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

SOLE Ramps Up for Another Winter Season!

It’ll be here before you know it, that little white stuff will fall from the sky and begin to shape our landscape into a winter wonderland!  As such, we are already in high-gear ramping up for another great winter season.  So check out what we have in store for our 2015-2016 winter season thus far.

 

 

 

For starters, we will continue and expand our SnowSchool Experience SM programIMG_6562 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort where we will offer a novel K-12 place-based experiential education curriculum which will focuses on the (5) cornerstones of snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, outdoor living, and outdoor leadership.  During the 2015-2016 winter season our Schweitzer SnowSchool Experience SM site is positioned to serve over 300 + youth this winter – resulting in over 2,400 hours of transformational experiential education programming outdoors for North Idaho youth!   It should be noted, as part of this effort SOLE will be working with the brand-spanking new Clark Fork Junior High School / High School Outdoor Track, which we are really excited about! In addition, SOLE personnel are in the process of developing several pilot programs at our new field campuses at Lookout Pass, and Mt. Spokane.  More information will be shared as development continues, so please check back often.

Learn more about our SnowSchool Experience SM program by going here.  

DSCN0357In addition, SOLE is looking forward to continue to offer avalanche education program offerings for our local and regional stakeholders.  These courses will include our AIARE Level 1, and AIARE Level 2 Courses, as well as, several new course offerings.  During our Level 1 weekends, SOLE will also offer a AIARE Level 1 Refresher for those looking to freshen up their winter backcountry skills.  In addition, for the average outdoor enthusiasts (i.e., snowmobilers, snowshoers, etc.) looking to just become more ‘backcountry aware’ in the winter we will be offering Avalanche Awareness Courses.

Learn more about our Avalanche Education Experience SM program by going here.  

To help us design, coordinate, and facilitate these high quality transformational experiences we are very excited to announce that will be partnering with various organizations, business and have even extended the SOLE family to include some exceptional Field Instructors, including AIARE Course Leader and Director of the Wallowa Avalanche Center, Kip Rand.  To learn more about him and the rest of our Field Instructors please go here, and be sure to check back frequently as we continue to deepen our winter faculty pool.