Camper or Climber?

Updated: Feb 18



Camping and climbing are both outdoor experiences. But that's where their similarities end. Campers generally work hard, apply themselves, and do what it takes to reach a certain level. Then they plant their tent stakes and settle down at their current elevation. They're waiting in the shade until the day is done. Climbers are a rare breed who continue to learn, grow, strive, and improve until their final breath. They tend to be resilient and tenacious. Climbers look back at life and say, “I gave it my all.” They love to get to the top not because of the recognition but because they love the climb.


To be effective, learning needs to be effortful.

Just as we work out and feel a muscle “burn” when it’s being strengthened, the brain needs to feel some discomfort when it’s learning; building new neural connections that actually last.


River Oak exists for the “doing” not just the “knowing.” Ultimately, there will be joy even if the journey includes suffering and sacrifice because the learning and work are purposeful. They are driven by the heart – where desire and character reside. Longing for something not yet attained and includes a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is the fuel for curiosity – the most powerful intrinsic motivator.


As a parent, this shifts the stance on talking with your child about their work at school.

The natural tendency at the end of the day or week is to ask them:

How many points did you earn?

How many Journey Bucks do you have?

These extrinsic, academic questions are easy but they miss the target.

There are much more important questions that help focus on the process which is immeasurable by any metric system rather than on performance or product:

What surprised you today?

What do you love doing?

What has been hard for you?

How can you overcome your greatest challenge?

What do you want?


What does it take to thrive at River Oak?

Being a climber! Constantly choosing to be in one’s Challenge zone. Never quitting until the challenge has been completed and looking for the next big challenge.

Introducing.... (a visual we always use):



COMFORT ZONE: When you are doing something that you already know how to do. Most of the time, it feels good to be in this zone, but over time can get a little...well, boring :-)


CHALLENGE ZONE: When you are working hard on accomplishing something difficult. Often requires a tremendous amount of mental and/or physical energy, but is both exciting and rewarding to work on. The "sweet spot".

PANIC ZONE: When you are doing something that is really hard and/or scary and you are feeling so uncomfortable that it's distracting you from trying to accomplish your goal. We use tools like the Challenge Donut to equip our Learners to




How can we give children multiple opportunities throughout the day to find their "sweet spot" in school and in life?

What does our world need more of?

Campers of Climbers?


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