Some people may wonder at the seriousness with which we consider “education” when it may look as though we are mostly out “playing” and being active outdoors. The outdoors – Nature, wilderness, rivers and rocks and trails – are indeed the main setting that we teach and learn in. And yes, what we do is exciting, fun, exhilarating and active. There is also much more going on than meets the eye. Intention is a big part of that – we have strong intentions to provide opportunities for all people, young people in particular, to learn what is needed in order to live a full, meaningful life and to grow into the kind of people that can live such a life , and contribute to the greater good of all. So it may look like we are running around and just having a good time, but much learning is taking place. I hope that you will read on to find out more, and also return to this page from time to time as it grows and we inquire more deeply into the meaning of education.
How does a person of social conscience develop?
Where will the next generation of environmental stewards and social justice leaders come from?
Inquiring into these questions yields a response and a dilemma. Our response is education, and more precisely, a new paradigm in education, hence the founding of Synergia. At Synergia it is our belief that four distinct components must be included and integrated for authentic education to be successful. Below we articulate the why and the how, with the understanding that these components are delivered experientially and need to be carefully integrated with each other for the maximum synergy to develop. The dilemma is that a verbal description of an experiential process has inherent limitations.
The Four Components of Authentic Education
The Social Development and well being of the group is of utmost importance. We affirm that life only exists in relationship: relationship to Nature, to others, to self. Of course a group is comprised of individuals and attention to individual growth is seen as an important building block of the group. When an individual feels included and supported by the group, the group as a whole becomes stronger, more resilient and capable. Without this sense of wellbeing and belonging among the group and its members, full attention to the group’s purpose is compromised. How a group achieves this sense of wellbeing requires careful facilitation. Synergia is well known for the skill of its teachers, and attention to this need.
The need for Adventure/Challenge is a universal human need. The components inherent in adventurous pursuits are life affirming and empowering. We must not undervalue this as an important motivator and invigorator. Whether one is learning the art of paddling a canoe down a river, backpacking into remote wilderness, or public speaking, new skills must be learned. Self knowledge, self sufficiency and self responsibility grow with increased mastery. While engaged in adventurous activities, one is often confronted with one’s limitations. With careful facilitation from experienced leaders, new boundaries to the limitations are formed, and a more expansive relationship to freedom may be realized. All this ties in directly to the group’s wellbeing. The thread that weaves through all of this is risk. Perceived or actual, risk is the cement that binds the group. Why? Because without risk, no experience of trust is obtainable. When we feel enveloped by trust the boundaries of our perceived limitations expand exponentially. We feel that the risk/trust-trust/risk relationship is profound. At Synergia it is our experience that young people (especially teens) are more likely to take physical risks than emotional risks. Therefore using the medium of adventure is a natural place to start building this risk/trust-trust/risk relationship. When this is integrated into the folds of the group, emotional risking is more likely to take place, thus deepening friendships and intimacy among the group. Again, Synergia’s reputation is built on our skills in making this integration happen.
We now feel the stage is set for Field Study and academic endeavors. When a group is in a highly functioning state they are ready for whatever is put before them. The members feel connected, that they belong, and that they have value. When the inevitable discrepancy in academic skill arises, a resilient group meets this with grace. With a de-emphasis on competition and the realization that each individual brings their own valuable set of skills, new ways of being naturally emerge. Why wouldn’t they? There is little value in supremacy. The ones in the know help the ones in need.
The culmination of this natural cycle is Service Learning. With an appreciation of the considerable amount of energy that has gone into this process and group so far, it is now time to give it away. Meaningful service is so important. It gives a context, a use, and purpose to this learning. All of the world’s great spiritual leaders embodied service to humanity as the core of their teachings, and the very essence of their existence. Although there is much suffering here in the U.S., as a nation we are among the most privileged on this planet. What perpetuates a persistent sense of entitlement? We simply have not educated ourselves and our young people to dedicate ourselves/themselves to service as a lifestyle. We won’t describe the other side of this coin–we all know what it is and how much momentum it has in our culture. We will, however, try to describe the synergy that is now possible in our highly tuned group. At this point we have shared experiences together, we have acquired new skills and knowledge, we have expanded the boundaries of our limitations, and we have built a deeper sense of intimacy by crossing a threshold together. All that is needed now is a worthwhile repository and some mentoring. There is an abundance of worthwhile projects. Synergia’s young staff is distinguished for their mentorship ability. Synergia was named and founded for the purpose of becoming the bridge that connects the student with those who can fulfill the role of mentor.
These four components when integrated together become a seamless cycle, informing and synergistically interacting with each other.