Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Surfing is fun for troubled kids & hungry crocs

The “Surf Into Integrity” program, housed in a middle school near Ocean City, Maryland, is teaching kids about kindness, about trust, and about steering their lives clear of dangerous drugs before they get to high school, Delmarva Now reports.

The senior assistant state’s attorney for Worcester County, Rich Brueckner, told the paper that waiting till kids get to high school is too late. “By the time they got to high school, they’re largely lost: the decisions have been made one way or the other,” the paper quoted him as saying. “I was thinking, what can we do other than constantly feed kids into the juvenile justice system?”

Mr Brueckner has always been a surfer, and one book about surfing, in particular—Surfer’s Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life by Shaun Tomson—showed him a way that he might help kids grow into happier and more productive young men and women. The 12 lessons:

  1. I will never turn my back on the ocean
  2. I will paddle around the impact zone
  3. I will take the drop with commitment
  4. I will never fight a rip tide
  5. I will paddle back out
  6. I will watch out for other surfers
  7. There will always be another wave
  8. I will always ride into shore
  9. I will pass along my stoke
  10. I will catch a wave every day
  11. All surfers are joined by one ocean
  12. I will honor the sport of kings

The book provides an outline for a curriculum, and every Sunday, a group of about 20 middle school students heads out from Stephen Decatur Middle School, which is a mere 15 miles from the beaches of Ocean City, to the shore. They will have already sat in a circle to discuss lessons learned from the week’s reading material, so when they get to the beach, they apply those lessons to some actual surfing.

“I always loved the ocean and loved being in the water, so I always wanted to learn how to surf,” the paper quoted one student in the program as saying. “I’ve learned to look out for other people and that not everything is a competition—not everything is like you see on TV. There’s a lot of trusting your instincts and trusting what your heart feels you should do.”

Mr Brueckner said he hopes the idea catches on and can be used not only in Worcester County after he has left but also in other school systems that might have noticed the unconscionably high number of young students who have been caught abusing drugs.

And surfing, along with the water, is a great hook, if you live in an area where you can take advantage of the surf. One reason is that surfing is fun. Kids like to surf about as much as they like learning to be good at new things.

In addition to humans wishing to learn important life lessons about morality and integrity, surfing also seems to be a great diversion for crocodiles, as shown in this drone footage.

As this crocodile swims along, catching a few waves near the shoreline, the animal is in search of food or perhaps a mate. But research two years ago, published in Animal Behavior & Cognition, suggests that crocodiles also use surfing like this for play. Voxitatis has advocated for the importance of play in learning several times in the past, and once again, programs in our schools drive that point home.

Behavior specialists have categorized play into three big groups:

  • locomotor play
  • play with objects
  • social play

Although most research focuses on play with objects, such as toys, the other forms are also present, especially in children. Ongoing research suggests that play is a universal feature of “intelligent” animals—those with complex, flexible behavior. This knowledge might help determine how intelligence evolves and what is needed for its development.

“Hundreds of thousands of crocodilians are now kept in captivity in zoos, commercial farms and breeding centers set up for endangered species. Providing them with toys and other opportunities for play makes them happier and healthier,” said Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“If I could use surfing as the hook [as a means of play], this would be a great opportunity to teach some of what seems to be missing in today’s world, and maybe make a little bit of difference in a few kids’ lives,” Mr Brueckner was quoted as saying.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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