Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC ETS hosts Paradigm Shift camp

07/02/2019 - 9am
Dowagiac’s Emelia Livingston and Abbigail Siekman as pterodactyls are not allowed to show their teeth.

Paradigm Shift, an Oklahoma company which facilitated Southwestern Michigan College Educational Talent Search’s June 26-28 growth mindset camp for 20 students grades 6-12, features “experiential team-building” around an activity, then debriefing to process emotions.

Camp participants urged to think outside the box included: Karla Arguelles-Rodriguez, Brielle Carter, George Ryan and Karlee Talbot, Cassopolis; Loren Bowen, Ty’lisia Horton-Epps, Jada Jackson, Emelia Livingston, Taven Livingston, Abbigail Siekman and Andrew Taylor, Dowagiac; Annon Billingsley, Ayden Billingsley, Amy Duckworth, Ossian Duckworth, Kayana Gamble, Amiah Scott and Abbigail Weaver, Edwardsburg; Ellie Pachay, Marcellus; and Charles David Stahl, Brandywine.

“Overall, the kids really liked it,” ETS Director Maria Kulka said.

“Our goal is to get you to reframe your mind and look at things in different ways and, through that, shift your paradigm to respond in a different way,” team leader Breanna Jones, 22, a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, said. “Paradigm Shift has been around for about 10 years and has facilitated in all 50 states,” Jones said, “plus camps in Brazil, India, South Africa and Cuba. I’ve been around the idea since junior high, but I officially started as a senior in high school.” Jones studies psychology and biology. “Ultimately, I want to get my Ph.D. in experimental psychology. I wish I had something like this when I was their age.”

Underpinning Paradigm Shift’s “The Power of Yet” is a rubric of fixed, mixed and growth mindsets.

Neuroscience advances show the brain is more malleable than previously known. Research on brain plasticity has shown connectivity between neurons can change with experience. With practice, neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones and build insulation that speeds transmission of impulses.

These discoveries show neural growth can be increased by actions taken, such as using good strategies, asking questions, practicing and following good nutrition and sleep habits. Such camps are designed to help students move from a fixed mindset (avoid challenges) to a growth mindset (looking forward to the next challenge and possessing long-range plans for new challenges).

An afternoon activity involved transferring 30 “throwables,” from squishy balls to stuffed animals, across an imaginary lava lake bounded by rope and into a bucket. Teams strategize and, through trial and error, transition from tosses zig-zagging back and forth to lining up on one side to beat a one-minute clock.

Nathan Starr, a drama major with a media studies minor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., assists Jones. “We try to fix bad habits kids develop at a young age so it doesn’t build over time into something worse.”
Camp convened at Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan on Friday. “We’re consultants and do what clients want. We’re flexible and adapt,” Jones said.

Using a pool-party metaphor, one ice breaker, Warm the Water, pretends the party is taking place in winter at a frozen pool. Activities can frustrate and lead to tension for Jones’ team to navigate, whether they’re working with adolescents or, two weeks ago, 75-year-olds.

“Across the board, that tension is there, though we don’t create it on purpose. Our motto is not ‘We bring the tension,’ but they are designed to expose areas because regular team-building activities are often all love, hugging and sunshine,” Jones said. “But that’s not how a team works all the time, so you need to learn how to work through conflict and effectively communicate feelings like an adult, settle the problem and move past it to succeed at whatever goal or task you have. ETS wanted a program of three days, but we can do anywhere from a half day to a full week.”

Jones said after a week off in Oklahoma, “I have camps in Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Since our season started in May, I’ve been to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina and Texas. We are on the go all the time.”