Archive for the ‘Experiential Education’ Category

Robert Stremba, EdD 1947-2022

23/05/2022

It’s with a heavy heart that I report the passing of Robert H. Stremba, originally of the Philadelphia PA area. Bob was a good friend and fellow board member of Mountain Spirit Institute based in the USA. He served on the board, and as president, until his death. Bob supported the vision of Mountain Spirit through thick and thin.

Every conversation with him was always framed in the positive, from brainstorming what types of programs we could run in the USA, Peru, and in New Zealand from music exchanges to author speaking engagements to trips to Lakota Studies on the Rosebud Reservation. I met Bob when working in recruiting and marketing for Hurricane Island Outward Bound on the east coast, during a stopover at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire where we has the Adventure Education Department chair. We became good friends, and I eventually asked him if he’d serve on the board of my new non-profit I was creating based on Outward Bound principles with a bit of a spiritual element. He was on board. Not long after, he asked if I’d be interested in being an adjunct professor, teaching Intro to Outdoor Education and other classes. I took him up on the offer.
Over the years, Bob supported Mountain Spirit Institute by attending and assisting with fundraisers, providing ideas on program curriculum, experiential educational ideas based on his background with the Association of Experiential Education and as an instructor with Outward Bound and he even gave generously in financial support to Mountain Spirit.

Three of my favorite interactions with Bob were: The last time I saw him in the US when my family and I stayed with him at his home. We did the normal tourist things in Durango and would come back for dinner then join him for a jaunt into his favorite trails in the mountain surrounding his home.

Bob Stremba at Lake Sunapee
New Hampshire

One of the best courses I ever had the opportunity to run, was with Bob called H.A.W.K or Healing Adventure for Teens We had a small group of teens that had in common, some recent loss of a loved one in their lives. Our job was to provide a safe space in nature with experiential activities that allowed them to better process their loss, within a peer group. It was an amazing course and I cherish the time I had planning and working the course with Bob.
One last adventure we had was when he came to visit us in New Zealand. We picked him up at the airport, took him to the campervan rental desk, only to discover he had left his driver’s license in stateside. We headed back to Kingston, where we lived at the time to regroup and come up with a driverless vacation for Bob. The original plan was for him to spend time adventuring with us, and to spend some time traveling on his own. After numerous phone calls stateside and here in NZ, it was clear, Bob wasn’t going anywhere without me. Hence we rented a Juicy van, with a roof tent above, and headed off for parts unknown. I’m glad he left his license in the states.

Bob retired as Chair of the Fort Lewis College Adventure Education Department in 2017, after serving 11 years developing and teaching in the Adventure Education Bachelor’s degree program. His areas of focus include teaching how theory, research, and conceptual models inform practice, and vice versa; the connections between nature and mindfulness; project-based learning; and adventure processing and facilitation to promote social-emotional development. He co-wrote the graduate text and faculty resource book about how to teach theory experientially, Teaching Adventure Education Theory: Best Practices (2009), and wrote the instructor guide chapter on outdoor leadership for the college text, Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming (2018).

He has instructed for Outward Bound in Colorado and Northwest Outward Bound in Washington state, including courses for adolescent grief and loss, adult life-career renewal, and young adult leadership.

Bob also developed bachelor’s degree programs in adventure education and outdoor leadership at Plymouth (NH) State University, and New Mexico Highlands University. He developed and implemented new student outdoor orientation programs at two universities, and served as Director of Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services at the University of Puget Sound for 17 years. Bob even did a short stint creating and leading outdoor programs for REI, an outdoor cooperative retailer based in Washington.

Over the years, and continuing until his death, Bob served with the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) as a lead reviewer of outdoor education and therapeutic wilderness programs internationally, traveling to far flung and remote locations. He also served on AEE regional and international conference planning committees, including convening two AEE regional conferences at Fort Lewis College in recent years. Bob also served on the Board of Directors of Durango Nature Studies.
Most recently Bob was Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Experience Collaborative with Jay Zarr and Andrea Parrish. EC’s mission is “Enhancing your strengths through experiential consulting and training.
Bob leaves many friends in the professional outdoor educator’s world. There are many who could share a good story or two, of learning, and outdoor adventures with Bob. If you have any, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
There will be service, both live and online, celebrating the life of Bob on the 25th of September 2022. Please get in touch if you would like more info.
We miss you Bob!
Randall

Randall Richards, Director/Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Mountain Spirit Ltd, NZ

A Reminder from the Universe

30/06/2021
From the Pacific Crest Outward Bound* Book of Readings
(*Now called Northwest Outward Bound)

I love it when spirit nudges us. Our family does an evening reading at our dinner table every night before eating. Without looking at the bookshelf behind me last night, I pulled a random book off the shelf. Then I opened to a random page, then I looked at a random quote.

It’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Kenneth Grahame.

This quote arrives just when we’ve put our Lake Wanaka Yacht Charters business “on pause” due to New Zealand border closures. The lack of tourists is “forcing us to live our dreams” and as we consider and possibly prepare to use the yachts in more of an educational role, for experiential adventures on Lake Wanaka. This is my first love anyway. As every passenger that’s gone out on the lake with me attests, they got more than they bargained for, regarding an experiential sailing experience. Once they get out there, my job, and mission, is to light up their eyes and soul by helping them connect to the wind, the water, the place and themselves, and of course have fun.

Here at Mountain Spirit NZ, we’ve been hooked on the “AirBnB drug” prior to our Covid lockdown, and now we’re advertising for domestic visitors to stay with us with a purpose in mind, whether to just have a digital detox, record some music in our piano studio, or take some yin yoga classes with Amanda in the yurt. We’re stepping out into our own possibilities.

Although I’ve run Mountain Spirit Institute in the U.S. where we’ve done tons of different programs ranging from experiential immersion on the Rosebud Reservation to a powerful New England tour of Peruvian folk music, creating our own space here in New Zealand, and inviting people to come stay with us is uncharted territory. But we’re enjoying the ride, with all its ups and downs.

The trick to being fulfilled and successful, (however you personally define success), is stepping out of the way, allowing the Universe/Spirit/God to help out, and importantly, look for those reminder signs when they pop up and recognise them as such, then of course, take action.

I just attended a powerful presentation yesterday here in Wanaka, New Zealand, by Lake Wanaka Tourism They’re our local tourism association. As you can imagine, like many of us in tourism here in New Zealand, they’ve been in on a path or re-inventing themselves. They’ve been working on a new branding program. I’ll write more on that in later in a separate post, as it deserves more time. But I have to mention here, about the power of timing, being at the right place at the right time, taking action when a crisis/opportunity presents itself and listening to spirit. Lake Wanaka Tourism is taking the bold steps to create a wonderful vision of post-covid “tourism” for operators, the land, community and visitors alike.

Here’s just a snapshot of some of the Lake Wanaka tenets going forward:
The Vision:
“Our aspiration is for the visitor industry to enrich this place, as well as the lives of the local community both now and into the future. To create mutual value for Whanau/whanui (which includes our families , our community, our visitors), and our whenua (our place and natural resources) and our economy.

“Values:
Guardianship for our people, our place and our plant; Inclusive and respectful; Living with a sense of balance; bold and free thinking.”

There are plans being put into place with a whole re-adjustment of what it means to be in tourism here in Wanaka, and fortunately, the leadership and staff at Lake Wanaka Tourism are taking on the challenge with heart and purpose. The future looks bright because there’s a proactive approach. I look forward to sharing more about LWT’s and the community’s plans going forward in future posts. I would say LWT is following their spirit course.

Back to the reading about messing about on boats. I can’t wait for the next sign to come down the road, and hit me with a spiritual 2×4. But for now, I thought I’d share this little nudge from Spirit.

Fulfilling our Mission, and Our Passion

15/08/2020

House Astro - Copy

Before lock-down, here on the South Island of New Zealand, we were quite busy renting out our accommodation to AirBnB guests from all over the world. We enjoyed meeting people from Italy to the US, from China to India. Since lock-down, we’ve been gettingIMG_8761 - Copy copy bookings from individuals and families here in New Zealand, who want a “digital detox”, or to reset their perspective on life. There’s a huge demand for going within, and reconnecting with one’s self, with others and with nature. Humbly, I think we do that well here at Mountain Spirit. We’ve been at it for a while and are excited to share our space and experience. Amanda offers wonderful and centering YinYoga classes. Randall offers re-connection through “solo’s”, sailing and other experiential activities. Randall worked with Outward Bound for many years, then a mountain guide in South America for Alpine Ascents International, leading climbers up peaks in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador and has landed in New Zealand. Amanda has studied yoga most of her life, and spent some months in India practicing and learning. She most recently has been training under Sarah Powers. Come join IMG_8794 copyus if you’re so inclined to dive into your inner world. We’re at mtnspirit.nz

 

 

 

IMG_6032 copy 2

Slowdown Post #13: “Hayice” Climbing!

13/08/2020

20200513_120509 copyDuring lockdown Level 4, we eyed the farmer’s hay bales, the next field over, and received permission to take ice axes and crampons to them “as long as we didn’t tip any over on us”. It was remarkably realistic climbing except the occasional piece of straw in your boot and of course the warmth! Who knows, maybe it will catch on. It’s a great way to get a pump, and practice your skills. When growing up in New Hampshire, I took for granted the ice climbs that were 10-15 minutes’ walk from the car, Frankenstein Cliff’s in the White Mountains, come to mind, or smaller local climbs hidden in the woods near Sunapee. In New Zealand, you’ll need a full day’s approach by ski touring into Wye Creek, or Black Peak here in Wanaka to see any ice. No driving to the ice fall or belaying off the bumper here!

Mindfulness And Meditation To Become Part Of The Curriculum In 370 Schools In England

14/07/2019

By Fino Menezes
BrightVibes.com

i2In 370 schools across England, children will be taught how to meditate, techniques for muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises for mindfulness. The program is being conducted under a mental health study that the British government is running up until 2021.

Dealing with new and complex emotions can be mitigated by meditation and mindfulness.  When children act out by kicking and screaming, very often it is simply because they don’t understand. Read More….

Neuroscience Study Shows Gratitude Pays Off, Rewires Your Brain

12/07/2019

DSC_0138

Mountain Spirit New Zealand

Half-way through my Outward Bound career, I starting introducing the concept of gratefulness by asking my students to name five things for which they were grateful. The five things didn’t have to be from their wilderness trip, it could be anything.  It was an eye opener to see how some of them had a difficulty finding things in which to be grateful. They were just out of practice. So was I. These days, it’s been a daily question in our family, sometimes at the dinner table or while driving. It puts things in perspective, and not only for our 8yr-old.

Echkart Tolle states in his book Power of Now, “When you honor, acknowledge, and fully accept your present reality — where you are, who you are, what you are doing right now — when you fully accept what you have got, you are grateful for what you have got, grateful for what is, grateful for Being. Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity. It cannot come in the future. Then, in time, that prosperity manifests for you in various ways.” (There’s more of this excerpt here.)

If quotes from Tolle aren’t convincing enough, a recent UCLA study should give you something to think about…

Neuroscience Reveals: This Is How Gratitude Literally Rewires Your Brain to Be Happier
From: Real Life Pharmacy
By Justin Brown

We often hear about the power of gratitude for creating a more positive and happy mental state. But did you know that gratitude literally transforms your brain?

According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.

When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. Read more….

www.realfarmacy.com

 

Another Example of Meditation in Action

07/06/2019

Programs-Services-a_06

Image Credit: hlfinc.org

By Holistic Life Foundation
School Sends Kids to Meditation Instead of Detention, with Amazing Results

Traditionally when children act up in school, they would get detention or they get suspended. An elementary school in Baltimore has a far healthier approach, read more…

For more info: www.hlfinc.org

Learning Presence from Wilderness

07/06/2019

Outward Bound recently published a piece entitled  How to Learn Mindfulness from the Wilderness. I’ve been meditating since my early teens, and grew up spending most of my after-school hours in the woods and mountains of New Hampshire and later working for Outward Bound as an instructor and staff trainer. I’d spend weeks and months in the backcountry without site of a car or airplane in stunning mountains. After a week, the students and I were just starting to adjust to the quieter pace. After two weeks, we were in the groove and were in no rush to return to “civilization”.  Teaching out there helped me see more of the quiet mind in myself, and in others. It was a moving experience to see others sink into themselves, the environment and to connect more with each other.  So read on.. and enjoy this wonderful piece on connection, mindfulness and wilderness.
It motivated me to start Mountain Spirit USA in 1989 and then Mountain Spirit New Zealand with my wife on the South Island.
mtndharma-pondside-med
How to Learn Mindfulness from the Wilderness.
By Outward Bound Blog
On July 4, 1845, a 28-year old left his comfortable station in life and retreated to the woods. For the next two years, two months and two days, he lived in a cabin that he built himself, surviving on what he could gather with his own hands. His only companions were the books he brought, the birds on his window sill and the ruminations of his own mind. He lived alone and simply, recording his experience as he went along. His experiment was published under the title Walden and as you might know already read more…

Mountain Spirit New Zealand – A Video Snapshot

26/01/2019

Check out our new video which gives you an overview of what we’re up to, our goals and dreams to make Mountain Spirit a place where people can connect to nature, themselves and each other. The video was done by “The Master” *Ashley Leung. Ash did the ground work, all editing and production. Keep the good work Ash! Randall did the aerial footage, and Ash made magic with it.

*We feel very fortunate to have Ashley, his wife Autumn and their new daughter as family friends. We miss them them and look forward to their return to New Zealand.

El Albergue grows into Organics/Sustainability

13/12/2014

Joaquín Randall, owner of El Albergue in Ollantaytambo, shares, in the recent video, the latest developments evolving around  experiential educational stays, sustainability, organics and cultural sensitivity at his lodge in the Sacred Valley of Peru.  Mountain Spirit collaborated a bit with Sr. Randall some years ago, so we can recommend a stay at El Albergue. Keep up the good Joaquin.

El Albergue, in Peru delivers a good stay, experientially based ed, and sustainability.

El Albergue, in Peru delivers a good stay, experientially based ed, and sustainability.