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!

may

No Events

june

10jun(jun 10)9:00 am14(jun 14)5:00 pmLEAD Experience | Closed ProgramLeader of the Day (LOD) Experience | Idaho Vocational Rehabilitation (15-18 y/o)9:00 am - 5:00 pm (14) Chewelah Peak Learning Center

17jun(jun 17)9:00 am19(jun 19)3:00 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | OpenJunior Naturalist Experience | Nature Detective: Session I (4-6 y/o)9:00 am - 3:00 pm (19) Round Lake State Park

july

15jul(jul 15)9:00 am17(jul 17)3:00 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | OpenJunior Naturalist Experience | Nature Detective: Session II (4-6 y/o)9:00 am - 3:00 pm (17) Round Lake State Park

15jul(jul 15)9:00 am19(jul 19)5:00 pmLEAD Experience | OPEN ProgramLeader of the Day (LOD) Experience | OPEN9:00 am - 5:00 pm (19) Idaho | Montana

22jul(jul 22)9:00 am27(jul 27)5:00 pmFeaturedLEAD Experience | Open ProgramTeen Trek Experience | Exploratory Trek | Male-Specific (13-17 y/o)9:00 am - 5:00 pm (27) PST Cabinet Mountains, Montana

august

05aug(aug 5)9:00 am10(aug 10)5:00 pmFeaturedLEAD Experience | Open ProgramTeen Trek Experience | Empowermnt Trek | Female-Specific (13-17 y/o)9:00 am - 5:00 pm (10) PST Cabinet Mountains, Montana

12aug(aug 12)9:00 am14(aug 14)3:00 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | OpenJunior Naturalist Experience | Nature Detective: Session III (4-6 y/o)9:00 am - 3:00 pm (14) Round Lake State Park

september

No Events

october

No Events

Dennison Webb, MA
Founder | Executive Director

 

 

Kersting, T. Disconnected: How to reconnect our digitally distracted kids.

https://ottawamindfulnessclinic.com/2010/05/06/neural-pruning/

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-teenage-brain-on-social-media

Be Bear Aware

As spring, summer, and fall arrives, it is a beautiful time to explore our local wildlands and is feasting time for all creatures – great and small – including our local bears.  As such, it’s imperative that we take Bear Aware principles with us into as we journey into the backcountry to bike, hike, paddle, camp, hunt or fish.

In the fall of 2016 several grizzly attacks occurred in Montana (see video here – caution graphic material).  This encounter happened on the heels of two other additional grizzly attacks of hunters in the same state.  What was once a rarity (to see a grizzly in the wild, western backcountry) is becoming more prevalent due to the success in the conservation of the species, and the loss of habitat that it calls home.   In addition, black bears can also be troublesome and often more unpredictable and can lead to unwanted encounters.  Whatever the species, it is imperative that when we venture into the wild, we must remain vigilant and be bear aware.  

Each season poses its own potential risk. When spring emerges hibertating bears awake from their slumber on the search for one thing on mind – food. Because bears are frankly hungry, travelers should use caution when traveling into bear country. Consider the following considerations when hiking or camping in bear country, and if you do so you will be equipped and ready with a solid wildland ethic. Like spring, fall bears are quite active – storing reserves for their upcoming hibernation.  Folks often aren’t sure how to minimize their contact with a bear when exploring our wild landscapes.  So, to assist with this, we will share some Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics  that we utilize (and teach) in the field, which are supported by our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.  We hope this information will help you minimize and mitigate this risk, and allow you to enjoy the remaining days of fall in the backcountry.  So let’s get started!

 Plan Ahead and Prepare:

As the first, of 7 Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles, Plan Ahead and Prepare often serves as the foundation.  It is a really good idea to spend some time and review the specific wildlife regulations for the area that you will be visiting, and even calling the land management agency of where you will be visiting.  Some questions to consider when doing so:

  • Do you require bear canisters and/or require that you store your food and other “smellables” in a particular manner?
  • Has there been any recent bear activity in the area that you will be visiting?

The old adage, a fed bear, is a dead bear” is true.  When we travel in the backcountry it is essential to minimize bears encounters and their contact with human food.  Once bears have been introduced with human food they will continually seek it out as an easier food source, leading to continued encounters.  This is called habituation. On most occasions, this leads to a bear being “taken down” (e.g., killed).  This also includes selecting appropriate campsites, disposing of waste properly, considering appropriate food / smellable storage, and overall respecting wildlife.

Choosing an Appropriate Campsite:

BearmudaTriangle_0.jpg

A good consideration is to local open space areas to camp versus those that are densely vegetated to allow for more awareness for both you and the bear of each other’s presence.  In addition, you may consider the “bear”muda triangle (see image to the right), which positions your cooking, shelter, and food storage area 100 yards from each other.

Dispose of Waste Properly & Appropriate Food / Smellable Storage:

bearhang

Another important LNT Principle is Dispose of Waste Properly.  This can affect whether or not we lure in one of our furry friends, and can be counterproductive.  For example, while broadcasting grey-water may be a common practice when considering this principle, it can also spread the odor when doing so on land.  Not ideal in grizzly country.  Therefore, other considerations can include digging a sump (6-8″ deep) to dispose of grey-water from cooking, cleaning and brushing teeth. Read more from our partners at Leave No Trace here.

When considering storing food and “smellable” items (i.e., sunscreen, toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, chapstick, etc.) some land management agencies in bear country allow backcountry users to utilize bear hangs (see image left) in lieu of bear canisters.

If you do decide to go old school, and “hang a bear bag”, there are definitely some considerations to take.  You’ll need to consider an appropriate set-up, including specific location, appropriate distance (e.g., minimum of 5′ x 5′ x 12′), durable “bear bags”, rope, and some know how.  Review some additional tips from The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics here and check out the image above to help get you started.  In addition, if you choose the bear hang method, make sure that the area that you are visiting actually has trees!  Alpine areas like those with tundra where bears can frequent do not, so you’ll need to make adjustments to your bear storage considerations.

If the terrain you will be traveling in is not advantageous to a bear hang and/or the land management agency does not allow bear hangs in their food storage allowances, you will have to either purchase or rent a bear canister.  There are several great models, and if you don’t want to purchase one and won’t use it frequently you can actually rent them for a nominal fee from a land management agency or gear shop.  After all, they are kind of spendy!  If you decide to go this route and are venturing into the our neck of the woods, in the Selkirks, Purcells, or Cabinets feel free to contact us to rent one directly from us!

Respect Wildlife:

As one of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, and an awareness of what exists out there, one might think it should go without saying – Respect Wildlife.  Still it’s worth noting.  Here are some tips to assist you in doing just that.

  1. When traveling in bear country make noise!  Yelling, “Hey Bear!” is the go-to, but should be done on average of once every 5 – 10 seconds.  Some people recommend every 30, however, you can carry a lot of ground in 30 seconds and your voice doesn’t carry too far in dense vegetation or near a noisy mountain creek.  In addition, when entering dense vegetation, around blind corners, and near loud creeks we recommend to also add some clapping to really let you presence be known.  One of the main contributing factors to unwanted bear encounters is alarming a bear, and catching them off guard.  Not a great scenario, especially when it’s a healthy sow with cubs.  While we all love to have those pristine, peaceful moments in the wild, it’s important that when traveling in bear country to also minimize encounters for their sake and yours.
  2. Travel in groups of 4 or more.  It has statistically been shown that hiking in groups of four or more is safer while traveling in griz country, however one could argue that it may be a wise practice in any type of bear country.
  3. View at a distance.  Bears can cover a large distance in a short amount of time.  While they are amazing to view in the wild, putting real estate between you and a big ‘ole bruin is a good thing, so use binoculars at a distance.  To give you some perspective, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service a grizzly can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds, or 40 miles and hour.  That’s faster than a racehorse over short distances!  Learn more bear encounter facts from the Fish and Wildlife Service  here.
  4. Effective use of bear spray to deter an encounter!  Bear spray has proven itself to be quite effective, and often the last resort.  However, it is only as effective as the actual user.  We recommend that you research what type of bear spray to purchase, and educate yourself on how to use it.  Here is a great little introductory video from Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA) on how to use bear spray effectively, and here is a great powerpoint from the United States Geological Survey on bear spray.  Also here is an excellent blog entry written by Todd Wilkinson that shares evidence-based research on bear encounters and the use of bear spray.

Blog support from our partners at The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: http://www.lnt.org

For more information and to become more backcountry savvy, consider taking one of SOLE’s Leave No Trace Courses, or design your own!  These courses allow participants to learn and master these skills in the environment that they will be traveling in.

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