this winter. It’s our job to stay on top of the latest youth development trends and literature so we can make sure that the Adventure Treks program remains relevant to parents. Besides being a ridiculous amount of FUN, as your partners, we want Adventure Treks to be a tool that helps kids develop the skills, mindset, optimism, confidence, character, and resilience that will help them become happier and more capable adults.

Topics from these and other books will be featured in our instructor orientation sessions as we facilitate the best possible learning and growing experience for your child. Below are our 2015 suggestions for those who share our obsession in helping teenagers experience personal growth.


Our Kids

From Harvard’s Robert Putnam, the expert on community who wrote the seminal book, Bowling Alone, we have a treasure trove of data on how kids succeed among the tremendous inequality brewing in our country. One of his many conclusions is that it matters deeply who your kids go to school (and camp) with. He also stresses that non-cognitive skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, grit and resilience—the things we teach and practice at Adventure Treks) are very often the key to adult success.

Two generations ago, the vast majority of “our kids” went on to live lives better than those of their parents and society generally aided them. But their children and grandchildren (the current generation) have had less opportunity amid diminishing prospects and less help from the “bigger community.” Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, drawing on a formidable body of research done specifically for this book.

Find the book here.

The Road to Character

Responding to what he calls the culture of the “Big Me” (which emphasizes external success), David Brooks challenges us, and himself, to re-balance the scales
between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame,
and status—and our “eulogy virtues”— those that exist
at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness—focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed. (Read more about how we focus on character development at Adventure Treks in this blog.)

Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and an understanding and appreciation of one’s own limitations, people have built a strong inner character.

Find the book here.

Masterminds and Wingmen

The author who brought us Mean Girls and Queen Bees and Wanna Bees, Rosalind Wiseman has now written the definitive book on boys: Masterminds and Wingmen. Using a panel of more than 160 boys (including at least one Adventure Treks alum), Wiseman exposes us to the world of teenage boys and gives us great insight into the lives our boys are experiencing, the rules of boys’ world, and how male teenage power structures work. She introduces the “Act like a Man Box” and the effects attempting to live up to these expectations can have on young male behavior. As school and the economy change, we are concerned that boys are falling behind, and we hope the culture we create at Adventure Treks will help our male students succeed in life outside camp.

Find the book here.


Below are books we still use frequently and have included on previous lists.

Mindset Carol DweckIn Mindset, Stanford researcher Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach challenges with a fixed or a growth mindset. Praising intelligence and ability isn’t the best way to foster self-efficacy and confidence, and may instead actually jeopardize success. Instead, understanding that the brain is malleable, and that we are all works in progress, leads to the development of a growth mindset. By encouraging and rewarding effort and hard work over innate talent, we can better motivate our kids to more eagerly approach new challenges while building resilience. We use Dweck’s book in instructor orientation to show staff how to encourage our students to develop a mindset focused on continuous growth rather than accepting our talents and abilities as fixed.

Find the book here.

Childhood Roots of Adult HappinessHarvard professor Edward Hallowell gives us a
wonderful five-step program to help give our kids a childhood that creates a footprint for them to
become happy adults. In The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Hallowell promotes childhood as a time to provide opportunities to feel connected to others, to play and be joyful, to practice and attain mastery in numerous activities, to fail and build resilience, and to receive recognition.

We use Hallowell’s model in our staff training and
wrote a blog about how his model applies to Adventure Treks.

We love this book!

Find the book here.

The Big DisconnectOne of the Wall Street Journal’s “most important reads for 2013,” The Big Disconnect: Protecting Child and Family Relationships in the Digital Age discusses how technology is affecting family relationships and how parents’ involvement with technology at home affects family connections. Renowned clinical psychologist and author Catherine Steiner-Adair explains that families are now in crisis around this issue. Not only do chronic technology distractions have deep and lasting effects, but children desperately need warm interactions with the adults in their lives.

Drawing on real-life stories from her clinical and consulting work, Steiner-Adair offers insights and advice on how parents can achieve greater understanding and confidence as they come up against the tech revolution happening in their living rooms. When Adventure Treks students have an amazing experience and succeed beyond all expectations without any technology, they are often given a unique perspective on how technology fits into their lives. Read a recent blog we wrote about her book.

Find the book here.

T-minus 6 days until our first trip starts!


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