Thursday, August 29, 2013

BioDesign - Out For A Walk by Lowell Harrison Young (A Must-Read for All Teachers & More)

Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today at Napa Valley Calif.

BK: I've always wanted to visit California :). Looking out the nearest window, describe the scene you see.

We live in the beautiful Napa Valley; in a two-story home which gives me a view of oak and pine treetops.

BK: Tell us about your office. Is it a mess like mine, or is everything in its place?

My office is quite plain with a large b/w photo of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt standing atop Glacier Point at Yosemite national Park. Together they added millions of acres to our NPS.

BK: What is a must-have, such as coffee or a favorite pen, that you need to write?

I use notes sometimes, however, my keyboard has become an extension of my brain. When I am concentrating food and drink become irrelevant.

BK: Do you like to write in silence, or do you need music or background noise?

I prefer a quiet office with only the soft hum of the computer digesting my material.

BK: Tell us a bit about your hero/heroine, and their development.

Biodesign Out For A Walk is truly about 700 students who rejected the traditional high school learning process that involved massive memorization of minutiae. They taught me how to laugh and cry while learning about biology. They are my heroes.

BK: As a writer myself, I'm always curious how other writers get through stumble blocks. When you find a story not flowing, or a character trying to fight you, how do you correct it?

BOFAW is a collection of stories that span a 24-year teaching career. My biggest challenge was how to pare the narrative down to a reasonable length. It took two years to write (I am a slow writer) but there was never a dull moment.

BK: Using the letters of your first name as an acronym, describe your book...

Neat question. “L” for a love story between students and teacher. “H” for humbling to be constantly reminded of how little we actually know. “Y” for being perennially young at heart.

BK: How did your writing journey begin?

Easy! My children wanted me to write down some of my amazing adventures for their children to read as high schoolers. One thing led to another.

BK: Using the letters from the word, Summer, how would friends and family describe you?

S” sensitive, Socratic teacher; “U” usually thinks in triads; “M” multidimensional; (physical, mental, spiritual) “M” master-craftsman; “E” enjoys esoteric discussions; Religious.

BK: What is the craziest thing you've ever written about, whether it got published or not?

A male student having an erection while a beautiful nurse shaved his lower abdomen for an appendectomy. The Sanskrit description of the human penis as “The Wand Of Light”

BK: Tell us one thing you've done in life, that readers would be most surprised to know.

Surviving a hail storm with 30 high school students on Yosemite’s famous Half Dome.

BK: What can we expect from you in the future?
In terms of books? Nothing. This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I have no interest in running this gauntlet again.

This or That...


Night Owl or Early Bird?

When ever inspired. Many paragraphs were hammered out at 3:00 AM.

Fantasy or Mystery?

Mystery in the sense that all branches of science begin in mystery.

Pen/Paper or Computer?

Some pen and paper, but mostly using my keyboard as my writing tool





Thank you so much for having us as one of your stops today. It has been great getting to know more about you and your book, and wish you the best of success!

BK Walker

About The Author

Lowell Young and his wife Christie have lived in California’s Napa Valley for over 40 years. Mr. Young taught high school biology for nearly 40 years before he retired. The class that evolved into Biodesign was a creative, collaborative project where the roles of teacher and student were often reversed. It was well known by the students that although Mr. Young represented the physical nature of the class, Christie’s silent spiritual guidance was often felt in their classroom circles, as well as along the many miles of trails they walked. The Biodesign class may be the only one of its kind taught in a public high school in the country.

Genre: Nature/Ecology
Publisher: Outskirts Press

Book Description:

Going for a walk should be fun. So should studying biology, after all, without it we wouldn't be alive to experience the rapture, sorrow and mystery of the universe. Biodesign Out For A Walk, is a story of how spirit-sensitive students reprogrammed a left-brained biology teacher and took him on a 24-year odyssey. Following the footsteps of John Muir, they slept on the top of Yosemite's famous Half Dome. They followed Loren Eiseley and John Wesley Powell to the bottom of Grand Canyon. Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck led them into forests and tide pools of California's beautiful Mendocino coast. Abraham Maslow challenged them to redefine science and religion. Ralph Emerson challenged them to write their own Bibles. They traced the origins of human spirituality back 100,000 years. The class was dedicated to studying biology by exercising the illimitable freedom of the human mind. Plato urged them to actively search for truth, beauty and goodness.
They studied the works of scientists, sages, poets and saints to add to their growing concept of Mother Nature. Many synchronicities were discovered that were either playful, mysterious or scary
Socrates', "The unexamined life is not worth living," and Thoreau's, "I went to the woods to live deliberately," became mottos. Although each class lasted one academic year, the teacher was guided by students for 24 years and his adventure ended when a modern-day Moses mysteriously met him on top of Half Dome.

Praise for BioDesign:

"Digging deeper into the book, there are plenty of reminders that these are real experiences with only a few anecdotal ideas relative to genuine observations.”
Steven Burgess, Amazon Reviewer
"As you travel with Lowell, you will meet many amazing teens as they go out for a walk.”
Phroncie, Amazon Reviewer
"I recommend this book for anyone who wants a good read, especially one that is thought-provoking.”
geochrim, Amazon Reviewer

A must read for every high school teacher!”
Mark Salvestrin, Amazon Reviewer

Excerpt 1

Going for a walk should be fun. So should biology. After all, without it, we wouldn’t be able to experience the rapture, sorrow, and mystery of the universe. The “strange and wonderful magic” that created the Velveteen Rabbit is not confined to nurseries; it occurred at St. Helena High School, in the heart of California’s Napa Valley.

A scattered group of rebels magically overthrew my teaching style and curriculum and created an advanced biology course with a spiritual component. Each year, they traveled to Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and California’s Mendocino Coast, discovering themselves and their role in the world.
The birth of the class was not unlike the birth of a baby. Therewere moments of elation and sorrow, triumph and frustration, hope and despair. No one, especially me, realized that the students were responding to an ancient call which predated Christianity, perhaps by 100,000 years. Like Henry Thoreau, they were seeking a spiritual rebirth. Bloody palms, horrifying fear, and a battered ego were not included in my job description. They were, however, prerequisites for entering the uncharted wilderness of the teenage soul.

Lettie was dissecting a fetal pig when she suddenly paused, looked up, and asked, “Mr. Young, is this really important?”

I discovered later that her question was a matter of her spiritual life and death. While discussing evolution, and the now discredited story ofthe wolf/dog wandering into the ocean to become a whale, Matthew shouted, “Wait a minute! What the hell do we believe, anyway?

Did they think their way back into the ocean to become whales?” I discovered later that he was asking the most profound question that a person can ask. The collective human response will likely determine the fate of mankind.

These educational rebels elected to sit in a circle and rejected the traditional learning method of massive memorization of minutiae. Instead, they replaced it with an emphasis on critical thinking, communication skills, and problem solving. The focus was always biology, but collateral topics of natural history, evolution, the wilderness ethic, politics, sexuality, and religion were open for discussion. They understood the gravity that many had died so they could study and grow in an environment without fear, bitterness, or humiliation.

Some began to contemplate the immensity, horror, and glory of the human journey. Evolution, they discovered, often involved bloodshed, and they pondered over the hundreds of millions of people who were stoned, clubbed, burned, or nailed on crosses for what they believed.

Their class discussions were often lively but could not compare with the three, sixday field trips that they took. They tested Emerson’s adage, “The whole of Nature is but a metaphor of the human mind,” and often discovered wonders, even miracles, in Nature, themselves and each other. They learned that Albert Einstein and Loren Eiseley agreed that every branch of science was cloaked in mysteryand it would be their challenge and privilege to contemplate those mysteries.

The theme for the class was defined by John Muir; “I only went out for a walk … and found that going out was really going in.” They were invited to read the accounts of scientists, scholars, sages, and saints to see how they viewed Mother Nature. Many learned how to cope with the physical, mental, and spiritual blisters that they encounteredalong the way. Some learned to look for Jungian synchronicities and found them to be amusing, inspirational, or frightening.

Each year, hundreds of ideas were born, some resulting from close encounters with death
I have selected nearly 100 quotations which include scores of ideas from seekers whose thoughts and deeds have improved humanity. I felt that my deepest calling was not to “teach” but to share these designs with young, curious, and flexible minds and let them decide which ones they wanted to incorporate into their personal biblioteca (library).

Lowell is giving away a gift card for a Kindle Fire HD. Enter to win by filling out the Rafflecopter below...G'luck!


BK said...

Thanks for chatting Lowell. Thanks too for the trip to Cali! :)

Michelle Cornwell-Jordan said...

Wonderful interview and the stories sound very interesting! I wish you well on your tour:) Pit Crew