A young explorer, unplugged and joyous


A young explorer, unplugged and joyous

A young explorer, unplugged and joyous

The other day I had an opportunity to escape my desk at the Telluride Academy for a quick walk. The sun was shining brightly and despite the fact it was a particularly cold afternoon here in the Telluride valley, the potential for some solar gain made getting outdoors well worthwhile.

I had not been outside and away from a computer screen for more than two minutes before I found myself placing headphones into my ears and loading up an unfinished podcast on my iPhone. I traded one screen for another, potentially squandering a completely perfect opportunity to let my thoughts wander to where I am not sure, perhaps to an earth-shattering solution to a collective community problem… OK, perhaps not, but I found myself asking: “When did a walk stop being a walk?” “When did every free minute, everything we yearn to look at, become one more screen?”

The battle’s begun and I  find myself precariously perched deep in its trenches, the conflict magnified in recent years by a seemingly endless supply of technologically advanced gadgets and gizmos: iPhones, iPads, and “iCan’t seem to put this down for the life of me.”

The battle I am referring is between our infatuation with that technology and a growing desire to connect in meaningful ways: with ourselves, with each other, and with Mother Nature. I am specifically speaking to this conflict as it affects young people.

As program director for Telluride Academy I am charged with the task of creating unique, challenging, fun and creative outdoor enrichment programs every summer for kids ages 5 –17. I have had the distinct privilege of manning this post for several years, but recently I have witnessed changing attitudes and behaviors by the students – also parents – who participate in our programs.

The Academy is deeply rooted in outdoor adventure. We take pride in creating ample opportunities for young people to exercise both body and mind through a balanced mix of structured activities and moments of “free play.” I am a firm believer that a child’s mind, if allowed to run free even for a moment, is empowered by that freedom from structure and will blossom with creative ideas, alternative universes, and a million other unknown and unforeseen manifestations of wonder.

I am not saying the injection of technology into these young lives is destroying that ability. One could argue that in many cases technology enhances the process. I am saying, however, that it seems to be harder and takes more coercing and guidance for creative flights of fancy to take over young minds and there’s a definite and growing requirement to counsel them through what can only be described as separation anxiety when their devices are taken away, even for a short while.

No blame, no fault here: the truth is virtually all who attend Academy programs have grown up in a world of portable music players, laptops, cell phones, and so much more. Their entire universe, most all their interactions and experiences, have been defined by these marvelous “toys.”

Which is exactly why I feel it is so important to unplug.

I am currently dreaming up over 100 unique summer enrichment programs for the nearly 800 kids who will walk through our doors this summer and am encouraged by the knowledge that most of these activities will allow kids to do just that: take a chill pill from their devices and tune into one thing only –  the extraordinary (wireless) beauty of a place that needs no digital manipulation to shock and awe: the Telluride region.

1 Comment
  • Christy Knight
    Posted at 08:41h, 30 November


    Thank you so much for this! We are so entrenched in the battle here that I’ve been moved to write a YA novel about these very choices for our kids (saying ‘turn it off!” isn’t quite working). What an amazing platform TA is to dispell the myth of connectivity-via-device;can’t wait to see your program offerings!

    ~Christy (Beverly’s Mom)