How to Support Your Community and Boost Your Small Business

Sponsoring a local event can be very positive for small businesses, making one wonder why more businesses do not share their services, goods, and time. If you are a small business who is evaluating your current marketing practices, building your brand and its values, and creating an audience as well as connecting with loyal customers, then sponsorship is a no brainer. Here are a number of reasons why you should become a sponsor of local events especially those like STEAM Fest.

Where to start

Start by making sure you sponsor the right events. Look for community events that jive with your brands mission and tenets. Think about what is important to you individually as well as what aligns with your business. If you believe strongly in helping the youth of your community then get involved in sponsoring some events that promote youth wellness and success. If you are a beauty supplier, then think about getting involved in working with some of the local nursing homes and hospitals and their events. Sponsorship should not only be about getting good press, but needs to be something that helps you to feel good and improves the lives of those in the community. Also, consider your target market! Who would they like to support via supporting you?  What events and organizations do you think they would like to support? (And, if you don’t know, it doesn’t hurt to ask.)

Why sponsorship?

The best reason to sponsor local events and organizations is because it is the right thing to do.  As a local small business, it is important to support others in order to help the local economy and the community grow and thrive. 

Affordable advertising

Another great reason to consider sponsorship is because it is a wonderful and cost effective way of advertising locally. You can always give money, products, services, but it can also be more budget-friendly and important that you give your time to an event or organization. What you get in return is not just the joy of giving, but you will have likely increased brand awareness locally. I know a great number of people who pay attention to what businesses/brands are sponsoring events and organizations that are important to them. Sometimes, you will even get lucky and some great publicity will come out of a sponsorship which will increase brand recognition as well as connect you with positive outreach (that is never a bad thing).  

Nonprofits are awesome

Partnering with a nonprofit will have all of those benefits and more. Not only will you be helping them to continue to operate, but it will endear you to all the people who help support the cause. By advertising your partnership with a nonprofit, you will be helping them, but you will also be helping yourself.  Nonprofits are usually very grounded in a community and have a following which you can take advantage of, and likewise, you can help them by bringing awareness of their cause to your loyal patrons. Quid Pro Quo!

Lead generation

Some of the other pros for sponsoring events and organizations is it allows you to generate leads for your business. When you sponsor an event, make sure you have a give-away or promotional items to hand out that get your name out there and where future customers have the opportunity to share their contact information and needs with you. For example, give away a free water bottle for each event attendee that fills out a brief information card. Use those cards to make queries about their needs and what services or products you can provide them (a.k.a. generate leads). And hand out cards and pens with your contact information including your website URL!

Let 2020 be the year of philanthropy, where your business partners with an organization to help one another not only make the world a better place but for community resource development and the building and growth of the local economy.

Things in the Boulder area to keep kids engaged this winter break

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which means the winter school break is here. Rather than have it become a time where “mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again” take your kiddos on some fun local adventures to help them use some of their boundless energy while broadening their minds while you stay sane and relaxed.

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is one of the best places to take your children for entertainment, play time, and many “that’s so cool!” moments together when everyone begins to go holiday stir crazy! Kids can learn the science behind all their favorite PIXAR movies, see a sensory friendly screening of The Polar Express, and explore the human body and its ability to persevere over ice, snow, water, and rock. You and your children can even try out their American Ninja skills with a course developed by its creators (wear good athletic shoes), take a virtual leap off a cliff like the wingsuited cliff jumpers, and much more!

Denver’s Nature and Science Museum is the bomb, but CU’s Museum of Natural History isn’t too shabby either! The whole family can explore a number of exhibits that go in depth on the animals, plants and ecosystems right here in Colorado, but also around the world. The Season of Light show shares the many traditions of light that have been celebrated for centuries and continue today. 

The Fiske Planetarium is in the holiday spirit!  The planetarium located on CU’s Campus has a multitude of events to get you and the family in the holiday spirit as well as Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum has an interactive maze where kids can learn all about the history of NASA and even get a little peek into where NASA is going in the future. Likewise, the whole family can check out a real flight simulator. The museum is located in Denver and open 7 days a week, so you might even want to go twice!

CreatorSpace in Loveland is a super cool place to check out this winter break. The organization provides access to tools, machinery, and classes to inspire creative engineering. A key part of their mission is to provide Northern Colorado’s youth with mentors who are skilled and knowledgeable in a number of areas including music, art, programming and manufacturing. Check out this studio and get your child’s imagination soaring.

For some creative relaxation, check out the Wildfire Arts Center if you haven’t already. They have a multitude of classes including dance and visual arts that will inspire and relax you and your children over the break. The U-Create Studio time is open on December 21st from 10:00-2:00 to get you all out of the house. And mom’s and dad’s, check out their yoga classes; an hour long relaxing stretch is just what you need to get through the holiday break! 

You don’t have to go any further than the local library to experience some serious relaxation with your children over the break! The Longmont Public Library has a winter reading program to inspire your children to get their reading on, and nothing says calm for mom and dad than seeing your kids engaged in a great book.  The Longmont Public Library has a lot more to offer than books! There is a cookie decorating party on December 16, Winter Break Daily Reading Bingo for Kids and Teens December 28-January 3. A Nintendo Switch Launch Party, Drop-in Craft Time on December 30 and Lego Time on the 31st.

May this holiday season be a time of peace and joy, not to mention, a time to enjoy learning and growing together and where you wish that school would never start again! Happy Holidays.

STEAM Gift Giving for Your Colorado Kids

The holidays are upon us and because time appears to be moving faster than normal these days, it’s important to get your shopping started early (as in last month). With that said, it can also be difficult choosing gifts that seem worthy of your hard-earned dollar and that provide your child with a little “more” than the average Frozen 2 dollhouse and the Fortnite Jumbo Loot Llama provide! Fortunately, we have a great little gift guide to help you with the purchasing decisions for your child that will not only provide loads of fun but help them develop other skills as well (and you are supporting local commerce)!

For Building:

Sure, you could buy your child another lego set, but how about this year go for something a little more unique. At Traxart Toys, you can buy Kinazium which is the premier course builder for robotic and rc toys.  Building is both technical and creative, and when your child finishes building they can have hours of fun navigating their robots and remote-controlled toys around their creation. Check it out!

Does your child love to create models, dioramas and/or posterboards?  Do they like to teach others how things work? Do they have interest in programming electronics with computer software? If so, 1010 Technologies has the perfect product for them.  To find out more visit Youtube to see how your child can turn another “volcano how to” into a dynamic demonstration.

At Sphero, a Boulder company, they seek to inspire the creators of tomorrow, and clearly, recent collaboration with big names like Disney and Star Wars, it’s no doubt that the app-enable spherical robots they have designed are all that and a bag of chips. Get your budding inventor into robotics, programming, coding, and other STEAM principles with these unique and futuristic robots and all the accessories, not to mention, a number of other products that will feed your child’s imagination.

For Crafting:

There is nothing more therapeutic not to mention warm than knitting a scarf. The Longmont Yarn Shop has gifts for your child and you. They have everything you could need to get your child started on a lifelong hobby that will bring them hours of relaxation and an opportunity to create some functional or just plain beautiful art. Your child and three of her friends can even arrange for a small group lesson from one of their experts or you can sign your child up for one of the many classes they offer including crocheting, knitting, rug hooking, weaving, and even spinning classes. Pretty cool! 

Arts Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder has an awesome mission worthy of your contributions, “to inspire and promote creativity, resource conservation, and community engagement through reuse.” They accept donated, reusable industry surplus, and other arts and craft resources from businesses and individuals to provide you low cost materials for your budding creative geniuses. Best of all, you can host your child’s next birthday party at their space and your kids can create artwork and have their cake, too. They also promote local, environmentally conscious artists and their work.

For Everyone:

And finally, for the parent who just can’t imagine buying another toy that sits in the toy room unused or worse, cluttering up the living room. Or, for the parent who just wants to give their child a memory that they will love, there is STEAMfest!  Order tickets for your child to attend the 2020 Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest March 7-8. Your child will have opportunities to participate in “hands-on, interactive hacking, building, tinkering, and imagining!” The event is a celebration of all things creative, imaginative, and exploratory. “STEAM Fest is an awe-filled, jaw-dropping chance to tinker, hack, build, crumble, fly, drive, taste, DO, dabble—PLAY!”  There will be exhibitors with the latest and greatest gadgets, activities, entertainment and of course: arts and crafts, robotics and electronics, building, Legos, marble tracks, science in action, and of course, food for the whole family! You can get your tickets for the family or individual tickets at MakerBolder.com.  Likewise, if giving back is something of a tradition at your home, you can purchase a scholarship to STEAM Fest for students who wouldn’t be able to afford to attend STEAM Fest on their own.  

Now that your shopping is done, you can sit back and actually enjoy a cup of cocoa, the lights on the tree, and a good (oxymoron? Well at least a sweet heartfelt) Hallmark holiday movie.

Volunteering with your kids: why you should sign-up today!

While it may be debated that humans are innately compassionate and generous, we choose to believe it to be true. At the same time, we are living in a time when it appears that empathy and kindness are the exception instead of the rule. To help counter the current culture along with the self-centered, egocentric developmental phases that are focused on “me, me, me,” volunteering can be a great tool in helping kids to focus on others. Volunteering will not only help them to build compassion, but it will help them build self-esteem as well as show them that they can make an important impact on the world around them even in small simple ways.

It’s also good for kids to volunteer in a multitude of ways because they learn different things from different opportunities.  Sometimes they learn the value of their time, sometimes it is empathy for those who are different from themselves, and sometimes it is about raising and providing funds that people and organizations need more than they need time. 

Simple ways kids can volunteer and make a difference:

  • Going to a local nursing home is a great way for kids to make a difference in a lonely person’s life. Kids who are shy or who don’t know how to make conversation can simply ask if someone wants to be read to or if they would like to play a game of cards.
  • Host a bake sale for a cause that is local and near to your child’s heart (be sure to check with your Chamber of Commerce to avoid any hassles with tax laws, etc…)
  • Write letters to soldiers who are away from home serving the U.S. Military through Operation Gratitude or Soldiers Angels.
  • If your child is into animals, then by all means find ways for them to get the shelters the many supplies they need. There are many cool ideas out there for making items that animals need out of unwanted used items.
  • Do a drive to collect things that many families might need this time of year including coats, gloves, warm boots, and drop them off at a local homeless shelter.
  • If you can find opportunities for kids to interact with the homeless or the poor, you will teach them to be compassionate and to understand that we are all connected and human–each of us needing love and generosity.
  • Convince your children to give away good quality toys that they no longer play with. 
  • Encourage your kids to volunteer every day at school without anyone knowing. Ask them to go play with someone at recess who always stands alone on the playground. Advise them to find a student who struggles in a subject they are good at and go help that person. Tell them to compliment a teacher. All of these things are simple, easy, and frankly, life-changing for both parties!

If you want to go even further, here are some organizations in Colorado that provide more formal and structured opportunities for kids to volunteer are:

Rocky Mountain STEAMFest – 11+. STEAM Fest is just around the corner (trust us, it’ll be here before you know it!). To pull off these daring feats of magic, creativity and imagination, we need over 150 awesome volunteers – and that could include you! You can help us hang posters, spread the word, recruit exhibitors – and so much more. Jobs include working from home with flexible hours – whatever you can do – from 4 hours to 40 – we’ve got the perfect fit for you.

Children’s Hospital – for ages 13-18 – This is a pretty intense volunteer program that is intended for kids who might be interested in the medical field.  They are required to turn in an application, be interviewed, and pass a health screening.

Volunteers of America – for ages 11-17 – According to the site, “Youth volunteers can work with children in Head Start schools, help the homeless, assist homebound seniors, and much more. Youth volunteers can work with children in Head Start schools, help the homeless, assist homebound seniors, and much more.”

Spark the Change Colorado – for all ages but steered towards elementary age children – The organization’s vision is to help kids develop an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and community engagement. At their sponsored events, there is a theme like Veterans, and then together, families, children, and the organization, develop and plan for “hands-on service learning projects that benefit local non-profit organizations.” Not only do kids help the community, but they get to problem-solve and ideate as well as develop leadership skills.

Also check out, Parent Magazine’s resource of nationwide organizations focused on helping families find opportunities to volunteer.  It is hard to find the time to volunteer and get your kids out to help others, but what you teach them will be priceless—JOY in serving others! 

It’s Spring: Get Your Science On!

Spring and summer mark the start of severe weather including tornadoes; they also mark the arrival of bees and butterflies.  Spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoors but a great time to learn! Children are fascinated (or terrified) by tornadoes; we all are somewhat.  So, why not help children face their fears and learn what a tornado is while making their own. While you’re at it, it would be beneficial to review how to stay safe when a tornado warning occurs.   It is also a great time to teach children about the importance of pollinators and how to help their populations grow while at the same time adding some charm and appeal to your garden. And the best part? You get to play in the dirt!

Be Like Dorothy Without Leaving Kansas: Make A Tornado In A Jar

Materials:

  • 8 ounce with a lid (pickle, mayonnaise, or canning jars are perfect.
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish soap
  • (Old Glitter is Optional – and a lot of glitter isn’t environmentally friendly)
  1. Fill the jar with water leaving about an inch at the top.  
  2. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, dish soap, and glitter (optional). ***if the jar is bigger than 8 oz. try doubling the measurements, for example 16 oz. water to 2 tsp. of vinegar and soap.
  3. Add the lid and tighten.  
  4. Swirl the jar in a fast circular motion for 10 seconds.  Lay it down on the table and watch the tornado.

Discuss with children words like: vortex-a whirling mass (water, air) moving in a circular path and centipedal-a force that makes an element or object follow a curved circular path.  Share with children that a tornado is a column of air that is created when cold air meets warm air and that they typically appear out of cumulonimbus clouds. The really extreme tornadoes can have winds as high as 300 mph and can be bigger than two miles in diameter.

Tornado safety is important, so this would be a good time to discuss the family’s plan during a tornado warning.  Choose a spot in the interior of the home and explain to children that this is to avoid outside doors and windows.  You can also discuss the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

Bees, Butterflies, and Dirt, Oh My!

Spring is an awesome time to talk about pollinators and the importance they have on our food sources.  Learn all about bees and butterflies, including: how they help the environment, how they help your family and how they can help the insect populations grow.  

Plants need pollinators as much as they need sunshine, dirt, and water, and pollinators, like bees and butterflies, need plants.  If plants like corn and other fruits and vegetables are going to produce more plants to feed people, the Earth needs lots of pollinators.  

Design a bee and butterfly garden and get planting!

Materials:

  • Seedlings or plants: salvia, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, snap dragons, verbena, cleome, coreopsis, milkweed, echinacea, buttonbush and some herbs like fennel, dill, oregano, and parsley are great for caterpillars to feed on, raspberry bushes and vegetable plants
  • Potting Soil
  • Plant food (fertilizer)
  • Water
  1. Prepare an area for the plants.  Rake up the soil and add in some new potting/top soil and plant food.  
  2. Dig holes as big as the containers.
  3. Lay the plants in the holes.
  4. Surround the plants with extra soil and pat firmly.
  5. Water

Bees and butterflies are attracted to flowers.  Bees particularly like white and yellow flowers and butterflies like big areas of red and purple flowers.  With older children, make a map (plan) when things will bloom and for how long so that you have a combination of plants that will continually bloom all summer long.

Another great addition to your bee and butterfly garden is a bird bath where they can get a drink of water.  And if you want to take it a step further, do some research on creating insect nesting grounds where you can further encourage the growth of bee populations.

Spring is a great time to experiment, to be outdoors, to be immersed in nature, and best of all, to dig in the dirt, so get to it.

Kitchen Science – Easy Indoor Fun!

water, conservation, child, activities, science

A little water, ice cubes and some rock salt, and you can watch “instant ice” develop!

Turn Winter Couch Potatoes into Kitchen Wizards

Getting your kids off the couch and into the lab will be the hardest part of these fun and amazing kitchen projects. With some simple ingredients you can turn your child into a mad scientist whose amazement and wonder will make the mess a small price to pay. (FYI: these aren’t even that messy.)  

Instant Ice Experiment

Ask your child if they ever wondered how Frozone was able to make ice instantly.  When he or she yells a resounding, “YES!” Break out a little rock salt (you probably have that handy), ice cubes and a bottle of water.  Check out the video here for directions.

A simple butter sculpture – fun and easy.

 

Everything is Better with Butter

Put some sticks of butter in the freezer and then allow your child to carve fun shapes into them with a butter knife.  Google and Pinterest have a number of easy and more complex ideas that will get your children’s creative juices flowing! You can even have kids make their own butter and show how matter can change states from a liquid to a solid!  And once you have made butter, you might as well make some ice cream.  All it takes are a few ingredients, a couple coffee cans, ice and rock salt combined with some elbow grease and a little patience.

kitchen science, honey, bees

This experiment from Experimental Express will WOW your kitchen science team!

Kitchen Science Question: Is it Really Honey?

This experiment is pretty darn cool.  Take your child on a Bee research project – if the weather is OK, head to a local bee farm and let them see the bees in actions.  Crummy weather? Do a stay-at-home field trip and research on the internet to provide background for this kitchen experiment.  Once children understand how bees turn nectar into honey and where they store the honey, try this supertastic honey experiment from Experimental Express that is cooler than Hollywood special effects!  Can you tell which “honey” is real honey?

Color Explosion

Don’t worry, it isn’t as bad as it sounds!  Fill a cookie sheet with a shallow amount of milk.  Then have kids paint the milk by putting drops of food color into the milk (don’t stir).  Now take a q-tip and dip it in dish soap and then touch the milk then observe the fireworks (no actual fire, just color explosions).

Bounce off the Walls

When you kids are bouncing off the walls, why not make some bouncy balls.  This cool project will have your kids wild about science and kitchen creations as they watch a chemical reaction where liquids turn to solids.

Slime

It’s likely that you and your kids have made slime before, but if you haven’t, you absolutely need to.  If you have, there are so many different kinds to make that you should do it again.  A few ingredients create a mesmerizing substance that will have your kids playing for hours.

Five Top MakerEd / EdTech Tools to Boost STEAM Education at Home!

MakerBolder wins EdTech Grant from Eduporium

MakerBolder was honored to receive Eduporium’s EdTech Grant to support our upcoming Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest.  You can read more about the Grant HERE.  We love the way Eduporium is supporting in-home and in-classroom STEAM Education (and you will, too!).  Below is an article from the Eduporium team that shines a light on awesome tools and toys that are both fun and educational.  Enjoy!

By Andy Larmand, Eduporium

 

The Eduporium team is on a mission to provide educators and innovative community leaders with technology that helps students develop crucial STEM skills through active learning and hands-on experiences. Eduporium also offers a monthly grant program, through which they award $500 worth of EdTech to deserving educational institutions and organizations.

MakerBolder was chosen as Eduporium’s January grant recipient and selected Ozobot robots to give out at their annual Rocky Mountain STEAM event! Ozobot’s are fantastic STEAM tools that allow children to take part in hands-on learning and help build a strong foundation of 21st century skills, including coding.

Check out some of the most popular MakerEd tools for enhancing STEAM education.

  • 3Doodler: This 3D printing pen combines some of the most exciting and important elements of STEAM education in engineering and 3D design. It is both a 3D printer and a pen meaning that kids can use it to draw objects in three dimensions! One of their pens is designed for students as young as 6 years old and the other is suitable for students in middle school and up. They are both completely safe for children and include various fun filaments for printing.
  • littleBits: These electronic modules snap together easily via their individual magnetic connection and each has a color-coded function.

    LittleBits tools can be pieced together in thousands of ways to give people of all ages the opportunity to “iterate” their EdTech creations!

    The different Bits include inputs, outputs, wires, power supplies, and more. As students build inventions with them, they learn that it’s not possible to have a functioning output without an input and it’s not possible to activate their circuits without power, eventually progressing to building circuits they can control with code.

  • MaKey MaKey: The MaKey MaKey uses the conductivity found within everyday objects and inside the human body to turn any conductive object into an interactive touchpad. Students can attach a conductive object to the MaKey MaKey board, “ground” themselves by holding one of the kit’s jumper wires in their hand, and activate the conductive object by touching it while holding the wire in their hand since they too are conductors of electricity!
  • MakeDo Packs: These maker-focused tools allow kids to invent and build with cardboard! Students can optimize their inventions with easy-to-use pieces, like reusable screws, tools, and saws, which are all plastic and enab

    MakeDo EdTech kits expand creative problem solving.

    le students to anchor cardboard construction projects. Each of MakeDo’s kits promote creative thinking and inventive problem solving in a fun way.
    KEVA Planks are small, rectangular wooden blocks kids can strategically use to build all sorts of structures. Not only are they able to be creative and design buildings and bridges, they also learn the fundamentals of engineering along the way. With KEVA, students are challenged to create sound structures that can support themselves, teaching them important design and engineering principles in the process.

To discover more MakerEd tools for enhancing engagement and inspiring learning by making, check out the Eduporium website or reach out to info@eduporium.com. And, be sure to encourage kids to use hands-on learning to unlock new levels of inventiveness, creativity, and ingenuity as they build future-ready skills!

Putting a Hammer to the Glass STEM Ceiling – Current Research on Girls in Science

explore the galaxy of hands-on science

Broadening Girls’ perspectives on STEM Careers helps them consider all options from an early age.

The glass ceiling is an invisible, but real barrier in many industries and especially in STEM related fields.  While more and more women are entering science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields, they still only make up a little over a fourth of the workforce.

According to the National Girls Collaborative, only 11% of physicists and astronomers are women while 17% of the civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are female.  Female chemists make up 35% of the field. The most notable gap in the gender workforce is in the computer and high tech industries. According to Catalyst

Dr. Cathy Olkin from the Southwest Research Institute, is a leading Planetary Scientist and an advocate for girls in STEM Careers.

.org whose mission it is to accelerate growth for women in the workplace, women make up only one-fifth of the job force in that industry.  Also concerning, the women who do work in these fields make 20% less on average in the same role as men. But as a whole, women who work in STEM industries receive a much higher wage than working in other areas.

What does it all mean for Girls in Science?

It means that a growth mindset needs to be embraced by all parties: parents of girls, educators, employers and industries.  More women in the STEM workforce allows companies and industries to develop in ways that don’t just help 50% of the population and increases their relevance to a much larger market.

In a ForbesWoman article, Moira Forbes asks female professionals prolific in their STEM fields of biomolecular and computer engineering, how to narrow the gap. Solutions include educating girls that they don’t have to be Einstein mathematically in order to be successful in a number of STEM fields; likewise, they suggested inspiring and fostering curiosity (in other words, let your daughter take apart that old cracked iPhone).  Brittany Kendrick who has a Master’s of Science in Urban Infrastructure Systems, shared that societal paradigms need to change. “As a Black Woman, a Civil Engineer, bred by the public schools on the southside of Chicago, it is my personal mission to resist the social, economic, and political structures that are in place to discourage my ability and pursuit.” Other girls deserve the same, and so advocacy and enlightenment need to continue.

Dr. Temple Grandin, internationally acclaimed scientist and advocate for hands-on learning suggests that girls need early exposure to STEM subjects in order to develop a passion for them.

Kids will seldom see themselves in careers and fields where they don’t see themselves represented (whether it be gender or race).  The more exposure girls can get to see women in STEM industries will help ignite girls interest and plant the seeds they need to see themselves growing in STEM industries.  Likewise, a girl won’t know her options until she is exposed to them.  The more activities, camps, events where girls can get messy and explore the varied degrees and career opportunities in STEM, the better!

 

Maker, Escape Room, Tech, Arduino

Rabbit Hole Brings Cool Maker Tech to New Louisville Escape Room

A BOAT to access the outdoors

Written by Micah Leinbach

Hands on Human Interaction – Wilderness classrooms can let kids tinker with society

There’s nothing that can launch you into an internal rant about “kids these days” quite like camping on a Canadian riverbank, swatting mosquitoes while your stomach suffers from a 14 year old’s culinary experimentation with “fried ramen.” But, come morning, with a belly still full of slightly burned, yet undercooked noodles, those same kids will inevitably do something pretty amazing, reminding you that the kids are all right.

As an outdoor educator, I spend most of my time thinking about the “these days” part of the “kids these days” equation. We know experience is a powerful educator. Most kid’s experiences “these days” are defined by certain conditions: routine school schedules, hyperconnectivity, and the social pressures of an age of social media. What if we could change those conditions, just for a while, and let kids write the rules of society?

We want to get more kids into wilderness classrooms in order to do exactly that, so we are launching the Bus for Outdoor Access & Teaching, or “BOAT.” We will use a custom-built school bus (which we are fundraising for right now) to build the most accessible outdoor program in America. With an outdoor program on wheels, we can put a fully-functional wilderness classroom at the front door of any school in the country, then provide the transportation, equipment, and leadership to get them out into the mountains. That means a new set of conditions: schedules the kids control, a chance to disconnect from the outside world, and a chance to play with the social rules that govern a small expedition group.

In outdoor classrooms kids face some pretty fundamental life challenges (where do I sleep? what do I eat?) with creativity, experimentation, and a healthy dose of mistake-making. That also means they learn a ton, especially about working together. After all, just look at…

 

…the kids who built their own government.

Kids in the wilderness don’t see a lot of candy, so it was a big deal when my crew of 20 found a bag of jolly ranchers. Of course there were only 15 pieces, and it’s hard to split a jolly rancher.

What followed was an experiment in civics that rivaled the founding of some nations, with impassioned speeches and pleas for this or that approach to resource allocation. For a moment it looked like the situation would devolve into a dictatorship of a particularly charismatic 11 year old, until she reached for the candy before her case was fully made. She was shouted down and democracy was floated next, with a vote – but a minority insisted on consensus. It took 3 hours, but they came to an agreement – the candy was shunned as “not worth the trouble,” but so was the lengthy consensus process. The group ran elections for every decision from then on.

People often imagine a government of kids turning into a nightmarish Lord of the Flies situation. Just like any invention though, social processes rarely work smoothly the first time. Turns out a government is the same way – but a few decisions in, those kids had built a model of democracy that would make those of us watching today’s national news more than a little jealous.

 

…the kids in the grilled cheese courtroom.

Sean made a beautiful sandwich. The toast was evenly browned, and the cheese bubbled out the edges, but not quite enough to spill. Satisfied, he left it on a plate on a log near the fire, and went to fill his water bottle in the river. When he returned half of it was in the dirt, and half of it was in Joel’s belly.

When kids are running the show, behavior management becomes a question of justice. A gang of 13 year old boys initially leaned towards punitive justice (making Joel clean up the meal) before swiftly moving through retribution (eating Joel’s sandwich), incapacitation (cutting off Joel’s hands), denunciation (simply bad mouthing Joel), before settling on a more restorative approach. Joel would make a new sandwich, and would help develop a system to separate “shared food” from “private food” moving forward. Peace reigned. Speaking of private food…

 

…the wisdom in the peanut butter jar.

At the beginning of a trip group gear is divided up and personal items are stowed away, and the final token of independence is bestowed up each participant. In a world of collectively owned food, one’s “personal peanut butter jar” is sacred. You revel in the knowledge that these precious 16 oz. are yours and yours alone.

You’re likely close to a food source, where control of a peanut butter jar feels small. Not so in a world where every ounce of food is carried on your back. Determining how to use it is a lesson in resource management and a master class in the psychology of gratification. Some squirrel it away – petrified of a mid-trail stomach groan, while others blaze through by the spoonful – not stopping until they hear the scrape of their utensil on the plastic bottom. There are lessons in both strategies, reinforced by satisfied (or empty) stomachs. And peanut butter is far from the only thing that becomes a more powerful teaching tool once the conditions of life become a little more rustic!

 

…the kids who built a fire in the rain.

After a long day of hiking, lounging on the beach during sunset is hard to resist. Despite my best efforts to teach people about the incoming cumulonimbus clouds and what they meant (storms coming!), dinner got pushed further and further back. Soon it was raining, but a fire had to be made. What followed was nothing short of an engineering marvel, as a few tarps, an old poncho, a stick, rope, and a healthy dose of volunteer human columns built a storm-proof cooking fire. The resources were sparse and the weather uncooperative, but we ate our lukewarm soup with pride.

I am a big believer that for kids to succeed in a 21st century economy they will need to tinker, make, and build, as scientists, experimenters and inventors. I’m also a big believer that for the 21st century society to be one worth succeeding in they’ll need to tinker, make, and build better systems of governance, justice, and resource allocation. That means they need practice, and we know just where they can get it – outside.

 

BOAT will make accessing these kinds of programs easier, but we need your help! Once our bus is built, partners in the Denver area can have a fully-functional outdoor program arrive on-site, ready to offer the outdoor experiences while sparing organizations and educators the logistical challenges of pulling them together. In prototypes of the program we were able to offer expeditions of multiple days at 50% the national average cost – we know it can work! Consider supporting BOAT’s campaign campaign for a custom bus, and a model of outdoor education that is easy for anyone to access. If we can raise $2,500 in our Indiegogo by the end of this weekend, we’ll see that amount tripled by a matching program from our board and an anonymous donor. Feel free to reach out to the author, Micah Leinbach, at micah@theBOATbus.com with questions or to get updates when BOAT launches.

 

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