One Step Further…

As we take a look at our summer experiences thus far, we are excited to share some of the strides our Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) LEAD Experience students have made!  For the past two years, SOLE has partnered with Lake Pend Oreille School District and Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to offer this tailored program for students that qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation services throughout Idaho.  Here’s a snapshot of what this novel SOLE Experience is all about.

At the beginning of this past June, five young adults began their journey toward becoming leaders. Nestled in the beautiful mountains of Washington, Chewelah Peak Learning Center provided a perfect outdoor classroom for this group of students to thrive.

This program’s focus was to encourage students to take on leadership roles and to provide a space for them to push through personal challenges.

When we began, two girls participating in this program, Jaiden and Kayana, only knew each other in passing. They had seen each other around school, but always traveled in different crowds. By lights-out on day one, they were up giggling and talking about how crazy it is that they hadn’t become friends sooner! We loved watching their friendship build throughout the week.

Mid-way through the program we asked the girls a few questions about their experience.

What is your favorite part of the program so far?

Both of the girls really loved the challenge course. The challenge course involved both low and high elements that required critical thinking and team building exercises to move onto the next feature. This helped them grow confidence in themselves and trust in the group as a whole.

Kayana noted that her favorite part was not only this activity but also her ability to become more confident in herself and her leadership skills. She was excited to share that she and Jaiden had been chosen as leaders for the final hike at the end of the program (and what a great accomplishment it was!). She shared that she typically has a shy personality, so having the opportunity to practice leadership and responsibility in the group really strengthened her confidence.

Here, Jaiden and Kayana are setting up their map and utilizing their compass to create a route up the mountain. These two girls did an incredible job navigating the group up Goddard Peak!

What has been the most challenging part of the program so far?

Jaiden expressed that the most challenging part of the program was trusting other people to complete a task without stepping in and taking the lead. She was used to learning through doing, so allowing others to take the lead and figure out how to overcome a group challenge was not easy at first.

Kayana’s most challenging experience was navigating different personalities and learning to speak up when her needs were not being met. This experience has given her the confidence to take some deep breaths and confront challenges instead of shying away from them.

What advice would you give to a future student participating in this program?

Jaiden’s greatest piece advice was to “do the program!” This was her second year participating in SOLE’s LEAD experience and she emphasized how influential this experience was for her both in school and the workforce.

During the program, the challenge course instructor spoke about how everyone has this “bubble” called your comfort zone. His challenge to the group was to try to expand that zone by taking just one step past where you think you cannot go any further. Jaiden explained that this metaphor translated perfectly into real-life situations and she was glad to have practiced it.

Kayana echoed this piece of advice. She encourages others to take that one step further because “it makes you feel so amazing afterward and makes you… thrive. It makes you want to do it even more!”  

We are so proud of graduates of SOLE’s LEAD Vocational Rehabilitation program!

If you or your young adult is interested in this program, or want to design your own LEAD Experience please contact us! We are happy to answer any questions and explain our curriculum to you!  Contact us at: info@soleexperiences.org.

Hope to see you out there,

Krystal Walsh
SOLE Outreach Coordinator | Intern Field Instructor

SOLE’s Youth Advocate Making a Difference

What was your favorite part of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program?

Working with kids was definitely my favorite part of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. Coming from a family that is so passionate about the outdoors, it’s difficult to see kids who don’t have that background and aren’t from families that have those same values. That’s why it’s so special to work with those kids because it allows me to introduce the outdoors to them and get to share those values with them.

SOLE Youth Advocate and Field Instructor, Erin Meek in the snowpit frontloading information for their field notebooks.  Photo Credit:  Dennison Webb

What qualities do you think it takes to make a good SnowSchool Field Instructor at SOLE?

Flexibility is a crucial quality to thrive as a Field Instructor at SOLE. It’s easy to stick to what you know, especially when you become comfortable with a group of students or a set of teaching material, but having different kids each day requires you to be flexible in your leadership and teaching methods. I also think that communication and delegation of tasks are vitally important as an instructor. My leadership style is to control tasks and situations and I tend to want to take on all the tasks, but I learned to trust my team and know that we all are going to accomplish the work that needs to be done. We built off of each other’s strengths and encouraged each other through their weaknesses, and I think that having mutual respect along with love and support for our team was what allowed us to thrive and grow together.

How did SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program allow you to grow as a leader?

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program allowed me to gain independence and confidence as a leader. My biggest weakness is confidence when it comes to leadership situations. Typically I have sustained a supporting leadership role in other aspects of my life, and was used to being a co-leader, but SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program pushed me into a central leadership role. This allowed me to become confident. I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean you have to do things perfectly. Our team brought leadership down to a human-level where it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing the best that you can every day. We all came from different backgrounds and all with different strengths. Some of us with science backgrounds, some teaching, some recreation, and all our different backgrounds and personality traits shined in different ways. It made me feel like I brought something to that table as a leader in my own way.

Erin showing that sometimes you got to get “creative” in the field when teaching!  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

What do you feel was the most challenging aspect of working as an Field Instructor?

Learning and mastering the material and getting the hang of the routine of the day was the most challenging part for me. I think it’s easy to get comfortable talking about the same things each time, but because we always mixed up the tasks of who was teaching what, it required me to broaden my understanding of all the aspects of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. I needed a wide range of knowledge, spanning from tree identification to snowpit protocol, to classroom topics, and have the ability to answer student questions along the way. I had to learn how to explain complex topics to young students and modify my answers for a specific audience of 5th graders. This was challenging because I didn’t want to over or under explain subjects.

5th-grade SnowSchool Experience students thrive when they are exposed to SOLE’s rich and rigorous place-based, experiential education.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

What do you value about outdoor experiential education?

I think that experiential education, especially in the outdoors is absolutely phenomenal! The best way to experience anything is through hands-on learning and kids learn so much through being outdoors. I did my senior project on the importance of recess for students and how much it truly matters for developing brains. Kids learn important social skills, and outdoor activities encourage and morph social experiences. Outdoor experiences dramatically improve performance in the classroom and reduce the distracted behavior. SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program brings that experience one step further, by adding education to outdoor recreation. Students are able to touch, feel, and hypothesize about their environment, and use science to explore those curiosities. They learn how to be apart of a team; how to take care and watch out for one another in a potentially harsh environment, and how to make sure that everyone is included and cared for. I saw kids helping one another in real ways by offering granola bars to other students that are hungry and cold. These kinds of programs are what plant the seed for kids to acknowledge the value and importance of our local mountains and how they affect our daily lives.

Students love Erin’s energetic and fun-loving apporach both in and out of the field! Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

Did SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program assist with providing experience for you to fulfill your career goals?/What will you take away from this experience?

I strive to one day become a child counselor and my experience with SOLE helped me to learn how to establish relationships with students. Even in the short amount of time I got to spend with the kids it was easy to see which students were living in low income and poverty households. It was those kids that I really tried to reach out to and make sure they had a good experience at SnowSchool. It made me realize that although Sandpoint is small, it is very socioeconomically diverse and it became very apparent when working with students from all around the district and I developed a strong sense of empathy about it as a leader. I learned how to work with young kids, as well as how to work with adults from different walks of life. Our daily debriefs taught me how to be honest with my teammates in a healthy and constructive way. I will definitely carry those skills as I continue on my career path.

What is your favorite snow crystal?

Stellar dendrites and plates!

Through her formal education and passion for the outdoors, Erin served as SOLE’s Youth Advocate & Intern Field Instructor for SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program during the winter 2018-2019 season.  Erin plans on attending the University of Montana in Missoula; studying Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Work, working to become a Clinical Counselor.

Interested in becoming a Youth Advocate or Field Instructor?  Contact us today or apply here.

My SnowSchool Experience: a Field Instructor’s look into one of SOLE’s transformational place-based experiential education programs

 

SOLE’s intentional experiential curriculum allows students to tap into various memory pathways greatly enhancing learning comprehension.  Photo Credit:  Dennison Webb

My goals as an environmental scientist are to provide accurate and relevant information to the community about our local ecosystems and I was able to do just that by teaching in the field and teaching in the classroom through SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. My passion for mountain environments is what drives me to be an active member of environmental conservation efforts through work that promotes healthy, sustainable ecosystems, and the opportunity to work directly with young students in the community provided me the ability to utilize my education, experience, and passion the environment in a productive and effectual way.

SOLE’s well-rounded experiential curriculum allows for students to learn hands-on in the field, which I feel is such a valuable asset for young learners. Experiential education not only opens the door for students to witness first hand an environment they may not be familiar with, but I believe it also provides a sense of relevance and stewardship. Many of the students I worked with this season live in poverty and have never developed a personal relationship with the mountains because of it, and I feel that makes my work that much more important because it gives kids the opportunity to touch, and feel, and experience their own backyard. Snow School opens the door for students to understand that mountains are an important resource for everyone in the community.

Often underserved students struggle in traditional academic settings and may have special needs which need to be accommodated. These students often thrive in SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

Working as a field instructor and a classroom teacher for SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program has allowed me to grow in a multitude of ways. Communication was the backbone of all my duties while working with students, and I was able to develop a strong ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with young students with a wide range of learning abilities. My public speaking and presenting skills grew each week as I gained more familiarity and comfortability with the material and I found myself noticing the strength of my teaching increase each week. Classroom management was a struggle for me at first, I had to learn how to manage agroup of up to 30 students in the classroom, and up to 10 in the field while maintaining a safe and engaging experience. This meant that I had to learn techniques to be a good leader and I had to question myself about what kind of leader I wanted to be. I found myself asking “what do I value in a leader?”, “what kind of leader do I want to be?”, and “how can I become a better leader?”. The answers to these questions gained more and more clarity with each group of students I taught. Each group had unique individual needs and it taught me how to be dynamic in my leadership based off what the students needed from me. I learned to embrace flexibility in my methods and I believe that will be a valuable skill that I’ll carry with me throughout my life.

SOLE SnowSchool Experience Field Instructor, Maggie Neer “frontloading” what snow science experiments students will do in the snowpit.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

My experience at SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program has been one that is full of personal and professional growth. I’ve developed strong leadership and teaching skills and fostered a friendship with local teachers and schools that’s allowed me to integrate into the education community. I feel that I’m leaving this season on a very positive note. I have new friends, a new community, new field and classroom skills, and a new outlook on leadership and education. I’m confident that these skills and connections will help me as I continue to pursue my career as an environmental scientist!

~ Maggie Neer, 2018 SOLE SnowSchool Field Instructor

To learn more about SOLE’s award-winning and nationally-recognized SnowSchool Experience program click here.

Interested in being an Intern or fully-fledged SnowSchool Experience program Field Instructor?  Click here.

What’s up with the Rec | Pro Split?

Truth be told, it’s been a long time coming.  Yep you guessed it – avalanche education in the United States has just made a major shift.  As an educator that values consistency in teaching and outcomes for students – I’d say the avalanche education Rec | Pro split is for the better. Thanks impart to a partnership between the American Avalanche Association (AAA) and the leading avalanche education providers throughout the nation including the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), American Avalanche Institute (AAI), and the National Avalanche School the avalanche education industry will be moving towards more continuity (similar to our Canadian neighbors).

What actually is the Rec | Pro Split, and why is it necessary?

The former avalanche education progression was quite cumbersome, which included the Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 progression for all users despite individualized needs.  Blending the recreation user with the professional is challenging for both the educator and student alike due to the varying needs related to course content and student outcomes.   Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear that these two “tracks” will now be separated.  Avalanche education providers, like SOLE’s AIARE avalanche education program, will now offer Rec track avalanche education course offerings, which are required to progress to the Pro track whereas Pro track offerings will be offered by the over-arching providers like AIARE, AAI, etc (see the image below for more information).

With these shifts, we look forward to more positive outcomes for participants that take our AIARE courses this season and have needed the Pro | Rec split in the industry for some time.  In addition, to the advantages of separating the two avalanche education user-types, providers and the governing body (AAA) have come together to create more consistency across the industry, akin to what has occurred with wilderness medicine providers and the Wilderness Medical Society.  The results will surely be impactful for all.  Instead of recreational users getting bogged down in the microscopic details of snow crystallography they will now be able to focus on the concepts that really matter at that specific level.  Conversely, avalanche professionals (forecasters, ski guides, etc) will now have the opportunity to “geek out” when needed and have a common interest while doing so!

Some take home points…

  • What is the difference between AAA and AIARE, and how does SOLE fit in the mix?  In simple terms, AAA develops the guidelines for avalanche education providers in the United States.  AIARE is an approved avalanche education provider and takes the guidelines developed by AAA and has developed rigorous, standardized training and curriculum for both pro courses and rec courses which is evidence-based.   This is exactly why SOLE chose the AIARE avalanche education program.  SOLE’s AIARE Field Instructors are avalanche education professionals and besides teaching AIARE courses for SOLE in the winter often work ski guiding, avalanche forecasting, or ski patrolling.  SOLE is an AIARE approved avalanche education provider.
  • Which track is for me, Rec or Pro?  Well, it depends.  Recreational avalanche education is for those who want to make sound decisions in the backcountry.  For example, developing essential skills like determining if you should ski the slope or not is something that you would explore in the Rec track.  On the other hand, the Pro track is for those who would like to pursue or those who are actively working in a professional setting.  Examples include, but not limited to, mitigation work, avalanche forecasting, ski guiding, etc.  It is important to note,  Rec coursework is required to progress to Pro Course offerings.  Also, Pro courses are longer in duration and include a formal evaluation as part of the course.
  • Where should I begin my avalanche education?  As old adage, “why fix something if it ain’t broken” rings true. A Rec Level 1 Course is a great starting point, as well as, the BRAND SPANKING NEW one-day Avalanche Rescue course.  Afterwards, if you would like to progress you will need to demonstrate experience in the avalanche field.  Most avalanche education providers recommend a solid year further developing your skills after taking your Level 1, which will allow you to transition to the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1 course depending on specific needs and skills.  The Avalanche Rescue course is a pre-requisite for the Rec Level 2 or Pro 1.
  • If I already have my Level 2, can I just transition to the Pro track? Not so fast.  You will need to take what is called a Bridge Course with an accompanying exam to achieve Pro 1 Certification. This Bridge Course will evaluate your skills from the previous Level 2 training. It is important to note, this opportunity will be offered briefly, and after the initial two years of the new progression, someone with an old Level 2 will need to take and complete a Pro 1 course to pursue the Pro track – so now’s the time to get on it!

SOLE will continue to offer the full breadth of Rec courses for the 2017 – 2018 season, including the brand new Avalanche Rescue course, women’s specific, youth-specific, and adult co-ed Rec Level 1 course offerings!  So stay tuned-in and refresh often on our website and social media sites.  For more information on these courses and to register for any of our avalanche education programs click here.

Hope to see you on the snow,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

 

Why should you ‘Plan Ahead & Prepare’

The backcountry is as unpredictable as it gets.  Like other remote regions throughout the United States, living and traveling in the backcountry of the Inland Northwest often results in interacting with the dynamic nature of the land we are traveling within.  These factors are delivered from experiencing unpredictable weather patterns, possible wildlife encounters, forging swift cold rivers, traversing in avalanche terrain, navigating wildfires, missing rock fall, and so many other factors – all of which are simply out of our control.  All we can do, is use the skills we have developed and our best judgment to not be irresponsible or complacent.  The beauty in that which we might fear are the lifelong lessons that these moments create.  In fact, it’s why we go out there to RE-create, and furthermore, it’s why SOLE uses these environs as our preferred classroom setting.   It is in these novel educational settings SOLE participants are provided real challenges, with real consequences and as a result are able to truly develop personal character and grit, while simultaneously providing opportunity for those we serve to master outdoor skill and leadership competencies.

Because of the stated unknowns, as our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Skills and Ethics often say, it’s best to Plan Ahead and Prepare for what may arise.  Many outdoor enthusiast do not adequately prepare before venturing out. Best case scenario, they become a case study for us to consider to not repeat the same mistakes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end well.

Why should we Plan Ahead and Prepare?

Wildfires are unpredictable and may require signifcant re-routing. Photo credit: Inciweb

Let’s investigate further based on a recent article from Rich Landers of The Spokesman-Review that underscores the “why”and serves as an excellent case study.  Click here to read the article for a personal account of being unprepared in the backcountry.

As we can see, more than 100 individuals were trapped, uprepared in what could have been a potential deadly situation.  As luck would have it, there was someone that did have military training, cell phone coverage, and a smart phone application all of which assisted in getting the group out safely. What would have occured had the technology failed and/or they not had the leadership to assist them?  Obviously, the outcomes would have been much more chatostrophic.  So that is why, when dealing with any backcountry environment we need to Plan Ahead and Prepare, so we can thrive, not just survive.

 

How to ‘thrive’ not just survive…

First, let’s take a look at the 4 considerations that are critical to any backcountry user.

  1. Create and use a Travel Plan.
  2. Understand what to do when lost.
  3. Utilize an effective layering system.
  4. Pack the 13 Essential

Knowing how to use a topo map and compass is essential for any backcountry user – especially when technology fails.

Simply put, a Travel Plan IS your first line of defense.  It let’s folks know where you are going, and how long you will be there, and when you will return.  When heading out to the backcountry it’s always a good idea to leave a plan of your trip with friends or families.

Good info to include in the Travel Plan:

  1. Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) – when you are leaving.
  2. Destination – include trail numbers, road access, etc.
  3. Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) – when you are returning back.
  4. Copy of Route – include maps as appropriate.

What should I pack?  

Along with the 13 essentials (see below), but also appropriate clothing and gear to deal with inclement weather should the need arise. Layering systems are the norm for backcountry travellers consisting of largely polypropylene and wool clothing fabrics as the go-to. Yes, even though it’s hot during the day and it’s summer you can STILL get hypothermic.  An effective layering system can provide effective thermo-regulation allowing the backcountry traveler to stay cool and warm when necessary. It is important to note, cotton is not a great fabric for when the mercury begins to dip and will only serve to strip heat away from your body once wet promoting heat-loss and possibly leading to hypothermia. We will explore heat-loss and how to regulate it effectively in the coming submissions. A good consideration for most days is while it may be hot most summer days, when traveling in the mountains it can go from hot to cold and wet rather quickly.

An effective layering system is a must any time of the year in the backcountry to deal with the cure balls that good ‘ole Mother Nature delivers. Photo Credit: outdoorgearlab.com

Understanding the Layering System…

So, with not know exactly what the weather is going to do, a simple clothing/layering system for your upper and lower body for backcountry excursions throughout the year in mountainous regions should include:

  1. Sun/bug protection (top/bottom). Convertible zip-off pants are great. They provide adequate sun/bug protection and can be zipped off to keep cool when needed. Also, long sleeve button up sun shirts are great for the same reason. Often, some models are vented to be more comfortable in hot weather while also provide adequate coverage. It is also a great idea to consider a sun hat (baseball style or wide-brimmed – the later has better protection), sunglasses with a retaining strap, and most certainly sun block! Like inclement weather, sun itself is a real environmental threat so when venturing out into the backcountry we want to prepare accordingly.
  2. A wicking layer (top/bottom). Lightweight polypropylene is ideal. It’s designed to wick the moisture directly from your skin to the outer layers and dries quickly when wet.
  3. Insulating layer (top). A common mid-weight fleece works well. This layer will serve to trap air and keep you warm when needed. You can find them at most gear shops and even thrift stores. Wool will also work well, which can be found at Army Surplus stores.  You say it’s hot.  What happens when you have to spend the night, and the temps drop.  Yep, it can even snow in the summer in the lower 48.
  4. A waterproof shell (top/bottom). “Rubberized” coated nylon works well when not active; they trap heat when moving versus transferring heat from the body – causing you to sweat. Again, the goal of a layering system is to effectively trap and move heat when necessary. Therefore, we recommend a waterproof-breathable shell layer. Also, it is important to note, there are other options out there on the market that work well besides Gore-Tex, which are far more affordable so we recommend shopping around.
  5. A wool or fleece hat. While it’s a myth that you body loses most of your heat through your head you can transfer a fair amount of heat there if not covered so we recommend throwing one in your pack.

A simple day backpack can provide ample room for all the gear that you will need when things go from bad to worse.

13 Essentials…

The following 13 items should be included in your pack at all times in case of an emergency or if you are unexpectedly caught out overnight.  You may not use all of the essentials on every trip, but they could keep you alive in an emergency.

  1. Topo Map – Let’s face it technology like iPhones and GPS’s are great, but they fail. A topographical map is fail proof method to navigate the backcountry.  Learn how to use the map efficiently or it will add needless weight. Place it in a plastic zip lock bag and carry a pencil to triangulate.
  2. Compass – Get a reliable compass from a name brand like Silva.  Make sure it has  a straight edge.  Know how to use your compass or it is useless weight.
  3. Flashlight – Headlamps are great, but small bright flashlights are sufficient. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your light before you leave and pack enough extra batteries to last your trip.  Many people carry an extra bulb as well.
  4. Knife – Pocket knife, sharpened to your liking.  Multi-tools are great, as are knives with two good blades.
  5. Lighter / Matches – Wooden, strike anywhere matches, waterproofed in a good waterproof container are great.  Lighters can fail if not kept dry.
  6. Fire Starter – Two 3 to 5 inch hard wax candles work well.  In the Inland Northwest we have the great fortune of having birch bark which works great.
  7. Extra Clothing – Bring an extra set of clothing suited to the worst possible conditions you could possibly encounter for the area and time you are visiting.  Including a beanie is a great idea!
  8. Extra Food – High energy foods, such as Power Bars or even a Snicker bar are great.
  9. Water – One liter minimum, and way to treat water is a great idea.
  10. First Aid Kit – There are many good first aid kits available commercially, or you could build one yourself.  Always consider carrying it in a waterproof container.
  11. Sun Protection (sunblock / sunglasses) – Dark lenses with 100% UVA and UVB protection, or nearly so. Zinc oxide or sun block with SPF 15 or higher is preferred.  Waterproof or “sweat proof” sun block recommended.  Don’t forget a sunhat and long sleeve shirts in sunny climates and/or summer seasons.
  12. Emergency Shelter – A small plastic tarp or two large plastic contractor bags will keep the wind and rain off ofyou.
  13. Signal Devices – Many hikers carry a whistle and a mirror.  Discarded CD disks can even make an adequate signaling mirror.  When in survival situation getting found often relies on using other methods beside your voice.

When your lost do the right thing – STOP.

You’re lost, now what?  STOP.

S – top – When you’re lost there is nothing worst that continuing down a route that you “think” may pan out.  It most situations (non-threatening) staying in one location can be best so rescuers can locate you sooner.

T – hink – When you’re in your “reptile brain” it’s pretty easy to go to “fight or flight”.  It’s important to not flip your lid, and stay in your pre-frontal cortex, so you can rationally and logically consider your options at present, and what will be needed to thrive down the road.

O – bserve – Once you are grounded, consider your options.  Do you have enough available resources around you to sustain you and your party, and what can be used?  Are there any actual threats to life or limb which require your immediate attention? What is the best method to signal for rescue?

P – lan – Once you have weighed your options make the most sound plan possible.  Consider all the perceived and actual risks that could result in decisions presented.  When time is available provide ample opportunity to shoot holes in your plan, and re-work to come up with the best plan possible solution that will allow you to thrive until the Calvary arrives.

Backcountry “know-how” goes beyond just having the right gear. You should know how to use it, when, coupled with the right leadership skills. Photo Credit: Seth Quigg

SOLE teaches outdoor living and travel skills such as the ones mentioned here during much of its day-based and expedition-based backcountry programs – in addition we offer stand-alone outdoor skill workshops. For more information on SOLE’s programs and/or to register for an upcoming SOLE Experience go to www.soleexperiences.org or contact us at info@soleexperiences.org or 928.351.SOLE.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

 

A summer of exploring, learning and develop a sense of belonging…

Ten sets of eyes are peeking from behind the trees, and little giggles burst out here and there. We are playing “Camouflage”, which is one of the favorite games for the eleven children in Session III of SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience SM summer camp program. Children ages four through ten are hiding in the forest, looking at the game leader, who is trying to spot them.

“I see you, Rhys!” says Sophia, our current leader. Her brother, a bold four-year-old, comes out smiling from behind his favorite hiding spot.

“What type of tree were you just hiding behind, Rhys?”  Rhys smiles and wiggles and tells me that it’s a western red cedar.  I then ask him, “how do you know that?”.

“Because of the bark, and the way the branches bend!” We high-five, and Rhys whispers to his sister that he can see somebody that she didn’t find yet.

The Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program is a 3 to 5 day place-based experiential education program, designed for children between the ages of four to ten to unplug and reconnect outdoors via exploring and learning in their local natural surroundings. Despite the noted age difference you might say – there’s a method behind the madness.  First, Nature Detectives (ages four to six) attend for the first three days, and Nature Explorers (ages seven to ten) come for full five days.  Secondly, I noticed how beautifully intentional how committed the older children were to their roles as leaders and responded towards their younger peers. When given the opportunity to guide, model, and mentor the younger children Nature Explorers blew me away at every turn.  This also, allowed me to come to appreciate the intentionality of SOLE’s program design.

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“We are very grateful for your program, my son LOVED IT and just couldn’t stop talking about what he was doing each day!”  

~ Junior Naturalist Experience Parent, 2017

The purposeful program structure to provide leadership opportunities for youth in the Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program, and all of SOLE’s programs, is just one example of the intentionality of SOLE’s program design that I have come to appreciate.  The other is the purposeful curricula that they use in the field.

Place-based, experiential education lessons are also blended with outdoor free-play. The children aren’t just hearing about their world they are also seeing, feeling and even smelling the wonders of their natural world while forming long-lasting connections between natural science and positive experiences that they actual choose and create for themeselves with peers.  It is through these teachable moments, that allows youngsters to develop and sustain meaningful relationships and lead their own learning while simutaneously satisfying their individual curiosity, allowing each Junior Naturalists SM to have more than just fun in the forest.

That said, having fun is certainly at the heart of the Junior Naturalist Experience SM program. Through structured games and outdoor free play, students are gaining confidence in themselves, developing social and emotional skills, and getting comfortable spending time the natural world. Free play provides opportunities for children to explore and enjoy their environment in their own personal way; fort building is often very popular when providing opportunity for outdoor free-play.

Speaking of which, we have hiked down a favorite resting spot, and a young boy named James calls to his friends, “Hey everyone! Come see my fort!”

Little heads pop up across the forest floor.

“How many people do you think can fit inside?” calls James.

Time to find out! I help the children over one by one, until eleven sets of bright eyes are peeking out at me.

As a summer Field Instructor, I had a wonderful time exploring North Idaho with all of the Nature Explorers and Nature Detectives during SOLE’s 2017 summer season. As an educator, the opportunity to lead creative, place-based experiential education lessons at both Round Lake State Park and the University of Idaho Extension campus was tremendously rewarding.

In closing, I sincerely appreciate SOLE’s dedication to providing quality experiential education pograms, which was evident every step of the way, from the field to the office.  In the future, I hope to see the relationship between SOLE and the Sandpoint community grow ever more cohesive; who knows maybe the Junior Naturalists that I got to explore and play with this summer will go on to enjoy SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program and even the expedition-based summer programs SOLE offers for teens which could even lead to these young adventurers to creating and leading their own programs for SOLE in the future!

We the Leaders…

Students from a great little alternative high school in rural north Idaho known as Lake Pend Oreille High School embarked on a 5-day SOLE GAP Experience, where they explored and learned as indigenous people and infamous explorers like David Thompson did so many years ago.  Students were exposed to a dynamic intedisciplinary curriculum which focused on developing leadership as a member of a backcountry expedition; developing grit and reslience through the lens of those who traveled before us; and making academic connections through studying river literature written by the likes of Edward Abbey and others.  SOLE partners with schools and programs to design and facilitate experiential education lessons for these transfromational SOLE Experiences SM.  As a part of this program expansion we have decided to launch a brand new Blog Catagory – Adventure Learning – which will showcase students’ work utilizing Photo Voice and other multi-media tools to capture and transfer their learning from the field back into the classroom or urban context.  So sit back with a cup of your favorite coffee (we recommend Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters) and enjoy our student’s first post, We the Leaders… a blog post which captures the perspective of student leadership teams.

Down the River with Lake Pend Oreille High School…

Day 1 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

Our first day began well, with us rousing everyone from their tents early, and getting everyone’s tents and equipment packed up and ready to go, drybags prepped and day bags packed. With little issues in our group, we set out with determination and adventure on our minds. When we got to the rafting company’s compound, we had no issues at all in directing everyone to the bus, and getting underway (other than a little complaining from some sleepy passengers). The rest of the day flowed smoothly, relatively speaking, considering how bumpy and clunky the road to the river itself was. The real challenges to our leadership positions began when we disembarked from the bus, and were confronted with some difficult decisions regarding placement of our group-mates in the rafts and I-Ks, but by gathering everyone together, and talking through it, we were able to come to a compromise, and everyone left that rocky gravel-bar happy with where they were.

Photo Description: Students from LPOHS assist in “rigging out” on the North Fork of the Flathead River, MT.

As far as the actual rafting itself went, not a single notable incident occurred; kayakers were able to switch when they needed to, rafters were able to be in the boats that they were most comfortable in, and by the time we disembarked, everyone was ready for camp. In our struggles to keep everyone on task and active in setting up their tents and camp, Calista and I were able to maintain some semblance of order, but we did run into a few problems; sun-scorched legs, tired teenagers, and miscommunication between ourselves and the rafting company set a few hiccups into motion, but not so much that we weren’t able to keep the night positive and supportive. Overall, the day went well, and through giving attention to both individuals and the group as a whole, we made it a positive learning [experience] and base point from which to continue the entire adventure.

What I am as a Leader…

Zach’s Perspective:

Leaders have many responsibilities, chief among them being the productivity and overall mood of the team they are leading. On this rafting trip, Calista and I were chosen to uphold this responsibility for the first day. Our day was chosen as the one that we would be embarking upon the river itself, so our particular roles were of paramount importance, in both setting the tone for the future leaders of the day, and establishing a chain of command and communication structure between the adult group coordinators and the students. Our leadership style was effective, as performed by individualized attention to issues, indirect intervention to stop issues, and communicating with the group coordinators.

In using personalized attention to individual students, as their issues arose, we were able to maintain a healthy overall group mood, and we were able to address problems before they arose, and we were able to keep the individuals of our group satisfied with the leadership, an important aspect of group efficiency and productivity. An example of this can be found towards the end of the day, when we had a badly-burned group member that needed extra attention and care, and we were able to make that happen by getting him what he needed, and getting him back into the group to participate the same night.

Indirect intervention was another method that I personally used to help the group, by using delegation to create a feeling of self-improvement in the group, such as when I asked people to make tough decisions on their own, like sitting next to someone they didn’t particularly like, and letting them decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to participate in the group. Using these methods was healthy for both individuals, and the group, as by letting people make their own decisions, they can be more confident and lead themselves towards a better day.

The most important aspect of leadership with the way our team did things was the communication between the adults and the group. Through constant checking in and maintaining a clear set of instructions and voiced opinions and commands, we were able to make sure that everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and gave them the means and capabilities of fulfilling those responsibilities.

Calista’s Perspective:

The day I was leader wasn’t really productive on my part. First Zach and I cleaned the our first camp site at the park then we left for our trip. After our 2 hour ride to the spot to go rafting I made sure that everyone had sunscreen on before we went rafting. I tried to make sure everyone went to the raft they were supposed to be at but they weren’t listening to me very well. The whole day I didn’t lead very well because I didn’t know what to do. The group said I should’ve used my voice which is true. As a leader you need to do a lot for the group in order for everyone to stay on track. Leaders are supposed to be there for people and try to find a way

Day 2 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

The leadership roles in outdoors can be very different than in an indoor space, this trip has taught both of us how to learn the difference but apply them both directly in the right spaces at the right times. Even though me and my partner have both leadership styles, combining them helps with our accomplishments to be leaders of the day. We were leaders of the day, on the second day.  We worked together as a team, and friends which helps put trust, and respect to everyone who is around us.

Photo Description: To cement learning targets students reflected and journaled daily.

The very first day we weren’t leaders, two other people were but they didn’t communicate too well. They were an [organized and efficient] group when they did talk to each other about what was going on but when they didn’t it was a little messy. We learned from the mistake, not that they did anything wrong, but that it they would have worked a little better with that advice so we used that to our advantage for our next day. They spent the rest of the night when we had our group circle talking about how our day went and what could have been better. They talked about how Calista should use her voice more often, and how Zach needs to try and help Calista do that.

The second day, we were leaders. We woke up, a little earlier than usual so we could talk to the teachers and group guides about how the day was going to go. We wrote down what everyone was hoping to get, if it was kayaks, or if it was sitting arrangements on the rafts. Garrett helped anyone who was having problems with whatever it may be, when we were writing everything down. Even though we didn’t communicate the whole time, starting out the day communicating helped a lot and we didn’t need to take a break to talk to each other about what the plan was every five minutes. When we had short breaks when we stopped for a snack or lunch to hydrate and eat so we can stay healthy on the river.

The third day, others were leaders of the day and we weren’t anymore. Even though we weren’t the leaders of the day we still helped out our part and more, we tried help to organize the new leaders of the day to help them understand what they’re doing. They weren’t exact “friends or companions” but they did do well trying to be together and get trust built between them and the other students. They did an exceptional job, we thought because they worked past their differences and kept strong for the whole day.

The fourth day, we still took handle over helping the new leaders of the day because we felt as if we did an okay job the last day. We are both put in the “style” of leadership of Spontaneous Motivators. So we want to help the new leaders of the day get a hang of it, and help be the best leaders they can be. Through the whole time, we guided more than we planned too.

Even though we were leaders of the day only on one day, we helped others more and assisted them to do what the teachers and guides wanted. We both learned many new leadership skills, and even though [our day] was only one, we learned that leadership skills apply in everyday life no matter where the situation is.

Photo Description: As we stand/sit in our circle learning about the background of the river we are rafting. We used teamwork to focus, and stay on task while this was being taught.

What I am as a Leader…

Kendra’s Perspective:

Spontaneous Motivator was my leadership “style”, which means I use my voice and I usually motivate people to try and get things done. My leadership “day” with Garrett went very well. We worked well together and had trust with each other, teachers, and the raft guides. Even though Garrett and I have the same style of leadership, we did exceptionally well as a team to the other students around us. While he was taking care of one thing, I would hop onto whatever else was needed. If we’d talk about something that involved our fellow students we’d take into consideration of their feelings and wants and help to try and get what was most appropriate for them. We would keep in mind that even though our students have “wants” we also needed to do what’s best for our students and teachers.

“I absolutely loved this trip, and wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I am very glad I have put effort into going, and starting leadership. I am going to use this in my next school year in my classrooms when people aren’t cooperating with teachers, or other students and might be struggling to do their work. I am excited to bring the stragedy of leadership into my school, and own household.” ~ Kendra

Garrett’s Perspective:

My [Leader of the Day] experience went fantastic, when I had a suggestion, people would willingly listen to me and when we made adjustments to the raft set up everyone understood and no one complained. At lunch we switched out to other students and then we put two different students in a raft and everyone was willing to make the switch. Kendra was the only one who had everyone arranged and figured out. If she wasn’t one of the leaders of the day I wouldn’t have been as great of a leader.

Photo Caption: Sitting at our daily circle talking to each other about how our day went and how we could improve the next day.

I also figured out that I am a Spontaneous Motivator, they are often like light bulbs. “Groups need this function to sparkle, create, prod, stir the pot, and impassion. A group without this style may be functional, but somewhat lackluster. When mature people with this style choose to be detached and monitor their emotional involvement, this is highly effective. If too much of this style is present in a leader, a group can be overly reactive or so impassioned about their ideals that they lose touch with other realities. Interestingly, many charismatic leaders and cult leaders come from this quadrant.” (NOLS, 2009).  I could agree with this in many ways, I can apply these characteristics to my leadership style, and I can put this into my school year this upcoming year, because our school needs many styles of leadership and I will fill one as a Spontaneous Motivator.  I can motivate by using my positive influence and to help motivate others by doing it first and saying I could  use some help.

Day 3 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

On the day that we were meant to lead, Thursday July 13th, we weren’t quite prepared mentally so it could’ve been a better day. With a few minor seating issue the day set off with a rocky start, but slowly started to get better as we got used to being leaders. Everyone was listening to what we had to say until pull out at lunch.There were a few minor mishaps with the person’s arrangements but they were quickly resolved. Throughout the day the leaders were mostly unneeded, however we did what we could. Our ideas as different types of leaders was somewhat of a challenge, however we gritted it out and found a way to collaborate efficiently and effectively.

Students had ample time to reflect and learn while floating down the North Fork of the Flathead.

The day began rather slowly. Mason woke up early as usual and had his usual hot chocolate. By the time the others had to be woken up everyone began waking up. After the breakfast of eggs the assigning of rafts had some troubles. This wasn’t the best start to the day but there wasn’t much we could do. Even so we continued trying to make the best of the day. During our lunch break we had the same problem as this morning with persons arrangements, mostly in the I.K.’s(Inflatable Kayaks) which we resolved much faster due to the knowledge from the same mishaps that  morning. Throughout the day we each contributed a small amount to all others. When we finally made camp our leaderships were needed a small amount more. Despite the small rough spots in the day we endured enough to see it through as leaders.

“Overall the experience is something indescribable, and I would recommend to up and coming students who want a memory making experience.  The rafting trip was an overall happy time to bond and form unbreakable teamwork and cooperation amongst friends and teachers.” ~ Mason

What I am as a Leader…

Arron’s Perspective:

Being Leader of the Day on the rafting trip at Glacier National Park was an interesting experience. I myself am not really a natural loud leader. I prefer to lead from a sideline area using intelligence to plan what to do before acting out what I’m going to do. Even after all my planning I usually let someone else enact my vision, someone with a louder more social perspective. On this trip two classmates and myself were assigned to lead one of the days in this week long trip. I had been collaborating with my two teammates the night before our day in hopes to have at least a partial plan going into our day. Liam and I had were setting up our vision when it came to the inflatable kayaks as per the fact that we had few and everyone want a spot on one. When it came to our day I must admit I wasn’t being any sort of leader I got up late didn’t do my duty of cooking. Overall it was a slow start. Then we were getting on the rafts and there was some confusion because liam and I had told people different things I said Ed was in my boat and liam said his, now we eventually figured this out and continued the day. However another bump was hit in the day after lunch while figuring out who gets the kayak people were angry cause Liam had told three separate people they could use the kayak even though there was only one spot, but after a short time we had decided on a person that got to ride less than the others to ride. We did an activity to show what type of leader we were I got Relationship Master which means your basicly a kind person leading as a friend almost which I disagree with because I believe I am an Analyst Architect which mean you think before you do, gather facts plan and use intellect to lead, which several times in the day I showed these qualities.  I plan to take this and [apply] it to my school by trying to [be] fair and help others think logicaly to better our school.

Mason’s Perspective:

I usually refrain from taking a leadership position due to the amount of possible failures and judgements upon my choices, however when I am thrust into a such position I adapt and take complete control. I don’t like doing it, but sometimes it must be done. In a situation like the one I had with multiple other leaders I didn’t need to, so I chose to lead by example as is my direct alternative. I am generalised into the group of analytical architect. This means that I am more prone to think on decisions and analyze all possible outcomes and repercussions, but this isn’t exactly what I did. I tried to be more active and physical to compensate for the downsides of the other leaders who were more verbally dominant as leaders, whom i collaborated my thoughts with. I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly the leader I wanted to be nor was I the one that everyone needed, but I guess it cannot be undone. My hope is that I can apply the techniques I learned from the other leaders in other areas in the future such as school and work. For example I may need to solve an ongoing problem. My ability to analyze and think about a situation would lead me to have an advanced outlook upon the possibilities of each move I make to resolve the issue.

Photo Description: Students reflect on the river life by reading, Down the River by Edward Abbey.

Liam’s Perspective:

My experience was surreal. A lot of people had their mindset on how they thought about each other. However it was through this trip that everyone has a different opinion about each other. With this being a leader with this new knowledge about each other it was easy to help accommodate with each other’s personality. My Noze Doze Leader style is Spontaneous Motivator. Which is, I’m often trying to voice my ideas and are very entitled to them and not open to confrontations.  With all these leadership styles not only did we have to lead the other students, but we had to lead each other.  And, with that it took real responsibility from everyone when it was their time to be [Leader of the Day], so everyone was determined and excited.

Day 4 Leaders of the Day (LOD) Summation:

Dusty, Joel and Chris were very good leaders on Friday, the last day of the trip. It was probably one of the most laid back days for being a Leader’s of the Day. We thought that for more than just one reason, not only was it a short day but it also got to experience how other leaders of the day handled every one else so we were kind of in the loop on how to help and lead everyone. It also helped that everyone knew how it felt to not be heard so they all were listening pretty well and were cool about it.  It was a long week and we saw many things on [and off] the water like when everyone was a leader kept a special eye out for the other students. So in all we got to experience something with great people.

Photo Description: During this SOLE Experience students made lasting memories and formed newed friendships along the river.

What I am as a Leader…

Chris’s Perspective:

I am a very good leader because I am part of the Architects & Analysts  group from the No-Doze Leadership Style graph. I think it’s true because I like information and speak my opinions. Like when as a leader I seem to be the one who works out the plans [and then] inform everyone.  

Joel’s Perspective:

I found out that I was Relationship Master which shocked everyone but I believe that it actually suits me because in a group situation I try not to be myself because I don’t think people will respect me or will take advantage of that. But an example would be when Dennison tried to slide on a log and rolled his kayak, and I asked him immediately if he was ok.  In the school setting it will be helpful when dealing with whether or not a teacher needs space, so I can help not set myself up for failure.

Dusty’s Perspective:

During the No-Doze class I found that I am a Spontaneous Motivator which means My leadership tends toward motivating and energizing others; however, I have a tendency to become very set in my ways, not wanting others to alter my plans. That said, working with Joel and Christian, I didn’t encounter these issues. For example when one of us had an idea we all discussed it  as a team before we talked to everyone. Like when we unloaded the raft we told everyone as a group to help unload and organize everything and it got done correctly and efficiently. At school this leadership style will help me to motivate people to do there work and not get in trouble which is helpful coming from a peer that struggles in the same way.

Photo Description: No Doze in action! Students participate in an experiential lesson to learn Situational Leadership Theory.

Photo Description: The 4 Quadrants in the No Doze Leadership Lesson.

 

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sandpoint, Idaho — SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition.

Since 2013, Sandpoint-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) has immersed over 1,700 local area youth in their local wild landscapes to explore and learn.  SOLE has quickly become a noteworthy regional resource through providing intentional and transformational experiential education programs for underserved youth in rural communities in north Idaho and beyond.

Recognition for SOLE’s contribution to rural communities throughout the Inland Northwest went to new heights this past winter during the 12th Annual Backcountry Film Festival where SOLE’s film SnowSchool: Exploring Our Winter Wildlands  was listed and shown as a finalist in this annual international film at over 100 showings world wide!  Highlighting, SOLE’s novel and transfromatioanl approach to SnowSchool, the nation’s largest on-snow snow science and winter ecology program.  This film showcases not only the attributes of SOLE, and their novel interdisciplinary place-based experiential education programs, but also the proven partnerships that support our mission.  Noted partners include, the Winter Wildlands Alliance National SnowSchool Program, Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC), Lake Pend Oreille School District, Coeur d’Alene School District, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Silver Mountain, Panhandle Alliance for Education, Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation.

In May 2017, recognition for SOLE went a step further when Boise-based, Winter Wildlands Alliance acknowledged SOLE as a National Flagship SnowSchool Site.  Out of the 60 SnowSchool sites nationally, which serve over 32,000 youth annually, only two sites have received this noteworthy accolade.  Recognition was based on continued program development, staff development and training, as well as, SOLE’s novel place-based experiential education and project-based learning curricula.  

See SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program in action in the film highlighted in the 2016-2017 Backcountry Film Festival in the link below:

For more information on SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience view the link below:

https://www.soleexperiences.org/fieldwork-experiences/snowschool-experiences/

For more info:

Dennison Webb, MA
Founder | Executive Director
928.351.SOLE(7653) | dennison.webb@soleexperiences.org

Why is outdoor free play important for your child?

Since inception SOLE has facilitated programs which highlights outdoor free play for youth. From exploring a wetland with peers during our Stewardship Experience program, or just getting ‘down and dirty’  building a fort in our Junior Naturalist Experience summer programs, youth are constantly immersed in natural learning environments where they are able to freely explore their local wildlands while also learning about the natural systems which exist.  

When at SOLE outdoor free play provides the ideal ‘habitat’ to develop the whole child.

Even with our intentionally-designed curricula as the framework, youth are consistently provided unstructured outdoor play, or as it is commonly known free play, during most SOLE Experiences SM which starts in our programs for youth 4 years of age.  While our organization is an obvious proponent for purposeful experiential and outdoor education curricula, we also actively support personal and group exploration outdoors.  At SOLE, free play can be considered as moments where youth naturally engage with themselves and their peers without direct facilitation.  It is in these moments when youth really heighten their emotional, social, physical and mental well being.

Getting ‘down & dirty’ during a Junior Naturalist Experience at SOLE!

Free play is capable of developing the executive control center of our brains at an early age.  In fact, it’s been shown to have a negative impact on children’s brain development when they are removed from this critical learning environment.  As we dig into it bit further, we can naturally see how developing higher order skills like critical-thinking and problem solving can occur without direct facilitation from simple endeavors like building a fort with a friend. It’s not to say that a deeper level of comprehension of lesson objectives cannot be attained through effective facilitation – it can. However, there is still much to be said for those opportunities where individuals take ownership of their learning process and freely explore the moments, especially those in nature. And the benefits do not stop there.1

When exploring what’s ‘out there’ we engage our physical self into wild landscapes.

Free play promotes physical well-being. Current research shows the decline in outdoor and physical activity for youth, including free play opportunities. There is also a growing body of evidence, which shows the correlation between the decrease in physical outdoor activity and childhood obesity. Also, there are current studies that show that children are most physically active when provided these very opportunities.2

Another benefit is supporting positive attention. In fact, when children are provided the opportunity to immerse themselves in outdoor free play, they are often more attentive and respectful when re-entering a more structure learning setting.

Also, free play provides the opportunity for actual social engagement and character development. Establishing and maintaining friendships is a tremendous outcome of free play. By providing opportunity for children to freely engage their peers is naturally how we learn to relate – an essential life skill.  Children are also learning from their failures, and mistakes allowing them to develop the 7 C’s of Resilience a cornerstone of most SOLE programs.  These essential life skills have also been directly linked to future positive outcomes, including academic achievement. 3

It’s kind of hard to NOT have a good time, when you’re getting ‘down and dirty’ with your friends!

Lastly, is the shift in affect, which is achieved through free play. Children who experience free play are naturally happy.  And isn’t that how children should be?  They are doing what they want, how they want.  Hey, don’t get me wrong I am NOT saying that we should hold boundaries and set-limits with youth, however, there is often space for them to explore that which is inherently valuable – their own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Whether it’s genuine happiness, or cognitive development, the importance of outdoor free play is undeniable.   SOLE will continue to provide opportunities for children to engage in this manner. With an increase in actual “screen time” the importance of providing these opportunities is paramount. If not now, when?  And what will the outcome be if we do not provide these opportunities?

Youth can engage in this manner in summer and school programs, including those listed below.  All summer programs are currently open for registration and enrolling strong.  For more information and/or to register for upcoming SOLE Experiences simply click on one of the programs below or go to our registration form to begin your process.  Feel free to contact us if you have any other questions or needs!

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See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

1 http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/485902

https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/02/15/how-free-play-can-define-kids-success/

Why enroll your child in a summer program with SOLE!

A recent study showed that youth are now spending (9) non-school related hours per day, that’s (63) hours per week connected to a media device1! Add school projects and homework and we are developing a concerning phenomena.   ReWild your child in SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience program, or let your teen go on an outdoor adventure of a lifetime in SOLE’s Teen Trek Experience program this summer!  Why? Well let’s take a closer look.

Thanks to brain mapping, we now have evidence that youth and adolescent brains are actually quite sensitive and malleable to external stimuli.  In fact, the adolescent brain has the opportunity to establish essential memory pathways during those years of development, like those related to what are considered executive functions (e.g., higher order processing skills).

Photo credit: Ucla.edu3

During this time, the brain also has the ability to get rid of unnecessary neurons through a process known as neural pruning, which is actually quite similar to getting rid of unproductive limbs on a fruit tee.  As neuroscientist Donald Hebb said, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”2  So, in short, if you don’t use it, you loose it. Because youth are spending an extraordinary amount of time “wired in” to media sources (like social media) they are essentially hard-wiring their brain to function in this fashion, and as a result, expect to receive and process information accordingly.  So you might so so what’s the big deal?

Well, simply put the ‘virtual’ cognitive processes aren’t always applicable in ‘real world’ contexts.  For example, navigating real world problems often requires intellectual flexibility, patience, resilience, and emotional regulation.  When our brains are rewarded in a simple and quick fashion ala ‘how many likes we have’ it presents a false sense of reality – that our end goal is quick and succinct.  This is obviously far from the norm.  Additionally, consider the social deficits that we reinforce as someone continually ‘looks down’ to communicate and relate.  Research is now showing increases in social anxiety, poor communication skills, emotional dysregulation, inattentiveness, and other mental, physical and behavioral health issues all due to being ‘disconnected’ through technology3.  Let’s shift to a cause and effect relationship.

If an animal is constantly fed by humans it becomes habituated – relying on those food sources to sustain their existence.  When released into the wild, they can’t function because they have been conditioned to live a certain way.   The human brain is not much different.  When utilizing technology in an unhealthy fashion, our brain becomes habituated – a creature of habit – expecting to give and receive information a certain way.

Pediatricians, neuroscientists, and youth development experts agree that our youth require diverse and intentional experiences ‘unplugged’ to help them grow into healthy adults.  SOLE’s transformational experiential education programs provides the essential ingredients to explore, achieve, and lead throughout the year.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 Reasons to immerse your child in a natural learning environment with SOLE this summer:

  1. Unplug to reconnect!  Providing an opportunity for your child to take a break from the TV, their smart phone, iPad, and social media accounts allows them to rediscover their creative powers through their natural senses.  This allows them to connect to the real world, with real people, through real activities, and therefore, forge real thoughts and emotions, as well as develop real relationships with others and their environment.
  2. Reconnect with our natural world!  Nature Deficit Disorder is a real condition, which has real consequences.  Summer outdoor experience provides the ideal setting to address nature deficit, and therefore, support  healthy child development.
  3. Develop executive functions!  Can you imagine going on a road trip without a map? Executive functions provide the essential ingredients to plan, organize, problem-solve, and cope when faced with challenges along the way.  SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting for youth to develop these and other executive controls.
  4. Get physically active! As shown in the intro above, youth spend a significant amount of time today just sitting inside, sedentary, and wired-in.  Doing so has a negative impact on personal well-being.  After all, humans were not designed to be sedentary beings.  Through SOLE’s summer programs, and accompanying experiential curricula youth are provided the ideal setting to be physical activity through continuous experiential games and/or activities from start to finish in a fun and engaging fashion allowing the ideal setting to address this deficiency in a novel manner.
  5. Competence yields confidence! SOLE intentionally designs experiential/outdoor education curricula that allows program participants to develop and master outdoor and academic skills while simultaneously building self-confidence and self-esteem through active coaching and a peer-based culture grounded on a safe and positive learning environment.  This provides the ideal setting to take a risk, learn from your failures, and master skills.
  6. Become flexible and resilient! The reality in the ‘real world’ is that it doesn’t always go as we expect it to.  Being successful in life requires that we execute flexibility to adapt to the various stressors that life presents us.  Additionally, it is important that youth develop resilience.  Life chews us up and spits us out sometimes.  The more resilience that we are able to develop in our younger years, the better we are able to endure challenging setbacks.  SOLE’s summer programs provide a healthy dose of challenges that require youth develop these essential skills.
  7. Free time & unstructured play! Picture this.  You hike all day and arrive at a beautiful alpine lake, surrounding by mountains.  Untouched beauty.  In addition, to the other benefits of SOLE’s summer program offerings.  Our programs provide a natural setting to relax, laugh, and make long lasting friendships.  Free time & unstructured play also provide the opportunity for youth to tap into their creative and problem-solving skills which is why we intentionally place this time into our our summer programs, including our Junior Naturalist Experience programs.
  8. Develop meaningful relationships! SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting to develop meaningful relationships with newly found friends, your surrounding natural world, even with yourself.  Our programs provide real world shared experiences without distraction fostering the opportunity to develop sincere and meaningful connections.
  9. Develop essential life skills!  During our programs we often share with our participants — it’s what happens AFTER the SOLE Experience that counts.  In other words, the skills that are mastered and the lessons learned are applicable well-beyond ‘out there’ and can be transferred and generalized into a ‘real world’ setting.  To do so,
  10. Grow independence! – SOLE’s summer programs provide the ideal setting for youth to make their own decisions without parents and teachers in the mix.  Making choices where there is a direct cause and effect relationship can foster independence and related benefits.  SOLE Field Instructors facilitate experiential programs that provide these and other ‘teachable moments’ for program participants.

Oh yeah, it’s good ‘ole fashion fun!

SOLE’s summer programs are uniquely positioned to foster healthy youth development.  SOLE’s summer programs are also the perfect partner for schools, families, youth groups, organizations, agencies, or community centers provide holistic education that yields an increase in personal self confidence and independence, problem-solving and decision-making skills, social and emotional skills, personal and character development – all in positive learning environment under the supervision of positive adult role models with formal experience and education.

So we hope your family will join us this summer as we venture out there!

 

Ready to get started?  Click on one of the SOLE Experiences SM below!

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