From backpacking adventures into the wilds to walks into an urban park, summer provides the opportune time to unplug and reconnect to the great outdoors. With an uptick in standardized testing, homework, or other school / after-school responsibilities during the regular school year there is little time for most families to venture out to the great unknown, and many simple do not for one reason or another. Despite these real barriers a growing body of evidence is showing us why immersion in the outdoors is critical for our own well-being, as well as, our community and its environment. So what can you do about it? At SOLE, we recommend that parents strongly consider extra-curricular programming that specifically targets this need, especially when school isn’t ‘in session’.
- Nurturing their brain through nature. Let’s face it, there is no better way to decompress than being in a beautiful natural setting. SOLE uses extended summer expeditions to promote such opportunities for youth and young adults. This way of life can be rather simplistic fostering an environment that lacks the stress that weighs on our 3 pound computer in the semi-quasi real world. The end result? Rest and restoration. National Geographic. ‘This is Your Brain on Nature’ (January 2016) gives props to this very cause and effect relationship, coupled with the term, coined by a cognitive psychologist David Strayer, known as the “three day effect”. In short, Mr. Strayer spent a great deal of time researching the restorative effects of nature-based immersion on one of our most important resources – our brain.
- Creating healthy behaviors and patterns. Remember the days of building forts, exploring and learning about our natural world, chasing each other and playing games like ‘capture the flag’? SOLE’s summer programs, such as our Junior Naturalist Experiences SM captures the innocence of our youth, and for good reason. With an increase in screen time (on average 7.5 hours per day connected to some sort of media device) our youth are more removed from outdoor play. Let’s face it, technology is a blessing and a curse. Technological advances have continued to move us towards great advancements and development. However, they have also fostered us to move away from naturally developing critical-thinking and problem-solving, and other life skills. In addition, why do the heavy lifting when a machine can do it? Simply put, consistent access to ‘screen time’ has led to a more sedentary life-style. Interestingly, we have seen a surge in childhood obesity since technological advancements in personal computing and social media have come on scene. Causation or coincidence, you decide – one thing is for certain when you unplug and reconnect to the outdoors there are less distractions and ample opportunity to develop oneself in a healthy manner.
- Comprehension of abstract concepts. Experiential education provides the ideal modality to present, learn and master skills. Why? An intentionally designed and facilitated experiential education program, like SOLE’s SOLE Experiences SM, allows participants, to directly experience and learn via a hand-on, boots-on-the-ground approach which taps into different learning styles and individualized needs. From a neurological perspective, an experiential learning setting fosters the ideal environment to spark the brain and create memory pathways that sustains learning comprehension well beyond the actual experience promoting the opportunity for generalization to occur. This sort of positive growth and development supports future academic achievement.
- Developing a sense of belonging and affinity for nature. With the hustle and bustle of this crazy thing called “life” it seems we rarely have time to pause and take stock of what we are actually experiencing. Because the world around us can be a ‘blur’ and at an arms length, we may struggle to truly appreciate that which is around us. Summer SOLE Experiences SM allow us to do just that – slow down and take it all in, thus allowing us to develop meaningful relationships with those we are with and our surrounding environment. Experiences such as these forge memories that last a lifetime, and that can set a trajectory for positive choices for our community and its environment.
- Experiencing transformation that transfers. There is something truly special about Summer SOLE Experiences SM. Participants leave with greater self-confidence and willingness to take a risk, more awareness of the natural systems which exist in the natural world, lasting positive memories and relationships, and the list goes on. Thanks in part to our savvy Field Instructors and intentional program design, our participants are able to experience something which actually shifts their paradigm in a positive direction. This transformation is not accidental. For example, learning cool outdoor technical skills like land navigation (e.g., map and compass) on a Teen Trek Experience SM can serve as a metaphor and spring board for future leadership development opportunities whether on trail or the sidewalk.
We hope that your summer is a memorable one, full of adventure and exploration in the great outdoors!