“I don’t know what you do, but my kid walks taller after a week with you.” Father of Griffin
I have known Brian since 2008 – watched the magic happen around him with students of all ages. But like Griffin’s dad I didn’t truly understand what his secret sauce was.
“Brian is the “Teen Whisperer” Phil father of Crash
What a horse whisperer like Buck Brannaman does is train using natural instincts and methods of communication, with the understanding that horses do not learn through fear. This is what Brian does with the teens, he has dedicated his life to learning what drives youth to want to learn, what stands in their way to learning, and how learning takes place in the most efficient way, and what learning truly is. That being said, Brian is not easy on the kids and expects them to work hard to raise their bar and develop grit. Over the years I learned Brian truly is a teen whisperer.
“Brian is the master of knowing what is the ‘WOW’ for teens.” Jon Young author of the Coyote Guide to Mentoring
What Brian does is beyond his pedagogy, his teaching methods, Brian creates an environment that fosters the development of leaders. Just the fact that Brian helps develop each students custom curriculum the students find great relevance and that their science and math focuses on field biology and geology.
“This doesn’t feel like school, it doesn’t feel like camp, it feels like doing cool stuff with a big family.”
“Nick has never connected with another adult male like he has with Brian.” Genevieve from the documentary An Acquired Taste
Brian’s students historically have been good students that formerly had a passion for true learning but had developed an animosity for their previous school and the work they had to do. His students grow to love school and learning again.
“The turning point for Jesse was when you [Brian] when he was a young teen you took him first to Death Valley to learn and then teach others about the pup fish, then you took him to present his work in China and explore that country.” Jesse’s Mom, he is now a PhD candidate studying math. Brian’s students that previously hated school now hate to go home.
“Why do we have to take two weeks off from school for winter break? One week is too long.” Jesse
Why Do Brian’s Students Not Want To Go Home?
- The students know they belong
- They see relevance in their school work
- They get to follow their interests and learn what truly are their passions
- They learn in an environment that best fosters exploration and learning
“I have to go to Disneyland tomorrow, my folks don’t get it what we do here is real, Disneyland is an illusion.” JP age 9
“My son is learning what we want him to learn but in a way that is best makes sense to him.” Mother of MJ Trauma Nurse Stanford Medical Center
“Yesterday I thought it was the best day of my life, but then today was even better.” Dakota
“Brian, these people [the tourist driving into the parking lot at the trailhead] work all year to spend a week where we have our school. [long pause] Life is good.” Brady
How Brian Builds and Leads Our Staff
But the most phenomenal thing that Brian does is orchestrates an environment for his staff to have the autonomy and support to become world class leaders so they can produce world class leaders. Brian’s long time goal is to have Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute out live him, to be his legacy. To do this he truly believes that trough the work he does by finding the best people and then giving them the best tools and training this will be the outcome. We “chewed” on our mission, our creado for a very long time and truly live those few words.
To meet that goal Brian searches the world for the best people to make up the staff. He seeks out those that are living their life’s passion and are masters of their craft, want to share and model these skills with others, and raise their own bar. He trains the staff how to be the best most efficient and affective trainers and leaders. Because he is confident that they are the best and most skilled trainers in their profession he can give them the autonomy and support to do best what he hires and trains them to do. It is heart warming that most of those that been on our staff have become extended family.
Brian is a Polymath
If you have known Brian for any length of time you will have discovered that he is a polymath, a master of related and unrelated skills and topics. He works to mastery in many subjects and has worked in many different fields from aerospace to ranching from digital process control to gunsmithing. If you simply review the many subjects that he taught both in public schools and in the 8 years of him teaching college you’ll start to understand the breadth and deepth of his experience. If a student has an interest in a subject that Brian does not have expertise in he will never say “We don’t offer it” and he typicly says now is a good time to learn and he will find someone that does and he will learn the subject right along with the students and share the vulnerability of learning with them. The magic that happens when he is learning a subject with his students is mind blowing, I have seen him do this time and time again.
Brian earned a MS in agriculture science from Cal Poly Pomona, BA in industrial arts from Long Beach State, and has never stopped continuing his education and research. He started forming the concept of Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute when in high school. In choosing his course of study and his professional experience he has always had that mission in mind. Much of his master’s work was designing facilities for what was going to become Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute. Though not currently enrolled in a PhD program, he continues to work to that goal of his raising the bar of the effectiveness of a paradigm of pedagogy that is based on long term success of the students that will see them through a lifetime. His codifying the work as a legacy for the education of generations. Since 2002 his work with students has been a proving ground for this pedagogy.
Brian has been spending much of his time learning what happens when we learn, how we learn and develop talent, what the physical changes that take place in the brain when skills are developed and what is necessary to make that happen and what hinders that process. He has K-12 teaching credentials in agricultural science, industrial arts and technology, and vocational education. Brian started an apprenticeship as a preteen, has continued to work in the areas he teaches so he teaches from experience in industry, agriculture, and education and a long list of skills and interests, of which he continues growing and learning from on a daily basis.
Brian’s Educational Philosophy, His Pedogogy
Ten years ago I met Brian in an airport in Sinapore as we were both on our way to go scuba diving in Indonesia. I asked Brian, “What do you do?” I realized that this was the first person that I have met personally that is truly living his life’s passion to treat students as customers and teach them what is necessary to follow their own passion, and to give them the skills to be great leaders of a world that they would want to envision.
What is important is to see his passion about getting kids to connect to nature, to themselves, to their ancestors. He is stalwart that kids need room to grow and grow having undirected and unstructured free play, by finding their edges, their fears, the end of their skillset and pulling the kids past these in a safe way, in an environment full of celebration and culture. He does not teach but mentors, believing that all learning is self-taught; he will model, answering questions by asking more questions, guiding them on a journey to learn what they are passionate about. When you are around Brian you will not hear him say “kids be quiet you need to listen to what I have to say. “ No, you will hear kids saying “Brian what are you doing?” “Can you show me how?” “You make that look easy”. “Can you show me that again”?
As long as I have known Brian a big part of what he does is gives to those that need his time. As long as I have known him he has volunteered for the good of the community including hospice, palliative, and Alzheimer’s care at the VA . He teaches teachers how he teaches, farmers how he farms; he has taught kids how to learn. He teaches adults homesteading and wilderness survival classes. He has taught in orphanages, churches, community groups, and conferences. He also is a volunteer teacher for California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Brian has sponsored kids whose families are in need to attend both our school and our camps.