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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Updates from BOOST

Meet The Author Guest Blog: Finding Pinecones | Phil Brown

Meet The Author Guest Blog: Finding Pinecones | Phil Brown

We are pleased to introduce you to Phil Brown, a BOOST Conference presenters and Meet the Authors participant. You can meet Phil and buy a signed copy of his book Tinker: Building Purposeful Experiences from Classic Adventure Activities at the BOOST Conference in Palm Springs, CA, May 1 & 2 at Booth 508 in the Exhibit Hall. Read on for more information about Phil, and enjoy his guest Breakfast Club blog below!

Phil joined the High 5 team in May 2015 having previously worked in Adventure and Outdoor education for 7 years. Originally from England, Phil moved to the United States in 2008 to work at the New York YMCA camp, first as a Camp Counselor, then an Outdoor Educator, and finally as the Challenge Course Coordinator. His experience in the realms of Summer Camp, Outdoor Education, and Physical Education gives him an invaluable perspective when working with a large percentage of High 5’s clientele. Phil brings high energy and devotion to the Adventure field and has presented at the NEYCC, ACA New England, ACCT, Northeast and International AEE, BOOST, several regional Physical Education conferences, and at the High 5 Symposium. At the 2018 BOOST Conference, Phil was the No.1 ranked presenter. He is also one of the co-authors of the book “Tinker: Building Purposeful Experiences from Classic Adventure Activities.” You’ll find Phil at the kids’ table, playing games with kids and adults alike, and contributing to the laughter in a room.


Even though this may sound like the name of a cool new activity (maybe someone reading this can make one up…or maybe this is already an activity I have yet to see), it is not what this is in reference to. Instead, it refers to a moment this summer that reminded me that the small moments often have a bigger impact than we think.

Two summers ago, I was talking with the 5th grade son of a Summer Camp Director and I was asking him what his best memory of camp was (he was about to go for the 3rd year to a neighboring camp for the summer). Despite all of my assumptions of a possible answer; hanging out with and making friends, waterfront activities, the challenge course, his answer was…”one time, 3 years ago, at lunch, my counselor brought lemonade to the table for lunch so we could have that instead of water, it was the best!” This at first made me laugh but I soon realized he was completely serious. This was not due to the rest of the summer camp experience being terrible, he loved camp, but this small moment stood out to him and had more significance than any other.

We often make assumptions about our programming and the impact it has on those we work with, creating learning outcomes and striving to meet them, but it is also important to be aware of those small interactions that would otherwise often walk right past us.

Which brings me to the pinecones! This past summer I had the pleasure of working with a group from Iraq as part of the SIT (School for International Training) program. 

The day involved large group games, small group problem-solving initiatives, and the opportunity to take part in low and high challenge course activities. During lunch, one student came up to me with a Pine Cone in his hand, a puzzled look on his face, and a question, “Phil, what is this?” This led to me surrounded by students as I leaned on my Outdoor Education experience and spent the next 30 mins or so teaching them about the forest. It was completely unplanned, didn’t fit with the original plan of the day, but was mentioned more than anything else when debriefing the day with the group. This moment had a big impact on both those students and also on me. It reminded me that those small moments that are often unplanned and also are so often easily forgotten by us could sometimes have the biggest impact.

So…take the time and find the pinecone!

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BOOST Collaborative is a unique, purpose-driven organization committed to supporting those serving youth in the out-of-school time hours by providing quality professional development, opportunities for networking & partnerships, and leadership training. Together, we make a difference.

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