Around the dinner table, on a longer car ride, before bedtime, at bedtime, with extended family, and scores of other times . . . create connection, understanding, awareness, character, laughter, history, a sense of family, and a host of other positive ends by being together with these topics, adventures, challenges, and experiences.

At Camp Augusta, these often happen before bedtime, but can occur at any time of the day.  They get their name from the close of the day being like the embers of a fire. Although most of the below are discussion based, embers can also involve an adventure, star gazing, playing the “I Wonder” game, or whatever else the cabin designs.

Directly below in the table are some links that offer fodder for conversations to get going on a wide variety of topics.  Most topics on the Partnering with Parents section of Augusta’s website are also wonderful fodder, from the Stories to Media to Wish, Wonder, Surprise, to Character and the Wall of Cool, or Competition, the Special Pages, and E-mail/texting, to name only a few!

Also included below are several embers that we’ve tried at camp (among several hundred), which you may be interested in using/adapting for chats with your family.

Sources for Scores of “Embers” Ideas

Story Corps StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants.  AND, don’t miss their question generation tool!
Explore Explore is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, explore creates a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others.
Do Lectures When you listen to their stories, they light a fire in your belly to go and Do your thing, your passion, the thing that sits in the back of your head each day, just waiting, and waiting for you to follow your heart.
This I Believe This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. A not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.  The audio essays have inspired numerous books, as well as audio books, and scores of radio broadcasts.
TED Talks “Ideas worth spreading”  We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.  Tons of lovely TED talks — play some TED roulette here 🙂   One   Two  Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven    Eight
Karma Tube The most important thing is that they celebrate the work of change-makers; demonstrating that small acts performed by individuals all around the world can ignite a “tipping point.”  Each video KarmaTube offers three simple suggestions for viewers to support the spirit shown in the video.
Life by Me We ask one question to all sorts of people: “What is most meaningful to you?”  We feature one original answer every day.  We connect with world leaders, moms, Nobel Peace Prize recipients, fishermen, teenagers, designers, prison inmates, media moguls … you?
Family Dinner Download A service by the Huffington Post.  Once a week, a conversation is made available (plus the entire history of this service) for families to download and talk about.  It includes the opening frame/information, followed by discussion questions, and also includes a recipe, if you’re so inclined.  Scores of other sources, such as http://thoughtquestions.com or 25 Illustrated Thought Questions
Media that Matters The Media That Matters Film Festival is the premiere showcase for short films on the most important topics of the day.
Time and perspective Two website detail, in various mediums, the happenings on a given date across a broad historical spectrum.  Check out the YouTube Time Machine and the http://timelines.com/ website.
Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts The animation and graphics are enough to draw you in for a view or two on that level alone.  Check out Drive, Changing Educational Paradigm, the Empathic Civilization, and (unanimated) Do Schools Kill Creativity?   And, Choice, The Divided Brain, . . .
Dear Me If you could send a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you write in it?  Famous and not-so-famous adults engage in this intriguing idea.  With your family, you can use this exercise by reading a few from the website/book, and then writing what you imagine your older self would write to you now.

Specific Ideas from Elsewhere

Nonversations Cute title, article by CNN.  Ends with advice on how not to have them with your children, and, in itself is an “embers” idea to bring up with your children.  Similar, another article entitled:  The Flight from Conversation (NYT)
200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes.  Hans Rosling’s famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport’s commentator’s style to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development.
Perceived Value: The Washington Post’s Social Experiment. A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  Who was the violin player and what happened that was remarkable?
www.100people.org By framing the global population as 100 people, our media makes education more engaging and effective, and improves students’ abilities to remember and relate to what they learn.  More narrowly, check out Who Americans are and what they do in Census data.
Top Five Regrets of the Dying As the title suggests, this short articles describes the observations of a nurse that worked in hospice-like situations.  Can serve as a re-focusing exercise.
Try Something New for 30 Days A TED talk:  “Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.”
Passion This three-minute video asks what you would do if money were no object, and, more to the point — what are your deep passions in your life?
Possibilities This video looks at a boy without eyes who created a way to live a sighted life, or this one of a man without any limbs.

Camp Augusta Embers Ideas

Again, we do hundreds of different things, including active adventures, art expressions, games, star gazing, night time nature explorations, and more.  Below are a few to get your started.

Let’s think about . . .

Common Threads Allows a group to get to know one another in ways that likely didn’t before.  Especially useful if there are a couple people the group doesn’t know well, or there has been some significant time apart for some members.
Celebrating Needs Bring the language of human needs into sharper focus, see what’s particularly present , and absent, for folks as well as considerations for working with one another.
Gratitude An exploration of gratitude specific to camp, followed by an exercise of acting on that gratitude by thanking the donors that made various things/experiences possible.
Growth zones Consider a framework of three zones — Comfort / Challenge / Panic.  The group thinks of things that fit into each category, talk about them, and keep that awareness, perhaps with the addition of goals around them.
I and Thou Consideration of one’s relationship to others, and the quality/nature of those relationships as they are, and how one would like them to be.
What dreams (and actions) may come? An exploration about dreams, and what we can do to achieve them, and how we handle unexpected obstacles that may arise on our path.
Pop culture and cool Musing on what is “cool” and how that is portrayed in pop culture, as well in the lives of the group, and those they know.
Staying open to the present and future When something happens, this story asks us to challenge our initial reactions/thoughts about whether it is “good” or “bad.”
Secrets How do we hold on to our and others secrets?  A powerful exercise that’s sure to bring up some emotions and insights.
Vanity and Pride Explore the meaning of these words, and how each of finds power and weakness in them, if at all.
The meaning I have and give An exploration of what we prescribe particular meaning to, how we reflect on that, and listening to others thoughts on those and similar points.
Comparisons Comparing this with that . . . we do it all the time.  This embers asks us to think a bit more about comparisons we make, and how we compare comparisons themselves.

Let’s do something!

Competition Game A competitive game that frames a discussion around competition itself.
Creation and Destruction Deeper considerations about our efforts in the world, and how they can reflect short term goals, long term, or both.
Glow in the dark memories Create a t-shirt that has images and words from everyone in the group.
Success How do we define success?  By whose criteria are we playing?
Wonder Bug One’s own living, interactive museum of bugs, brought to you by Mr. Blacklight.
Time Capsule A perennial favorite activity.  This one asks the group to write a letter to themselves to be opened in a year’s time.
Authority Examines various bases of power, from legitimate to referent, and does so via an experience of authority, and examining it afterwards.
Help? Asking for help . . . looks at problems that we face through an experience of one, and then breaking down if and when help was asked for.
Trusting and Risk Through the use of mouse traps, examine how each person and the group evaluates trust and risk.

Let’s Chat About…

Joking vs. teasing When the line is blurred, this embers can bring an awareness to the distinction, which is co-created by the group.
Mirror embers What comes up for us when we look in a mirror — the beauty and the beast.  Consider our reflections and create awareness around them.
Judgments A base, introductory activity around how we experience judgments, and create them, and choices we have in both cases.