As the director of Adventure Treks, one of my many jobs is to stay in touch with trends affecting teenagers, the environment, education and the outdoor industry.
I’d like to share some of the better books I have read (and am reading) this year, so you can see what is affecting my thinking as the Adventure treks staff facilitates the best possible learning and growing summer outdoor experience for your child.
The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina
I would have missed this great book had not an AT parent so loved this read that she mailed our office a copy…
all the way from Spain for Christmas. In the style of Aldo Leopold’s classic Sand County Almanac, The View from Lazy Point combines both hopeful and alarming social, economical and environmental commentary surrounded by witty and lyrical prose. I enjoyed this book so much I bought three copies and sent them to friends who work in the environmental field.
Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
Every year we buy a book on leadership for our trip leaders to read prior to our annual immersion at our trip leader retreat in Oregon. This is an interesting book in that rather than giving a series of tips or traits, the focus of the book is that leadership is about getting out of the box and treating others as people rather than objects . The book fits our AT instructors well as our goal is to put others first and to not let any of our personal junk get in the way of the wonderful experience we try to facilitate.
Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
The byline of this book is “Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. “ Turkle, an MIT Professors traces the effects our digital technology is having on our social relationships. The news isn’t good. People are getting closer to their machines and less close to each other. Although we may be “connected “ to a greater number of people than ever before, these connections tend to be more superficial and cannot replace the true need for human interaction. If you ever needed justification to send your child into the woods for three weeks without technology to join a group of great kids and mentors in a community loaded with connection and constant interaction, then read on!
As the parent of three girls and only one boy, you might think I would be more concerned about girls and the challenges they face. These days I feel that although girls have challenges (see girls on the edge) it’s Boys who are at risk. Dr Leonard Sax discusses the five factors leading to the epidemic of unmotivated boys who are “failing to launch.” Sax documents the 5 factors leading to the decline in boys which include video games (Sax documents that there is nothing good about video games), teaching methods that favor the ways girls process, prescription drugs and the over diagnosis of ADD, endocrine disruptors, and a general societal devaluation of masculinity. For parents of boys or educators this is a powerful read.
Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax
So as the parent of girls, I couldn’t put this down. Dr Leonard Sax, the expert on gender differences describes the challenges facing girls in the age of the internet, facebook and cell phones. This is the 2010 version of reviving Ophelia. Sax’s four challenges for girls are sexual identity, the cyber bubble, obsessions and environmental toxins. Reading this book helped me decide that a single gender middle school would be an optimal choice for my children.
Note: Partly due to the fine work of Leonard Sax, we spend a session in staff orientation on gender differences and how we should use different approaches for boys and girls within the coed community that is Adventure Treks.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Though this isn’t a recent read, this seminal book has had huge impact on Adventure Treks as it provides the data supporting what those of us who have spent a life in outdoor education have known for years that everyone benefits from time spent in nature and these benefits are quantifiable. The take away is that today’s generation of kids is not spending significant time in nature and kids are suffering greatly because of it. Louv documents the positive social and academic benefits of time spent in nature. This is a monumental book well worth digesting. But then, who wouldn’t like a book and an author who justifies their life’s work!
The Social Animal by David Brooks
NY times columnist and Meet the Press regular David Brooks is a big camp advocate. This is a great narrative of the human mind and some of the newest research on the human brain and how life skills needed for success are developed. I am still working my way through this one.
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
Although not a recent read, this book has stuck with me as it documents the decline in community and the general disconnection most people feel from American civic life. The WWII generation devoted themselves to a higher calling and a greater good and as these folks pass away, Putnam documents the slow fraying of our institutions and our spirit of volunteerism. Adventure Treks prides itself on the strengths of the communities we build. This book confirms both the benefits and the importance of what we do in enabling youth to understand that contribution to a cause greater than themselves has ultimate value.