The Personal Discovery Program believes that all people and all life are interconnected. What happens to one happens in some way to all other aspects of life. The more we learn to understand, appreciate, and respect each other and all life and to understand the interconnectedness of life, the easier it will be to become a unit of oneness. Each has been given special talents that gives each a uniqueness. The real growth and strength comes when all are open to each other and learn to share and use each other's gifts for the betterment of the whole. As we, the world, learn to cherish and respect all life, we will raise to a higher state of living and being. This journey must be based on respect, truth, trust, openness, caring, accepting responsibility, valuing, and the giving and accepting of support.
Our mission as Discovery staff is to help build bridges that make it possible for people to travel inward as well as outward. The outward bridges are meant to help individuals connect to individuals as well as to groups and to communities. People can learn to travel within to find answers and understanding and travel outward to find the truths from each other and from nature and to build bridges of respect and understanding between groups and between people and nature.
We hope to accomplish this mission in some small way with each person we meet and each life form we learn to understand. We can accomplish this mission through challenge experiences, initiatives, problem solving, controlled risk taking; being with and learning about nature and learning from nature the lessons she has to share with us. Sometimes we only plant seeds, sometimes we have great impact. Most of the time we will never know. Therefore, for each of us to keep going, we must really believe that what we are doing is good and makes a difference and we must get our energy and strength from within from our personal beliefs and commitments, from each other, and from the universe. Each life touched is the beginning of a new ripple in the pond of life.
Personal Discovery Program
The Personal Discovery Program is about learning. Through the use of stories, quotes, sharing personal experiences, solving physical and mental problems, facing physical challenges, and creating new events and new solutions learning takes place. Participants learn about themselves, about each other, about the importance of respect and valuing, about sharing ideas and listening, about experimenting and compromising, about trusting and giving support, about leading and following, about appreciating and cherishing. The program takes place within a physically and emotionally safe environment which is created by the staff and students together. Having fun and recognizing the contributions each person brings to the group enhances the learning process and the bonding that occurs within each group. The participating staff not only lead, mediate, and provide safety, but they also participate and learn. An environment where everyone is respected and all are learning is the ideal environment in which growth and the development of self-sufficiency can take place.
E. E. Cumming once wrote, "We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our touch, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit." The Personal Discovery Program tries to create an environment where each person can feel free to be him/herself, where positive feedback can be given and accepted, where the wonder of life can be appreciated and expressed, and where spontaneous delight can be shared and appreciated.
Advanced Discovery Goals
l. To continue personal growth in the areas of self acceptance, self worth, inner trust, self respect, self confidence, changing negative inner voices to positive, and celebrating life within oneself.
2. To continue developing an awareness, sensitivity, and acceptance of the differences in others, of the needs of others, of the value others bring to a group.
3. To continue working on risk taking within oneself.
4. To work on pushing oneself beyond the comfort zone.
5. To work on being open to listening to and accepting constructive feedback from others.
6. To develop positive and constructive ways to give feedback to others.
7. To continue work on being a team member by respecting and valuing each person; by sharing ideas; by listening to others; by being flexible and willing to adjust, accept, and change; by maintaining truth within the group; by trusting; by giving emotional and physical support when needed; by s sharing one's feelings with the group; by giving one's full attention to the group.
8. To work at allowing oneself to become vulnerable with others.
9. To continue developing an awareness of and an appreciation for nature and all life.
l0. To learn the technical skills required to work on the Gallaudet University ropes course.
ll. To learn how to tie the various harnesses used at Gallaudet's Discovery Program.
l2. To learn how to belay others using the body as well as belaying devices.
l3. To have practice in facilitating groups through a Discovery event.
l4. To learn different ways to facilitate an activity.
l5. To work on planning and conducting a challenge program for the Personal Discovery Classes.
Discovery for Social Workers
l. Try to suspend judgment and refrain from assuming someone's motives. Being non-judgmental and sensitive to someone else's point of view entails believing that all people are of equal worth, and all values and lifestyles are equally valid.
2. When working with individuals or groups, be clear about what you expect. People's pre-conceived expectations and thoughts often create barriers and prevent the hoped for learning and the possibility for change.
3. Always be clear about your role in working with individuals and groups. As a leader it is your job to ensure safety, to instruct, to facilitate, observe, raise issues, and to help clarify. It is also important to explain that it is not a leader's position to force people to change, to judge them, or to try to impose your own personal values on them.
4. As a leader, be clear about where a person or group can have input and make choices, and where the rules and regulations must be followed. When giving choices, make sure the parameters are clear so the person's or group's choices and decision making can be made without confusion. When choices are allowed, make sure you are prepared to live with the choices made.
5. Timing and pacing when working with a person or group are critical. Reassess goals, individuals' needs, and group needs regularly.
6. Always be alert and ready to help individuals turn negative feelings into positive learning experiences. Remember disequilibrium is the catalyst for growth.
7. You can help people go as far as you have gone, i.e., mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. The more in touch you are with your own feelings, patterns of communication and methods of resolving conflict, the easier it will be to facilitate learning in a group setting.
8. As a leader you will find that you cannot relate to the life experiences and problems of all individuals with whom you work. Be honest. Don't pretend to have answers you don't have. Ask good questions. Often, if working with a group, group members can use each other as resources, and usually people can find their own answers, especially when they are encouraged to listen to their own inner wisdom. We can point out behavior and offer options as to ways to handle a situation, but individuals need to make their own decisions.
9. When you function from a position of honesty and respect, trust will develop between yourself and those with whom you are working. As a result, honest confrontations and open questions will be accepted and appreciated. Realize that for many people it takes a lot of courage to let down defenses and engage in open, honest communication. We need to respect people for who they are and for where they are in their personal development. Some will disclose and share deeply; while for others, what appears to be superficial and non- risky to us may be a large emotional risk to them. Always be patient and respectful.
l0. Be careful not to do most of the talking. The more you talk as the leader the less the individual or group will share. If you are able to create an environment that is safe, respectful, and on task, the individual/group will fill in the space with their ideas, feelings, and thoughts.
ll. Be careful to include all people when you are talking. If you need to talk to an individual, do it in private unless what you have to say concerns the whole group. If your conversation excludes the group, they will feel left out and rejected.
l2. If an activity or method doesn't work, don't be afraid to move on to something else. The activity or method may be the wrong choice for that individual/group at that time. Sometimes coming back to that activity or choice later after the group has had more experiences together works beautifully and the group realizes how much they have grown. What may first appear to be a negative, i.e., a wrong choice, can become a very positive experience.
l3. Be careful of losing site of your major goals and becoming too focused on your short term goals and be careful too not to get into or to spend too much time on unsolvable problems.
l4. Be prepared to take advantage of the teachable moment. For example, if a person is opening up lets say about how they deal with their own frustrations and anger try to expand that sharing to include the whole group by asking the members of the group how they handle these same emotions. In this sharing, the group comes together and the person who opened him/herself up (becoming vulnerable) actually becomes the catalyst for the growth of the group.
l5. Always look for common interests, issues, talents to help weave the group into a strong unit. One of your jobs is to help find the common threads between people in the group. The more commonalities you help find, the greater will be the potential for bonding within the group. The longer the group is together, the more they will begin to find their own common threads and, of course, the more beautiful will be the tapestry.
l6. Help the group identify what they would like right now. Once these goals, skills, needs ,etc. are identified, have the members learn to ask each other for specific help , i.e., "Steve, can you support me when I'm scared standing up on that platform? Jill will you support me?" The more members can learn to ask each other directly and assertively about what they want, the easier it will be to transfer this learning to others outside the group. The group serves as a microcosm of the outside world.
l7. While listening, look around to see how others are behaving and reacting.
l8. If members begin to cry, that is okay and may be very good for that individual. Use your own judgment as to whether or not you should continue, take time out, change the focus, etc. Crying is often a way to release something that has been suppressed inside for a long time or it may be a new found fear. In either case, it is good to recognize the emotion(s) and to find a way to release it/them. Sometimes, whatever is happening at that moment can cause a flashback or bring back a memory that brings on these same emotions. This may be an unresolved issue. In either case, this is a time when the group can give support if they, as individuals, are ready and able to do so.
l9. Most people may not be ready to deal with an issue the first time it is brought up. If it's important, it'll come up again.
20. When there is intensity and strong emotions expressed at a group session, the next session is often much more superficial.
2l. A group many times will reflect the problems or dynamics of its leader.
22. The things that you choose to say or not to say to a group are many times the result of a most accurate appraisal.
Learn to trust yourself and your intuition.
Note: The above list of thoughts and goals have been adapted from Ebbe (l985), the Voyageur Outward Bound Instructor Handbook (l988) and Nadler and Luckner's, Processing the Adventure Experience, (l992).
The Personal Discovery Program is one that uses activities, problem solving, individual and group challenges, readings, stories, personal stories, and community service projects to build personal self-esteem, feelings of self worth, leadership, respect for self and others, valuing of all life, and a philosophy of non-judgment. The Discovery Program believes that one must first accept oneself and find peace within oneself before peace in the world can be achieved. As people learn to work together and grow in respect and genuine care for one another, the individual feelings of self-esteem, self worth, and being valued grow and the group becomes empowered. As one group grows together and experiences the empowerment that results, the individual members of that group in turn can reach out to other groups and help other groups grow in respect, acceptance, and valuing. The vision is of interlocking circles that can eventually encircle the world. Each circle is meant to bring inner peace and acceptance of one's self as well as of each member of the group. As each member of that group turns around and starts new groups, an outer sense of acceptance of others will occur. Eventually, groups, somehow connected to one another, will encircle the globe and all cultures, nations, and societies will have been touched. When enough circles of the world have occurred, all touching each other in some way, there will occur universal peace. As peace is achieved, it is hoped that humans will then begin to care not only for one another, but also for the earth and the universe. Instead of draining and destroying the earth, it is the hope of the Discovery Program, that humans will become the caretakers of the earth and eventually the universe.
The Personal Discovery Program believes that there are universal needs and universal interests that can bring all of us together. To begin, we must first meet our personal needs. However, to do that, we must also learn to help others meet their personal needs around the world. By working together, sharing, and helping one another, a genuine respect, acceptance, and caring evolves. With continued contact and working together and learning not to judge individuals, cultures, or societies; a genuine love for one another begins. All greed and selfishness must be abandoned if we are to help each other become all that we can each be.
A quote that the Discovery staff often refers to is as follows:
"Coming together is a beginning
Staying together is progress
Working together is success." author unknown
This quote models what is being said above.
All people need to be accepted by others, respected, valued and loved. These needs are basic to all cultures and societies. All people and cultures love their children. All people and cultures need the products of the earth and the balance that exists of our earth within our universe as this universe is in balance with all others. Through learning to care for and helping all children of the world grow and become all that they can be, we will be able to build many bridges of understanding. As we strive to feed, clothe, and house all the children of the world, we will have to learn to care for the earth. We will have to learn the best ways to farm without disrupting the balance that exists in the environment. We will have to learn to selectively harvest, so there will always be trees and plants and so there will be less erosion of the mountains, beaches, stream, and river beds. We will have to learn to use less, to recycle, to stop polluting, and to simplify our life styles. We must learn to give back to the earth what we have taken and be appreciative for everything that we are given. As we learn to do that, we will be able to survive as will our children's children. Through sharing what each culture and society has with the other cultures and societies, we can all learn to live in a more balanced and joyous way.
It is believed that each of us has talents that fit within a large puzzle as does each culture. When we share our gifts and talents with one another, we all grow. When each culture shares with all other cultures, we all grow in wisdom, appreciation and understanding. When this happens, all of life raises to another level of existence. At this time, the first dimension of life's puzzle will have been completed. As we reach this plateau of knowledge and understanding, new truths will be understood and new beliefs will evolve into a further awakening and there will be universal growth.
These chain reactions begin with one group at a time involved in workshops, seminars, and/or classes. These programs can be adjusted to meet the needs of each group. Through group and individual experiences, through personal reflections, and through group sharing, each person will begin to feel as if he/she is part of the group and will understand himself/herself better. As the group comes together and begins to form, the group will begin to create a safe environment in which each member will feel safe to experiment with different behaviors and skills. This can only happen when there is enough respect and genuine care felt by the individual so the individual will want to experiment, will feel comfortable to ask the group for its support, and ask for positive feedback. When conflict occurs, which will happen in all close groups where people are able to express themselves openly, it is the resolving of these disagreements and conflicts that actually empowers the group and raises the group to another level of functioning. The more time together, the more that can be accomplished. This time together can be achieved in a solid block of time or occur intermittently over a longer period of time. The shorter the time period together, the more restrictive and specific should be the goals.
Personal Discovery Programs
All of the Discovery programs are built on respect and valuing, of giving to the community, and having a deep appreciation for nature and our environment. Learning to respect oneself, members of the group, one's community, and all society
is part of the Discovery task. Learning to value one's own identity and the special gifts one has been given, both one's strengths and one's weaknesses, as well as those gifts that have been given to each of the people around us is a Discovery goal. Learning to share whatever we have...one's ideas, physical strength, balance, ability to give emotional support, one's sensitivity, one's awareness of the big picture, leadership skills, organizational skills, willingness to take risks, and so on are all part of the Discovery mission. Learning to think of and become aware of the needs of those around us and helping individuals and groups within one's community meet their respective needs is an important part of the Discovery goals. Learning to appreciate and feel connected to nature and one's environment is the most fundamental goal of the Discovery program. The above is the foundation upon which all Discovery classes and programs are founded.
The fundamental skills and the goals of each class or program are achieved through total emersion. Planned, progressive activities are selected to meet the needs and goals of each class, workshop, and program. These are physical initiatives and problem solving activities and individual challenges which become metaphors for individual growth and development and for problems we face throughout life. Because these activities are carefully selected and experienced in a progressive manner, the individual and group experience a series of successes that build in a spiral pattern one upon the other. Time out is always taken to have fun and to reflect on the joy of the experience. These activities can be anything from allowing others to tie one's shoes (giving up control and being willing to accept help), to catching a person (accepting the responsibility for another person), to stepping off a platform into space as you fly down a cable on the zip wire. Personal space, appropriate touching, giving physical support, the importance of honesty and being trust worthy are all topics of discussion and reflections.
Quotes, stories, and performances are also used to help understand activities, develop personal values, build self esteem and self worth, develop respect, learn to value others,and to understand oneself as well as one's group and one's community.
The Discovery programs attempt to stimulate all of the senses and to build on the intensity of the experiences. The more senses that are stimulated and the stronger the emotions experienced during an activity, the longer that activity will be remembered. The more one reflects on one's experience, the better one remembers and is able to apply the lessons learned to other aspects of one's life. The Discovery programs are truly miniature journeys in life that can become metaphors for one's daily life.
No activity is ever forced on an individual. All Discovery programs are based on a Challenge by Choice concept. A person will try when he/she is ready. The experience must be the individual's not the group's or the facilitator's. By respecting where each person is physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, the group grows and becomes empowered. By truly caring about each individual in the group and making every effort to meet the needs of the individual and the group, the facilitator/teacher also grows. The Discovery programs are an adventure in growing, trusting, living, learning, and appreciating life.