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

Exploring SOLE’s Junior Naturalist program…

SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience SM program offers a rich environment for developing a love of and stewardship for nature, strengthening self-esteem and confidence, and building leadership and outdoor skills.  Centered on a healthy balance of unstructured free-play and experiential place-based education, children are able to develop cognitive and social skills while also experiencing a rich interdisciplinary curricula that allows children to become immersed in the magic of their community’s natural resources.

Children walk away with a profound reverence for nature and exploration that they can carry into their future.  The skills they learn in the Junior Naturalist Experience SM program will help them solve real-world problems, become a stronger team member, strengthen themselves physically and mentally, and share compassion for all things living.

We have noticed that families that have offered their children this experience has enriched the whole family.  From scientific findings to lessons integrated in folklore and silly games – children bring home the fun and transferable lessons from their Junior Naturalist Experience SM.

My participation in instructing SOLE Junior Naturalist Experiences SM this summer has been one of great joy.  Sharing my passion for nature is something I have studied for and dreamed of.  After leading many different camps for various organizations, I find that SOLE offers the liberty to build a unique and creative curriculum with the flexibility to follow the children’s interests and other learning opportunities that inherently arise.

See you out there,
Hallie Reikowsky
Field Instructor

Click the following link to learn more about our Junior Naturalist Experience SM program.  Click the following link to learn more about Hallie or other SOLE Field Instructors.

A fresh perspective from the field…

Ever since I started working with SOLE I have learned so much about others, as well as myself.  My first experience with SOLE was in 2014 when I was enrolled as a student on a SOLE GAP Experience SM with Lake City High School in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.  This snow-based experiential education program provided exposure to the basics of snow science for myself and 10 other peers.  We learned the importance of Snow Water Equivalency (SWE), how to measure it within the snowpack, and how it (and other factors) effect the stability of the snow-pack.  Most notably, I learned that I was a very influential leader.  Another part of the program that has truly stuck with me from then on is how leadership styles and roles can vary and adjust to the given situation.  Examples include using a more direct leadership style when something needs to get done right away or to delegate to provide more group-related ownership and provide additional leadership opportunities for my peers.

Some time after this experience I was offered an opportunity to develop my skills as a Field Instructor for SOLE.  During the summer of 2015 this process began during a SOLE Journey Experience SM when I accepted the offer and packed my backpack for a 16 day trip into the Cabinet Mountains of Montana.  During this SOLE Experience SM  the other Field Instructor and I helped a 15 year old boy with finding his true self as well as learning outdoor skills. For a student it may be hard to see how setting up camp every day relates to the real world.  It is simple from an instructor’s point of view. It shows determination, organization, time management, repetition, and that it is okay to ask for help! But what I took away from that trip is appreciation. Appreciation has taught me that I grew up a very lucky child to have such a strong family. Since my trip I have not let that mindset slip away from me.

In the Summer of 2016 I was on another 16 day Journey Experience, this time with a 19 year old as the student. This trip was designed to assist this individual with Executive Functioning skills.  The 19 year young man, was able to accomplish amazing feats that even he thought he could never do due to his defined diagnosis and self-limiting beliefs.  As a Field Instructor I grew immensely as I gained the knowledge and power to view things in a new perspective.  Instead of seeing a student struggle and enabling them to complete a task and providing instant gratification, I made the conscious choice to allow them to problem solve for themselves, and use the learning strategies that we had been working with him to develop.  This approach allowed the student to feel much more accomplished in the end, and have a better understanding of how to approach a challenging situation in the future.

As a Field Instructor for SOLE, I love my job and enjoy seeing the growth-oriented outcomes of the participants I get to work with in the end. It is a job where I can wake up every day excited to help others help themselves, and then develop the essential leadership skills to help others.

“You know how to understand, but you need to understand how to know.”- Cody Jahns

See you out there,
Cody Jahns
Field Instructor