So out of the 200 million people that have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, why aren’t there more kids like me out there? Shane McConkey is my hero. I loved him because he was the world’s best skier. But then one day I realized what I really loved about Shane. He was a hacker. Not a computer hacker, he hacked skiing. His creativity and inventions made skiing what it is today, and why I love to ski.
A lot of people think of hackers as geeky computer nerds who live in their parent’s basement, and spread computer viruses. But, I don’t see it that way. Hackers are innovators. Hackers are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently, to make them work better. It’s just how they think, it’s a mindset.
I’m growing up in a world that needs more people with the hacker mindset, and not just for technology. Everything is up for being hacked, even skiing, even education. So whether it’s Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Shane McConkey, having the hacker mindset can change the world.
Healthy, happy, creativity, and the hacker mindset are all a large part of my education. I call it “Hack-Schooling“. I don’t use any one particular curriculum, and I’m not dedicated to any one particular approach. I hack my education. I take advantage of opportunities in my community, and through a network of my friends and family. I take advantage of opportunities to experience what I’m learning. And I’m not afraid to look for shortcuts or hacks to get a better, faster result. It’s like a remix or a mashup of learning. It’s flexible, opportunistic, and it never loses sight of making happy, healthy and creativity a priority. And here’s the cool part because it’s a mindset, not a system. Hack-schooling can be used by anyone even traditional schools.
So, what does my school look like? Well it looks like Starbucks a lot of the time. But, like most kids, I study a lot of math, science, history, and writing. I didn’t use to like to write because my teachers made me write about butterflies and rainbows. And I wanted to write about skiing. It was a relief when my good friend’s mom started The Squaw Valley Kids Institute where I got to write through my experiences and my interests while connecting with great speakers from around the nation and that sparked my love of writing.
I realize that once you’re motivated to learn something, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time and on your own. Starbucks is pretty great for that. Hacking physics was fun. We learned all about Newton and Galileo, and we experienced some basic physics concepts like kinetic energy through experimenting and making mistakes. My favorite was the giant Newton’s cradle that we made out of bocci balls. We experimented with a lot of other things like bowling balls and even giant jawbreakers.
Project Discovery’s Ropes Course is awesome and slightly stressful. When you’re 60 feet off the ground, you have to learn how to handle your fears, communicate clearly and most importantly, trust each other. Community organizations play a big part in my education. A High Fives Foundations B.A.S.I.C.S. Program: “Being Aware and Safe in Critical Situations” We spent a day with the Squaw Valley ski patrol to learn more about mountain safety. The next day we switched to the science of snow, weather, and avalanches. But most importantly, we learned that making bad decision puts you and your friends at risk.
Young Chautauqua brings history to life. You study a famous character in history, so you can stand on stage and perform as that character and answer any question about their lifetime. In this photo, you see Al Capone and Bob Marley getting grilled with questions at the historical Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City. The same stage where Harry Houdini got his start.
Time in nature is really important to me. It’s calm, quiet, and I get to just log out of reality. I spend one day a week outside all day. At my Foxwalker classes, our goal is to be able to survive in the wilderness with just a knife. We learn to listen to nature, we learn to sense our surroundings, and I’ve gained a spiritual connection to nature that I never knew existed. But the best part is that we get to make spears, bows and arrows, fires with just a bow drill, and survival shelters for the snowy nights when we camp out.
Hanging out at The Moment Factory where they hand make skis and design clothes, has really inspired me to one day have my own business. The guys at the factory have showed me why I need to be good at math, be creative and get good at sewing. So I got an internship at Bigtruck Brand to get better at design and sewing. Between fetching lunch, scrubbing toilets, and breaking their vacuum cleaner, I’m getting to contribute to clothing design, customizing hats, and selling them. The people who work there are happy, healthy, creative and stoked to be doing what they’re doing. This is by far, my favorite class.
So, this is where I’m really happy, powder days. And it’s a good metaphor for my life, my education, my Hack-schooling. If everyone skied this mountain like most people think of education, everyone would be skiing the same line, probably the safest, and most of the “powder” would go untouched. I look at this and see a thousand possibilities, dropping the cornice, shredding the spine, looking for a tranny from cliff to cliff.
Skiing to me is freedom, and so is my education. It’s about being creative, doing things differently. It’s about community, and helping each other, it’s about being happy and healthy among my very best friends. So I’m starting to think I know what I might want to do when I grow up. But if you ask me what do I want to be when I grow up, I’ll always know that I want to be happy.