An Affinity For Nature

IMG_5381According to Merriam’s Online Dictionary the word affinity is defined as a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship.   Affinity may or may not be something that we consciously connect with our time spent in nature, however, it is something that is crucial to personal mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  It is for this reason that I would even venture to say it is especially important for us to provide intentional opportunities for our youth to develop an affinity for nature.

Have you ever shared a young person’s experience in nature as they explore and make meaningful connections?  This look and excitement is unmistakable, and to share these moments with young people is nothing short of touching. Having grown up exploring the tidal pools in the Outer Banks in North Carolina and mountainous streams throughout Appalachia, I can attest to the power and meaning which occurred for me during these moments, and I think it was equally as powerful for my parents to witness. To see me grow and connect with something greater than myself and develop a true sense of belonging that would help shape my formative years was surely meaningful for them.  And now, as my son has completed his third birthday I find that he is most at peace in this same setting – when outside the confines of our cabin home, immersed in our natural world.

When we have an emotional experience in nature it sparks a fire that fuels future dreams and aspirations, including those related to conservation and stewardship.  After all, how can we be invested and take responsibility if we do not have a direct and meaningful connection?  It has also been shown through these moments positive personal and social development can occur.

Aspects such as these are of the utmost importance as we enter a generational period where technological advances influence environmental policy and personal choices or a lack there of.  As research demonstrates more youth are opting to choose a sedentary lifestyle leading to outcomes such as childhood obesity, gaming abuse, poor academic performance and other at-risk behavior. With the increase and advancement in mobile technology there is even greater need to ensure that we support programs and organizations that provide opportunities to intentionally reconnect youth to their natural system of checks and balance.

At SOLE we believe that the natural learning environment provides such a system, while also providing an opportunity to develop an affinity for nature. In the book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv stated, “in the United States, children ages six to eleven spend about thirty hours a week looking at a TV or computer monitor” (2005, p.47). In addition, if we look at the statistics from 1997 to 2003 we can see a 50 percent decline in the amount of time spent hiking, walking, fishing, gardening, and playing at the beach by children ages nine to twelve (Hofferth and Sandberg, 2001).

“This principle holds that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.” ~ Richard Louv, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder

WIMG_1643ith evidence such as this it is safe to say, playing and learning in nature is no longer commonplace, as it was when my generation was my son’s age and older.  And the potential ramifications are noteworthy. Today our youth have less access to intentional experiential education programming which supports developing and sustaining a nature-based connection.  How can they with a standards-based, extra curricular activity driven society?  At SOLE, we meet this need head on by providing intentionally designed and facilitated experiential and outdoor education programs to immerse youth and adults in environs where they can experience sincere emotional connections, and therefore, develop an affinity for nature that is lasting.

Because of the hectic school and after-school schedule, summer often provides the perfect time of year to experience something which allows you to unplug and reconnect.  These outdoor experiences can make memories which last a lifetime, some which can shift your entire paradigm.  From day-based outdoor science camps to outdoor leadership expeditions and adventure therapy exploratory expeditions, SOLE provides transformational experiences which allow youth and adults to truly explore, achieve, and lead.  We welcome you to join our team this summer to truly experience SOLE and let the experience speak for itself!  For more information on all of our upcoming programs please visit our Upcoming Experiences and Events.

Hope to see you on the trail or water,

Schooling That Shifts the Education Paradigm

Looking for a novel educational setting that allows middle and high school students to reach beyond classroom walls to truly explore > achieve > lead?  

SOLE’s Founder and Executive Director, Dennison Webb, M.A. recently teamed up with long term alternative education pioneer and Ret. Lt. Col. Army Ranger, George Lowery to create  SOLE Academy SM, an Experiential Learning Center (ELC) for middle and high school students that offers fully accredited academic coursework!

Like most traditional public and private institutions, SOLE Academy SM will work on a traditional school calendar, as well as, during summer months, and for blocks of time (i.e., during SOLE’s current backcountry expeditions).  In addition, to the intentional experiential design faculty members are provided a more flexible schedule to immerse students in novel learning settings where they are able to experience dynamic experiential curricula on a more consistent basis which prepares them for the 21st Century and beyond!

More specifically, SOLE Academy SM curricula includes on-campus experiential activities, blending eLearning opportunities, and learning expeditions which include “bookend” backcountry expeditions that occur at the beginning and end of each school year and weekly Fieldwork Experiences SM.  Due to the evidence-based methods throughout the course of each day students are able to experience a rigorous and rich experiential curricula that truly addresses and develops the whole learner, as opposed to just their academic needs.

SOLE Academy SM utilizes a connected-thought educational philosophy underpinned by a dynamic experiential framework that utilizes evidence-based best practices.  This novel approach to teaching and learning provides a journey which shifts the education paradigm for both teacher and student alike.

SOLE Academy SM offers a complete catalogue of fully accredited AdvancEd coursework through our partner AIOA. In addition, to the traditional academic catalogue one might find in the traditional public / private school, SOLE Academy SM offers parents and students hybrid coursework which highlights the strengths of SOLE’s experiential education programming, including our summer expedition-based opportunities – some of which now provide the opportunity to obtain several academic credits through the course of the expedition!  

Due to our intentional program design and approach SOLE Academy SM is the ideal learning environment for youth and young adults in homeschool settings, those which struggle with traditional academic settings, those with the desire to learn at their own pace, those in need of credit recovery, or simply parents and/or students looking for a personal and intentional approach to education that blends and extends learning beyond traditional classroom walls.

True to our nature, SOLE Academy SM is supported by individuals who possess advance degrees and over 30 years experience in the education and outdoor education fields.  This ensures that students have the necessary support to address their individualized needs start to finish.

For more information on SOLE Academy SM please go here.  

SOLE Academy SM is currently enrolling for the 2015-2016 school year and is only accepting a limited number of students.  If you are ready to register go here or contact us today to receive more information.