Meet Camille Schrier. She’s a doctorate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, a lover of chemistry, and as of December 19th, she is the official 2020 Miss America. Prior to being crowned, Camille did something that delighted her audience and inspired young girls everywhere: she did a science experiment.
The Miss America pageant has traditional stereotypes that aren’t the most inspirational for young girls wanting to become professionals, experts in their fields, or trailblazers for the future. This year, however, the winner was a young woman who was passionate about making a statement and did just that. She showed beyond the shadow of a doubt that Miss America could also be a science expert…and an astonishingly entertaining one at that. Take a look at the scientific spectacle that won her the crown:
“Miss America is someone that needs to educate, be able to communicate with everyone, and that’s what I do as a woman of science. And we need to show that Miss America can be a scientist and that a scientist can be Miss America.”
The future of scientific advancement is an opening playing field for all genders. As a new decade takes hold of the world, we’re all watching excitedly as education grows, adapts, and improves. “We are delighted to see a Virginia Tech science alumna shine on the national stage,” states dean of the College of Science at Virginia Tech, Sally Morton, “and we’re even more thrilled that she is using her success to showcase the value of STEM education for kids and as a catalyst to encourage young girls to study science and do science.”
This past summer, we were contacted through Facebook Messenger by Royal Caribbean Cruises. They wanted us to create interactive STEM adventures for their newly renovated Oasis of the Seas, the 4th largest cruise ship in the world. The deadline was tight, but our team pulled together and presented adventures that were way beyond anything Royal Caribbean had ever attempted before. They decided to take the leap and gave us the green light.
Since the summer, we have been designing these adventures under a strict non-disclosure agreement but, now that the ship has sailed, we can tell you all about it.
After submitting the curriculum and instructions, Chris Wiley, our Director of Curriculum Development, and Meghan Gardner, Founder of Guardian Adventures, traveled to Miami to help Royal Caribbean create training videos and documentation for their staff. Soon after, Chris and Meghan were flown to Cadiz, Spain to train the ship’s staff while the ship was still under construction. There were times when hard hats were necessary in order to access parts of the ship so that they could finish the last touches on the adventures.
The contract has been completed and Royal Caribbean is delighted. We are also quite excited to know that our adventures will be experienced by even more people as Royal Caribbean decided to roll out identical versions of our adventures to at least 4 other ships. This means that the adventures we designed for them will be accessible to about 1 million patrons a year across the globe.
The initial review from their clients is that our adventures for the ship are a big success! As such, we have been informed by Royal Caribbean’s Manager of Product Innovation that we can expect our contract to expand in 2020.
What does this mean for Guardian Adventures? As we continue to serve Royal Caribbean as well as other large organizations, our future plans for purchasing a facility have become more accessible and clearer. We are exploring adding various development facilities such as a Maker Space for our students as well as for building our own props and costumes, improved technology for higher level immersion in our adventures, and even a video production room where our marketing department can create in-game videos for complementing the story presented to Heroes.
Our new Consulting & Development Division has grown quite a bit from our work with the Princeton Review’s parent company in South Korea, ST Unitas. With this in mind, you may notice some new staff positions being filled which will help us grow our camps and weekly adventures so that the quality of our programming matches the work we are providing in our consulting contracts. We are also on a quest to constantly innovate and try different genres of adventures, including play testing our new Super Hero camp and events.
We encourage you to check out Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas if you are considering a cruise vacation. We might even see you in January when we are returning to the ship to assess the staff development and training for the adventures we designed.
You may also notice some changes on our website as we expand on our Education & Consulting section. Now that we are performing large scale Invasion Adventures (that’s a teaser for a future Update where you will find out about the Lexington Library Invasion involving more than 150 teens, staff, and volunteers), we will be providing more details about our services for organizations that are interested in exciting adventures for their clients and patrons.
Along with this exciting growth, we are also expanding our Scholarship & Financial Aid programs considerably. It has been our ongoing objective to make sure that every Hero can enjoy our programs and events and not be held back by limited finances. So if you are struggling with tuition or program fees, please talk to us. Our company will never outgrow our heart.
As 2020 quickly approaches, we look forward to continuing to serve you while constantly innovating and offering new services and programs for all ages and all kinds of Heroes.
Tiamat, The Great Dragon, has been defeated, but remnants of her armies hide in the shadows. Every hero is needed to assist Nidaba, the patron of the city of Eres, to defend her home and people from these vengeful creatures. Will you be able to band together to stop them in time before they find a new leader and rise again?
Meanwhile, halfway across the globe, a beloved Z-Corp scientist is struck with a mysterious disease. The only way to save them is to shrink to a cellular level and discover what undiscovered evils lurk inside. Arm your NERF blasters for a fantastic voyage!
This event is for ages 7 to 14. Monster Campers 15 years or older will receive 50% off tuition for their participation. Extended day options are also available, moving the times to 8:30AM – 5:00PM. To register for this event or the 2020 camp season please visit www.guardup.com/campreg/ and fill out your waiver at www.guardup.com/waiver/
Summer Camp is officially wrapped for the 2019 season. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped make the magic real for the young heroes at King’s Watch Day Camp here in Burlington. After ten weeks of nonstop adventure, there’s a whole lot to remember. Here’s some of our amazing counselors’ favorite bits…
“I loved playing Gilgamesh. I loved playing an evil villain and watching the kids band together to overpower and defeat me as a team. They had to surround me and I was force-fed a potion, which was pretty ridiculous and cool.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
“I learned a lot about how personalities can mesh…or clash. It was also interesting to observe how when you try to explain something to an 8 year old they’ll understand faster than a 50 year old, becuase they don’t hold onto old knowledge and are more open to new ideas. We can learn a lot from the kids.”
“I also loved playing out the Gilgamesh plot. The campers manufactured a magical weakening potion using STEM and the PH scale early in the day. After there was a this great big battle…it was epic.
Demon Town was a great part too. It was sort of a land of the dead and in order to buy stuff everyone had to do favors and sign contracts since there was no money. Everybody was making each other do silly dances to get potions and powers. Also John acquired one camper’s soul. All the campers fought together to get it back. I think that was my favorite week.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
“I learned how creative kids could be, especially when they started bartering with souls, which we did not expect.”
“I really enjoyed the Orchestrated Meditation for the plot. We did that so we could call upon the spirit Ninsun to get advise and wisdom in order to beat Gilgamesh. She appeared to them after they had successfully meditated in the spirit realm. The kids were (surprisingly) very into! Not to mention, they were really quiet for a whole thirty minutes.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
“I learned how to be a leader, be more confident, own the situation, and improvise when things don’t go as expected. These kids have some wild imaginations and you’ve got to keep up!”
“It’s always a good time goofing off with the kids, especially during the extended day hours when anything goes. I also really get into making the puzzles in Zombie Camp for the kids to solve.
I made one where they had to read cryptic pictures. The campers were tasked with using the clues in the codes to see how many stones they could put in the goblets. Once the correct amount was used the goblets were keys to open a temple door to a secret room filled with new mysteries and quests. I mean, c’mon. That’s awesome! It looked so cool and the kids picked up on it really quickly.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
“I learned more about what can make this camp even better. Some stuff we weren’t sure would work actually had a surprising impact. We got to experiment in ways we didn’t expect and I think the kids got a lot out of this summer…and so did the adults. Everybody grew together.”
Outdoor camp has come to a climactic close and we simply cannot thank enough everyone who made it possible. From parents to counselors to the heroes themselves THANK YOU for another incredible summer of adventure.
Let’s take a look back at what your heroes got up to this year at Salem State…
WIZARDS & WARRIORS STEM SUMMER CAMP
Our heroes passed through The Gate Of Destiny and entered the magical realm of Sidleterra. They chose their respective Houses, got some combat training, and began their adventure with smiles and swords held high. Along the way, they studied the natural world around them, embarked on an archeological dig in an ancient burial ground, solved riddles and puzzles galore, and strengthened their understanding of the 3 Tenets of a Hero: Courage, Honor, and Compassion.
Creatures and characters littered their path as the adventure continued. The heroes met King Gilgamesh, a complex character, and fought alongside him in the shifting caverns. They gathered other magical allies and rid the land of the evil witch Baba Yaga. A cultural educator from the Center for Arabic Culture, Alma Richeh, arrived to teach the heroes about language and music.
In the final days of camp, the tablet of The Patrons went missing so our heroes traveled to a dark corner of Sidleterra where The Gate Of Destiny was originally crafted. They gathered information, banded together under a newly designed constitution, and defeated Tiamat’s giant army of evil. They also made boats…
“I’ve literally made the best friends ever at Guard Up and they really taught, and are still teaching me, a lot about friendship and what it means to be a hero,” – Annika (Hero)
“(Guard Up) is a place that allows children to have this amazing creativity in a space where they can be themselves,” – Lisa (Parent)
ZOMBIE STEM SUMMER CAMP
The Defenders entered the world of Asimov’s Foundation series, complete with the Galactic Empire, the Foundation resistance, and our big bad boss The Mule, a psychic mutant with control over the zombie hordes. They learned about the biology of the human brain while saving the helpful robot Daneel and vanquished The Mule by outsmarting his living dead henchmen.
The next week we introduced elements from Minority Report, specifically the concept of Pre-Crime. After learning about the concept, the campers decided that is was unethical to use it for themselves. They traversed a treacherous maze by solving parabolic equations, learned about punnet squares, and got to witness Marrow, the leader of the zombies, have a nice sloppy brain for lunch in the cafeteria (this was not served by our cooks, he brought it from home, we promise).
“The environment here is really nice. You get to learn all the things that you would in school but in a fun and different way that’s very compelling,” – Panda (Monster Camper)
“My son has been part of Guard Up for many many years and he loves the creativity, he loves working with the other kids, he loves being able to play different monsters, and I’m pretty sure he leaves a part of himself in Sidleterra every year,” – Liz (Parent)
Is your hero still itching for more summer camp excitement? We can help. King’s Watch Day Camp in Burlington is SOLD OUT next week but the final week (8/26 – 8/30) still has a few slots left. Register today and add one more week of adventure to your hero’s summer at www.guardup.com/campreg or give us a call at (781) 270-4800.
We’re looking forward to the next adventures on the horizon with great anticipation. Our storytellers have recently begun creating new interactive stories with a Moroccan cultural consultant, keeping with our standard of cultural respect and accuracy within our stories. Curious what this new tale will involve? Join your friendly local Guardians and find out for yourself…
…but before we dive into that, we’re thrilled to announce our big plans for October! (Hint: it’s got to do with Korea)
I attended a weeklong conference for educators last year at Harvard Graduate School of Education. One of the speakers asked the audience what kinds of things they had learned that were not from formal classes or schooling. The audience offered a wide variety of topics from investing to woodworking. I briefly considered mentioning my own hobby of fire breathing… but didn’t want to throw the topic off with people wanting to know why the heck I would take up such an activity.
The instructor asked where each person learned their craft. For quite a few, the answer was YouTube. Some learned from friends. And of course, many read books or visited websites. In my case, I hired a professional circus performer because I knew the consequences of a mistake in lighting a big breath of liquid paraffin into a massive burst of flames just inches in front of my face could be quite painful, if not fatal. But the most interesting part about this discussion was the idea that, more than anything else, Informal Education teaches us our learning doesn’t stop when school ends.
Long ago, I read a book called Teaching as a Subversive Activity (Neil Postman & Charles Wingartner). I thought that schools needed a solid dose of this concept. However, not in the common interpretation of “let the kids learn whatever they want to learn” as much as making learning applicable to something of interest to the student. As well, I appreciated the chapter that bestowed upon the teachers the daunting task of helping students develop a strong “BS Detector”. This idea has never been more important than now in the Age of (Mis) Information.
Formal schooling serves a very important function in providing a foundation upon which to build our own inquiries. You will have a hard time getting the information you need to pursue your interest if you do not know how to read and write. You won’t be able to make sufficient estimates or question internet memes that contain questionable statistics if you don’t know math. History, myth, and literature teach us about humanity through time… what we did, why we did it, and whether the climate is becoming ripe for us to repeat atrocities we thought would never come to bear again.
Children need education. And yes, they do need at least some memorization. But as the foundation is being laid, they also need something very different: They need to be encouraged to tackle problems with no clear answer. Even better: Diving into problems that no one immediately knows how to approach with certainty. This is because at the highest level of innovation they will constantly find themselves in the state of “no one has done this before”.
My youngest daughter, Gwen, is working as a Physicist for the summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. They have shut down the Large Hadron Collider and a large team of Particle Physicists are working on a massive upgrade. Gwen is an undergrad at Cornell University and was accepted into a small program to spend the spring semester of her junior year at CERN. This internship was then extended into the summer as she continued her research work. Gwen is the one undergrad on her entire team who are almost entirely PhDs. She was given an assignment to program custom circuit boards for the CMS detector. The upgrade she is working on will go into effect in 7 years.
When Gwen was handed the assignment, she was told that no one knew how to do what she was being asked to do. She would have to figure it out and then report back to the team. They could provide feedback and suggestions… but she was going to have to forge her own path. Meanwhile, the other team members were doing the same with their own assignments. This is because what they are trying to accomplish at CERN has never been done before on any machine, let alone the largest and most complex machine ever created by mankind.
When I talked to Gwen about this, she said that it was a little intimidating at first. Because as a student in school or college, you know you have a teacher, with answers, whom you can turn to if you are truly stumped. In this endeavor, however, everyone is in a constant state of trying to “figure it out”. Since there have been many people in the past who have used coding to accomplish goals that can be related to her project, Gwen spends quite a bit of time reading and researching what others have done. Then, building off of these resources, she combines approaches and tries different paths… essentially just “messing around” with the coding to try and see what fits her objective. She also mentioned that one hurdle she had to overcome was letting go of achieving specific outcomes in a specific time frame – which is what a lot of formal education focuses on. Instead, there are checkpoints where the teams meet and individuals give presentations on their work. The focus is more on showing progress than on having concrete expectations around what is being produced.
I recall one scientist saying that most discoveries come less from having the right answers as much as having the right questions. But having the right questions is often not the focus of formal primary and secondary education (although it tends to get into much more exploration at the college level). Innovation requires us to learn a process of forming an inquiry. We need to let go of the idea that inquiry is innate. We may all be capable of asking questions. But if we lack foundational knowledge, we can waste a great deal of time asking questions that don’t address the challenge.
I don’t think the answer to raising innovative students is to abandon formal education. We do need foundational knowledge in order to build our inquiry. However, I think the strength of Informal Education makes more space for learning the process of inquiry. The process of Informal Learning is self-directed, learner-controlled, and present in most of our lives on a regular basis. It’s part of a child’s daily life when they play, such as building structures out of sticks or containers. As adults, we still come upon this in our own life routinely. Just think of the last time you looked up a solution to a problem you had on the internet.
There are many aspects of Informal Education and Learning that deserve comprehensive discussion and exploration. For example, Formal Education uses the “Push” model of education delivery: Teachers present information that the student receives. Informal Education uses the “Pull” model: Students reach out and locate the information they need to solve the problem at hand. The former is assigned work that is often based in a grade (pass/fail). The latter is utilized by individuals who have an immediate need or interest that is based in performance (how well does it get the job done), to satisfy a curiosity, or for formulate an informed opinion. I see this repeatedly with digital natives (the generations who have grown up with the internet). If they want to know what kind of plant is in front of them, they can take a picture with their cell phone, upload it to the app called Seek, and it displays the name, genus, species, and other important information about the plant.
One of the biggest differences between Informal Learning and Formal Learning, however, is that the learning is driven by the learner and based on the learner’s desired outcome. Because of this, a higher level of motivation is often a driving factor in the learning process. It is easier to stay focused, work long hours, and be resilient when the learner has ownership over both the process and the outcome. Don’t believe me? Just watch a videogamer learning a new game. They will ignore sleep and food as they become immersed in the process.
Another important aspect of Informal Education is that failure isn’t just allowable, it’s necessary. Failure is an equivalent building block to success. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what works… and why. Ask anyone involved in innovation and they will tell you a long history of failures that led to the resulting service, product, or discovery. Failure is part of the process – not a punishable offense.
The challenge before us is that Informal Education has to meet the needs of the Informal Learner. With the power of the internet and massive databases of information, the focus can be more about curating information than creating it. However, then we need to figure out how to best present the information in a way that the learner can find it most readily, which is essentially the largest task of most modern search engines. There also has to be a consideration for which medium the information is relayed through – written instructions, video, online mentoring, story-telling, augmented reality? The method is often determined by the learner’s problem:
How urgently is the solution needed?
What are the consequences if the provided answer is wrong?
What is my preferred learning style?
What is my current knowledge base or need for additional context?
There are many more questions that we need to answer. But thankfully, the topic is also the answer. So let’s move forward with the understanding that education doesn’t stop at the school exit.
Let’s explore how and why people learn – both intentionally and incidentally. Presenting information in a manner that is both discoverable and applicable will be our biggest challenge as we collect more and more answers that are stepping stones to problems we have not yet identified. Through this process, along with collaboration and non-stop inquiry, we can inspire the innovation that is necessary for solving the most significant challenges before us… whether that’s how to breathe fire, or how to upgrade a particle accelerator.
About the Author:
Meghan Gardner is the founder of Guard Up, Inc. which owns and operates Wizards & Warriors and Zombie Summer Camps, programs and events. These educational camps and events are the STEM and story-based experience we all wanted to attend as a kid – where instead of watching movies or playing video games about heroes, mythological creatures, mystery, and adventure, they get to live it. Kids and teens spend the summer playing a character of their own design and fighting monsters with foam swords or NERF Blasters, physics, biology, chemistry, and more.
This summer, I was once again honored to visit Seoul, South Korea as a lead trainer for the STEM Initiative, an educational alliance between ST Unitas (the parent company of The Princeton Review), professors from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Guardian Adventures.
The trip was filled with training, meetings, visiting local destinations, and a banquet of learning for all of us. As well as meeting our team of 20 teachers and over 100 students, I had the opportunity to interview one of the top executives of ST Unitas who was present at the company’s start: Vision Director Kahee Kim.
My interview with Ms. Kim was eye-opening to me on the cultural differences between Asia and the USA as it pertains to education, business, and even how certain words like “innovation” are defined. If you are interested in knowing more, join me in the LinkedIn group about Informal Education & Learning. I will be posting articles there about various interviews I conduct with individuals from around the world as we explore what Informal Learning and Education is and why it’s important.
Each day, Dr. Uche Amaechi and I would be picked up and brought to Seoul National University. Found in 1946, SNU is considered the most prestigious university in the country (with an international tuition of $5,500 a year – no, that’s not a typo). We trained the teachers in the curriculum based on the story that all of the students are Mars colonists and trying to survive on Mars while also trying to expand beyond the solar system.
On the last day in Seoul, just as we were leaving for the airport, our hosts asked us to chat with the students who had just arrived for the start of the first session of camp. Disregarding the fact that both Uche and I were in our informal travel clothes in preparation for a 14 hour plane trip, we agreed to meet with the kids and cheered them on as they stepped into the educational adventure we helped create. During the meet & greet, we had the opportunity to talk up our Winter Camp where kids from Korea visit the US to attend classes at Harvard and then an immersive adventure at Guardian Adventures.
Outside of working with the generous and diligent students, teachers, and business executives at the STEM Initiative, I was also provided with exquisite culinary experiences, jaw-dropping walks through Seoul’s largest Buddhism temple, and endearing conversations with a number of people about their day-to-day lives and Korean culture.
If you haven’t been to Seoul and have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. It is a very modern city with gorgeous architecture that looks as if it were designed either 100 years into the future or 500 years into the past. It’s immensely clean (the subway station especially) and safe. Many of the residents speak English and are excited about sharing their beautiful city with foreigners.
I came home to discover that Guardian Adventures has been contracted by another international organization to develop educational programs for their clients. We will share more about this project after the news goes public in November. But we are very excited to see our company expanding into the global market and helping students of all ages all over the world learn through our educational adventures. Stay tuned and let’s make this journey together.
About the Author:
Meghan Gardner is the founder of Guard Up, Inc. which owns and operates Wizards & Warriors and Zombie Summer Camps, programs and events. These educational camps and events are STEM and story-based experience where instead of watching movies or playing video games about heroes, mythological creatures, mystery, and adventure, the campers get to live it. Kids and teens spend the summer playing a character of their own design and fighting monsters with foam swords or NERF Blasters, physics, biology, chemistry, and more. Gardner is also a STEM Curriculum Designer for ST Unitas (the parent company of The Princeton Review), a guest lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education and other major universities, and an international speaker on the topic of Informal Education and Learning for all ages.
“The Introducer isn’t just a publication, it is a vehicle for creating meaningful connections around the globe that expand social impact.”
This is a mission strongly supported by Guard Up and our CEO, Meghan Gardner, so it’s no wonder that she sat down with the magazine to share our stories of cultural education and life long learning. See what she had to say in the brand new article from The Introducer…
As informal learning evolves, Guard Up remains front and center, pushing the boundaries of education. It’s important to us to share what we’re accomplishing and spread the word about this rapidly growing practice. Informal learning is the name of the game at Wizards & Warriors STEM Summer Camp. Heroes aren’t given a question and answer, instead they are presented a challenge. Through overcoming that challenge, the lesson is learned on their own terms. Knowledge is discovered rather than drilled in the grand adventure.
Is your hero ready for the challenge? Bunks are still open at camp this summer. Reserve yours today at www.guardup.com/campreg
If you’ve come to our Summer Camp before then you’ve definitely heard the word “LARP,” the common abbreviation for “Live-Action-Role-Play.” Sounds like fun! But before you can play…you must create your role. Character development is one of the most creative aspects of LARP. You can be anyone, or anything, from anywhere, or any time.
Take long-time camper Kira for example, or should we say Barrel…
The possibilities are endless. If that seems overwhelming, don’t fret! Guard Up is always here to help. Try your hand at one of the Character Creation guides. Remember to use Mythology as your resource, get as wild as you wish, and, above all, stay true to your own inner hero.
What do you picture when you read the word: job. Most would answer something along the lines of “the same monotonous task, day after day, fueled by coffee and ibuprofen.”
What do I picture? (yes, I’m breaking the fourth wall for this blog post) Well, let’s run through my week so far, shall we? On Monday I helped a 67 year old man sign up for weekly fencing classes and got to share his excitement of finally jumping back into his passion after a 20 year hiatus from the sport. On Tuesday I spent my break with my NERF blaster, using a Chinese gong for (loud) target practice. Yesterday I walked around our Castle…on stilts.
So what’s on the docket for today? Quite literally, anything! But enough about little old me. Let’s hear from one of our veteran Guardians, our Quartermaster, the incredibly talented Chris Wiley…
Working for a Place You Believe In
My name is Chris Wiley and I am the Program Director for Guardian Adventures, Wizards & Warriors, and Zombie Summer Camp. I get to play pretend for a living and help bring worlds of imagination to life. I am on my 11th year working with Guardian Adventures and approaching my 12th summer with our epic adventure camps.
On any given day, I get to design STEM curriculum, write stories based on myths and legends, pick up a foam sword to spar with kids and adults, dress up and play ridiculous characters (like the villainous Duke of Bones or the friendly Cyclops brothers), or don knickers and a mask and get paid to fence.
I have so many stories and anecdotes over my years with the company. From students growing into instructors under my mentorship to ridiculous birthday adventures coworkers have thrown for me to meeting the love of my life at this very job and marrying her at the campsite where we met, this building and this community of coworkers means so much to me. Guardian Adventures has been an integral part of my life for over a decade.
All of the above are reasons why I started working here and the reasons I enjoy each day I work. But the reason why I stay, the reason why after taking two years of spending time with my family and starting my own family down South I decided to uproot my family and move back to Massachusetts to this company, is because I believe in our mission. The part of working for this company that motivates me the most is that we serve our students and campers — who we call heroes — by challenging them to be better people. Whether encouraging compassion and courage through roleplay and consequences, building a life-long love of learning through story-based informal education, or just helping kids and adults relate to the world around them through unplugged active play, Guardian Adventures helps make kids into heroes and educators into champions.
That’s why I work here and that’s why I believe in Guardian Adventures.
Needless to say, us Guardians never have to worry about getting stuck in a monotonous routine. There’s always more adventure to uncover at The Castle, and now it might be time for your own adventure to begin…
Guardian Adventures is a company specializing in informal STEM education programs and camps. In addition, we provide weekly classes in swordsmanship and fencing as well as custom themed birthday parties and events.