Educators journey to the farthest reaches of the earth for extraordinary adventures designed to bring them out of their comfort zones and into a new personal understanding of the intricate and beautifully fragile planet we call home. They develop identities as positive difference makers in an increasingly desperate world… Identities they MUST take back to their students to create innovative learning experiences as an inspiration that each of us must become passionate stewards of the natural world and each other.
“In the end we will conserve what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are
taught.” “experience.” – Baba Dioum, Senegalese ecologist, – Adjustment by Dr. Brad McLain
This series is about making a positive difference in an increasingly threatened world AND inspiring a new generation of difference-makers. With Discovery Channel’s Survivorman, Les Stroud, XSci proposes a new video series based on the premise that learning changes us, sometimes deeply. When it transforms who we are and who we want to become, we call it “inspiration.” Our most powerful inspiration comes from deeply personal experiences that give us opportunities to takes risks (physical, emotional, and intellectual), to be brave, and to forge the stories that tell us who we are.
Inspire Me is about educators developing powerful identities as adventurous change agents for understanding and protecting our vanishing natural world. It is also about rekindling that optimism and passion that led so many to become teachers in the first place — the belief that one person CAN make a difference. And that teachers NEED to be “learning artists” who can truly inspire our children. But today’s over-controlling, one-size-fits-all standardized educational climate is systematically squeezing inspiration out of educators and chasing away the most passionate. In the U.S., we lose 50% of new teachers within the first 5 years and we are losing our most experienced in record-breaking numbers every year. Inspire Me is for them, their students, and anyone who envisions a future where learning is about taking risks to discover who we are and who we want to be.
This premise is based on 10 years of XSci’s programs and research in the psychology of inspiration. This work has resulted in three documentary films (Everest E.R., Inspire Me Weightless Flights of Discovery, Inspire Me Africa), two TED talks, the “Xperience STEM” national conference, scientific publications, conference presentations, numerous educator adventures all over the world, and thousands of inspired teachers and students. But we can and must do much more…
Previous Films & Trailers
Fast-moving 40-min episodes, each featuring a different group of teachers on a different adventure, presented in 3 segments: Pre-Adventure, Adventure, and Post-Adventure. Teachers DO NOT know what their adventure will be ahead of time.
- Teacher Profiles: Who they are, what they want, who they teach, and why they signed up for Inspire Me. Teachers will include rookies, veterans, the excited, the disillusioned, the desperate, and the hopeful and visionary.
- Revealing the Adventure: 6 teachers (per episode) meet each other as a group and learn what adventure awaits them. They also meet Suvivorman Les Stroud as their ambassador to the unknown and embracing managed-risk-mindsets. Includes getting primed on the conservation issue in play for their adventure (see below).
- The Adventure: Arrival, setting out, and living the adventure, including all the fear, challenge, risk, bravery, group dynamics, success, failure, and learning about saving our natural environments, about themselves personally, as educators, and about each other. Led on-site by Brad & Tree McLain of XSci.
- Teacher Auto-Bio Videos: Teachers will all get Go-Pros to make their own personal documentary shorts during the adventure – snippets will be used for each episode and completed teacher videos will be posted online. XSci has been doing this successfully for years for our programs & research into the psychology of inspiration.
- Back to School: The “So What?” component where teachers must make meaning from their adventures and transform them into innovative learning experiences for their students. The only requirements are that projects are active and service-oriented, empowering students to develop identities as positive change-makers for our natural world through extraordinary experiences.
- Awards: Les Stroud and hosts Tree and Brad McLain recap the adventure, the group’s experiences, and make awards to the winners in each category. This competition component includes prizes for:
(1) Risk and bravery; (2) Most innovative teaching outcome, and; (3) Most positive impact on the conservation of our natural world. Celebrations and reflections complete each episode.
- Online Postings: Teacher videos posted online (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc) for more intimate stories from each teacher and their classroom innovations. Our past experiences have delivered truly moving stories – from gut-wrenching struggles up the Inca Steps, to emergency helicopter evacuation off the side of Kilimanjaro, to tear-jerking visits to AIDS orphanages in Africa, to unexpected romance in Tanzania, to an endless creative array of ways teachers bring it all back to their students.
Highlighting the importance and fragility of the world’s oceans by examining its most feared and little-understood apex predators, as a barometer for marine ecosystem health in the face of human impacts (pollution, over-fishing, and the plight of endangered marine organisms and habitats). Teachers go on multiple shark dives, examine shark physiology and adaptation, and their place in marine ecosystems throughout the history of life on Earth, and ultimately cage dive with Great Whites.
Highlighting global climate change, the energy crisis, and human environmental impacts in one of the last pristine wildernesses on the planet – educators dive under the Ross Ice Shelf, operate remote controlled hydrobots around McMurdo, ascend the active volcano Mt. Erubus, and investigate fragile polar ecosystems alongside Antarctic researchers.
Highlighting the challenges and physiology of living and working in space, giving teachers the amazing experience of floating in microgravity, designing experiments for their flights, and the learning the physics and history of free-fall dating back to Isaac Newton’s famous thought experiments. Teachers fly on the Zero G aircraft, interact with astronauts, and work with NASA scientists responsible for astronaut training and physiological countermeasures that could benefit disabled people on Earth. Culminates in an inspirational flight with disabled students having the unparalleled liberating experience of Zero-G, just as Professor Stephen Hawking experienced in 2007 aboard G-Force One (featured in the first Inspire Me film – Weightless Flights of Discovery).
Highlighting the importance and shocking disappearance of the world’s rain forests – as critical habitats (for plants and animals found nowhere else), for carbon fixing and climate regulation, for pharmacological research, and for the pollution and environmental destruction deforestation causes – by 2020 more than 80 to 90 percent of the tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed. Today, an average of 137 species of life forms are driven to extinction each day, and the indigenous people that once inhabited the rainforest has dropped from 6 to 9 million to just 200,000. Teachers will come face to face with these issues and the vast impacts of climate change as they travel deep into the Amazon rainforest, immerse themselves in ancient cultures and remaining indigenous people, explore the science of the Amazon and all that it has to offer; from medicinal plants to habitat preservation for thousands of species known and unknown.
Highlighting the intersection of the modern world with the unique human cultures that once and often still thrive in the immense, desolate, (and yet rich) set of biomes known as the Western Australian Outback. Teachers trek through the Outback, interact with indigenous people and anthropologists in the field, learn survival and traditional lifestyle strategies from Aboriginals, and encounter the amazing diversity of species, geology, and beauty unique to this — one of the world’s last remaining vast expanses of wilderness.
Highlighting the challenging issues of the developing countries of Tanzania and Kenya, and Uganda, including natural habitat destruction, poaching, AIDS and Ebola, Inspire Me 5 human rights, and the pros and cons of eco-tourism. Teachers visit AIDS orphanages, teach in African schools, explore the biodiversity and conservation efforts of the national parks (Serengeti and Tarangire), and ultimately climb through the six biomes of Mt. Kilimajaro, summiting at nearly 20,000 feet.
Highlighting the footsteps of Darwin and the modern results of his unrivaled contribution to science, including technological innovations in genetics, epidemiology, pharmacology, and the very foundation of all modern biology, as well as the evolution vs. religion debate still going on today. Teachers hike, dive, snorkel, and participate in active scientific research, while also re-tracing Darwin’s thoughts and actions from 1835.
Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents:
Highlighting the astonishing revelations of thriving chemosynthetic communities where previously life was not thought possible – surrounding super heated and toxic deep sea hydrothermal vents (discovered in 1977) and its implications for our understanding of life on Earth and the inspirational search for alien life on other worlds – the science of astrobiology. Teachers dive to the ocean’s depths inside deep-sea submersibles to visit these vents and work with researchers to reveal their mysteries, the threats to our fragile marine ecosystems (sea level rise, acidification, global ocean temperature change, etc.) and the adaptability implications for the oceans food web, upon which we depend.
Jane Goodall & the Chimps of Gombe:
Highlighting the disappearing habitats and populations of chimpanzees as well as the ground-breaking historical discoveries of Jane Goodall as she turned anthropology on its head as a naturalist young women who discovered tool use, warfare, cannibalism, altruism, and long-term emotional societies among the chimpanzees of Gombe – and how it led her to become a U.N. Peace ambassador and champion of both human and animal rights worldwide. Teachers visit the Gombe stream research park, work with active primatologists, hopeful graduate students, Jane Goodall herself, and of course – the chimpanzees.
And more…Using their adventures to inspire their students to learn, do, and create positive change in the world around them, these teachers will serve as powerful role models for their students to show that one person CAN bring hope and change in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
“In the adventure known as life, … there are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life-changing experiences; and though they don’t repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives.” – Les Stroud, “Survivorman”
Producers & Hosts
Tree McLain (Producer, On-Site Host)
Tree is co-director of XSci at CU Boulder, bringing an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, and creative talent. She has an extensive background as a VP of Marketing & Strategy, working with dozens of companies over the past 14 years, with an impressive record in international marketing, strategy, and PR leadership. In 1999, Tree and her husband Brad formed MAC Arts, a multimedia development company where she helped the company snag NASA as an anchor client in work on the human space flight program. Her work included design, production, PR, promotion and distribution of print, electronic, and broadcast media and the negotiation of deals with CBS News, CNN, and MSNBC. After 12 years of international marketing and documentary work, Tree maintained her interest in education and working with kids. As the founder of GirlSpire and published author, she still finds her greatest reward lies with working with young girls to build a strong foundation in a fun and interactive way. GirlSpire was born out of the confluence of Tree’s unique journey and perspective, and the urgent need every girl faces as they pass through one of life’s most difficult stages. It is an experiential integration of self-empowering life skills and attitudes into an exciting and thrilling personal journey. Tree is also a professional model and has served as writer, on-screen host, and producer of XSci’s Inspire Me films.
“Take people on an adventure of a lifetime and it inspires them. Take teachers and they inspire others.” – Tree McLain, XSci Co-Director
Dr. Brad McLain (Producer, On-Site Host)
Dr. Brad McLain is a social scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and is co-director of XSci – The Experiential Science Education Research Collaborative. He is also a Fellow of Center for STEM Learning and a research scientist with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Dr. McLain is interested in the nature and impacts of extraordinary learning experiences, especially how such experiences may change our sense of self or identity. McLain has extensive experience in formal, informal and non-formal education, teacher professional development, corporate training, organizational change and leadership development. His work generally includes the intersection of learning, the innovative use of technology for learning, and the transformative power of extraordinary first person experiences. Dr. McLain is also an accomplished filmmaker, having produced and directed four award-winning documentary features and dozens of short films. Prior, Dr. McLain was a researcher at the Space Science Institute, a NASA educational lead on the Space Shuttle program and later for the Science Mission Directorate for robotic exploration of the solar system, and a social science researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Dr. McLain has served as principle investigator on numerous large and small federal, foundation, and private funded programs, resulting in frequent collaborations with state and federal government agencies, the National Science Foundation, Change the Equation, Race to the Top, the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education, NASA, Merck Foundation, LEGO Foundation, Outward Bound, REI, and several tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Yammer, Intel, and others. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots international steering committee. His group
XSci represents Colorado to the national STEMx collaborative founded by Battelle. He also serves on the Board of Directors for STEMSpace, and is Chair of the Board for the Lake Travis STEM Academy in Austin, TX. Dr. McLain has written several book chapters, articles, scientific papers, and annually conducts over 20 workshops and presentations around the country in addition to his research work. He is also an avid martial artist and ran his own martial arts school for ten years. His TED talks are: “Inspire Me” and “What Would You Die For?”
Les Stroud (Pre & Post Experience Guide)
Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman, Les Stroud is the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped and hosted alone. The original genre creator of ‘Survival TV’, Survivorman is one of the highest rated shows in the history of OLN Canada, the Science Channel US and Discovery Channel US and remains the highest rated repeat show on the Discovery Channel. Survivorman is licensed for broadcast worldwide, with ratings in the US hitting 2 million on individual episodes. He has been nominated for 12 Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis) and in 2013, won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Writing in a Lifestyle or Reality/Competition Program or Series for Survivorman 10 Days. Stroud has appeared in and/or produced numerous television specials including the 20th Anniversary of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week; I Shouldn’t Be Alive; Expedition Everest; Surviving Urban Disasters, and countless more. Les was Executive Producer/Host of the hit kids TV series Survive This (YTV, Cartoon Network) and made celebrity guest appearances on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Top Chef and MTV Cribs. He has made numerous talk show appearances including Piers Morgan Tonite, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Larry King Live, and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos (CBC), to name but a few. A celebrated keynote speaker, storyteller and author, both his books Survive! – Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere–Alive! and Will to Live made the New York Times bestseller list. In Fall 2013, Les released his third novel Beyond Survivorman, featuring the photography of Laura Bombier. He is currently at work on his fourth novel. Musically, Stroud has shared the stage with the top in the business, including Slash, Alice Cooper, Steven Stills, Tommy Shaw, Robbie Krieger, Blues Traveler, Tesla, Jacob Dylan, Randy Bachman, Chicago and The Roots.
Brad McLain, Ph.D.