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TGS students recently had the opportunity to work with Nick Sagar, a well known rock climbing expert and independent rock wall design consultant. Marta Guevara talks about meeting Nick, and learning how to follow your passion.
NICK SAGAR STEPS INTO the indoor climbing facility. “Look at him,” whispers Brad. “I love to see an expert walk into their element. They see things we can’t see.” Brad is right. Nick walks around the climbing facility. It takes his professional gaze just a few minutes to know what he should do. Now he is ready to observe the kids. “I need to see what they can do,” he had explained to me the day before.
I am stuck for a minute on the word “element.” Andrew and I have just returned from the Inspired Impact Conference in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Sir Ken Robinson, the keynote speaker, tackled three main themes facing education today.
Creativity in Education
We are in a revolution. We are living in unprecedented times. Technology and population growth are changing the planet at a rate we’ve never experienced before. This leads to the second theme…
The crisis of human imagination. Our schools are still obsessed with only a certain type of talent, creating a terrible waste of all other types of talent.
We must do something about it.
His proposal: creativity should be at the heart of our all education systems.
Nick could be one of the examples found by Sir Robinson’s latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. It did change everything for Nick. He begins his story:
I was 16. I started to work at an outdoor retail store. I started climbing, and for the first time in my life I had found an outlet. Since I was a kid, I would climb everything I could: trees, doors, etc. When time came to go to college, I was accepted to several schools. I told myself I would hold off my education and go around the world climbing for a year.
Here his eyes brighten up, and he sheepishly admits, “A year turned into eight! I’ve climbed rocks all over the world.”
I listen to Nick give instructions. The students are excited. For a few of them, their love for climbing has only been a recent discovery. They know Nick is one of the best. They are aware they’ll have only an hour and a half with him this morning before the rest of their academic day begins.
Climbing is all about hanging off holds, and the movement between holds. There are three main concepts you must remember: hips in, balance, and straight arms. These three concepts then tie together to have movement.
I see him get up on the wall, and as he continues to instruct the students on the body mechanics I watch amazed as he glides…no, he dances up the wall.
Later I question him about it. “Yes!” he agrees, “it is a dance.” He continues with the metaphor:
It’s a vertical dance. The rock dictates your moves. Every place I go to has its own unique dance that one can perform and experience. The top [of the rock] gives you a feeling of empowerment…to get there you’ve had to dance with the rock, and some rocks are built to be climbed. It’s incredible! Some rocks have all the holds in exactly the right places. No hold is missing, and there are no extra ones.
For a moment, as I let his enthusiasm lead me, I’m transported to the top of the rock. I can see him gliding in his vertical dance floor.
Nick looks behind him at the kids. “They must learn to focus on smaller pieces. However, right now they are very tempted to look at the top. They need to focus on the here and now. By doing that, they will develop the toolset to get up there.” He smiles and points to the roof. Just a little while ago he was moving through a roof with the agility of Spiderman.
After his eight years of travel, Nick now has focused on finding a way to keep in touch with what he loves. “I realized that a lot of climbing facilities needed help setting up. Now I’m a climbing wall consultant. Luckily there aren’t a lot of us!” He laughs. I admire his ingenuity. He looked and found a way to make a living doing and sharing with others what he loves.
Yes, Nick has found his “element,” and that changed everything. I feel privileged having the opportunity to talk to him. I know he will teach our students a lot more about life than just how to climb a wall. I think about the wall… yes, TGS is a school without walls, but… maybe TGS is a school full of climbing walls!