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For the past 15-20 years, I have heard creative managers, professors, directors, teachers and writers tell us that we need to “get out of the box” to find better solutions.  As a Gen-Xer, I think “out-of-the-box-thinking” may be my generation’s’ credo.  If that is the case, I will spend the rest of this post arguing against the prevailing zeitgeist.  My sainted mother has always believed me to be a contrary soul, and I would hate to disappoint her now.  I’d like to argue that you, and those your are responsible for developing, must get back in the box.

Get Back in the Box!

Walk with me on this one.

It seems to me that the moment a thought becomes cliché, it becomes unmoored from the shipyard that built it in the first place.  Take the phrase in question:  “Think outside the box.”  According to Paul Muchinsky, this phrase was coined by a funeral director when suggesting to a grieving widow that she consider cremation and an urn for her husband’s remains over traditional burial and coffin (http://www.siop.org/tip/backissues/April%2004/pdf/414_116to119.pdf).  Let’s spend a moment thinking about “the box” in question.  In this case, we’re considering a coffin.  Without the traditional  solution (i.e. a coffin), the new solution (the urn) makes no sense.  We need the traditional solution to launch the new idea.  In some ways, our thinking requires a framework from which to launch the original, or groundbreaking idea.

Now consider how we encourage out-of-the-box thinking in our children and those we work with.  In the last few years, I have watched intelligent leaders fail to train those that work for them in the name of letting their staff think-outside-the-box or “make a program their own.”  This doesn’t end well.  And how could it?  Without some structure, framework, skeleton, or history to use as a foundation, an individual has nothing to build upon – no means of launching a new idea.  There is no reference point.  No context in which the new idea can be planted.  The cliché has taken over.  It overwhelms its own history making it irrelevant.

So how does this apply to kids and summer?  After all, that is what I write about.  Thanks for traveling this far with me, we are almost home.

Kids need structure (another cliché, I know).  More broadly, most people thrive in a situation that provides some amount of structure.  I believe that in order for an individual to reach her potential, she must begin with a framework – a grid of understanding.  As she masters the frame, her development requires that we show her which boxes to break in that framework.   Eventually, she will choose which boxes to break and which to retain to find unique and creative solutions to our world’s problems.

If you want your child to succeed, begin by building him a box.  Share your values, encouraging traditional learning (reading, writing, etc.), and then allow for opportunities to break that box.  Summer is a great time to give your children a chance to pursue new ideas, creative projects, and new boxes to break.  But don’t forget to build the box!

We’ll see you at Camp!

Nathan

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So you’re looking for something new this year – something to do with your family that will cost less than a trip to the beach or Disney World?  I am willing to bet your local camp has a program for you.

Family Camp           

I cannot count the number of times moms and dads have told me they wished that they could go to camp like their kids.  You can!  Most camps around the country offer sessions for families.  Depending on the organization, Family Camp programs may be a weekend or an entire week.  Regardless, it is an experience your family will remember for their entire lives.

When I worked in Ohio at YMCA Camp Y-Noah, our Family Camps were Friday night to Sunday morning on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween weekends (for more information on Camp Y-Noah visit www.gotcamp.org or read about the program at http://blog.cleveland.com/travel/2008/05/summer_camps_are_making_room_f.html).  Cabins were reserved for a single family and deposits were often paid a year in advance to “hold a spot.”  These programs fill, and for good reason.  You have the benefit of a camping experience with the added bonus of letting the camp take care of the food, lodging, and programs.   

Now that I work with the South Mountain YMCA and Camp Conrad Weiser in Pennsylvania, we offer a program that runs from Friday night to Monday morning on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.  The added day allows for more programming and a relaxed schedule.  Families enjoy themed dinners and activities in addition to climbing, canoeing, target sports, trail rides, movie nights, and much more.  For more information on the South Mountain YMCA’s Family Camp, visit us at www.smymca.org.

 

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Parent-Child Weekends       

In the YMCA, when we say “Parent-Child Weekends” we are often referring to a weekend retreat for the old Indian Guide/Princess programs.  In the modern Y, these programs are referred to as Adventure Guides, but the format is unchanged.  Dads or moms and their sons and daughters enjoy a weekend of traditional camp activities, campfires, and challenges.

Beyond the YMCA, camps are offering mother-daughter weekends, father-son weekends, and grandparent-grandchild campouts.  There are a lot of opportunities out there.

Adult Retreats                     

Women’s Wellness Weekends.  Men’s Retreats.  Singles Campouts.  You name, somebody is doing it.  Find a program and a location that appeals to you and get out there!

Camp is not just for kids.  If you’re looking for a quality program for yourself or your family, call your local camp.  Chances are you have one in your backyard.

We’ll see you at Camp!

Nathan

Be sure to visit Nathan’s camp, The South Mountain YMCA Camps, at www.smymca.org.

Summer Camp Source: Nathan Scott Brant

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