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!

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!

december

No Events

january

07jan8:00 am5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open ProgramAIARE Avalache Rescue Course | Ski/Board | Backcountry / Lodge-Based | Co-Ed8:00 am - 5:00 pm PST Downing Mountain Lodge

08jan(jan 8)8:00 am10(jan 10)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open ProgramAIARE Level 2 Course | Ski/Board | Backcountry / Lodge-Based | Co-Ed8:00 am - 5:00 pm (10) PST Downing Mountain Lodge

08jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

10jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

11jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

15jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

17jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

18jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

19jan(jan 19)8:00 am21(jan 21)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open ProgramAIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Youth Specific (16 - 25 y/o) 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (21) PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

22jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

24jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

25jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

29jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

31jan9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

february

01feb8:00 am03(feb 3)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Open Program AIARE 1 (Level 1 Rec) | Ski / Board | Women's Specific 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (3) Libby, Montana | Cabinet Mountains, Montana

01feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

05feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

07feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

08feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

12feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

14feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

15feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

16feb(feb 16)8:00 am18(feb 18)5:00 pmFeaturedSeasonal Experience | Closed ProgramAvalanche Education Experiences | AIARE Level 1 Course 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (18) TBD

19feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

21feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

22feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

26feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

28feb9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

march

01mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

05mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

07mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

08mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

12mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

14mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

15mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

19mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

21mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

22mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

26mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

28mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

29mar9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

april

02apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

04apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

05apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

09apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

11apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

12apr9:00 am1:30 pmFeaturedFieldwork Experience | SnowSchool | School ProgramSnowSchool Experience | School Progam9:00 am - 1:30 pm PST Schweitzer Mountain Resort

may

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

An Affinity For Nature

IMG_5381According to Merriam’s Online Dictionary the word affinity is defined as a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship.   Affinity may or may not be something that we consciously connect with our time spent in nature, however, it is something that is crucial to personal mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  It is for this reason that I would even venture to say it is especially important for us to provide intentional opportunities for our youth to develop an affinity for nature.

Have you ever shared a young person’s experience in nature as they explore and make meaningful connections?  This look and excitement is unmistakable, and to share these moments with young people is nothing short of touching. Having grown up exploring the tidal pools in the Outer Banks in North Carolina and mountainous streams throughout Appalachia, I can attest to the power and meaning which occurred for me during these moments, and I think it was equally as powerful for my parents to witness. To see me grow and connect with something greater than myself and develop a true sense of belonging that would help shape my formative years was surely meaningful for them.  And now, as my son has completed his third birthday I find that he is most at peace in this same setting – when outside the confines of our cabin home, immersed in our natural world.

When we have an emotional experience in nature it sparks a fire that fuels future dreams and aspirations, including those related to conservation and stewardship.  After all, how can we be invested and take responsibility if we do not have a direct and meaningful connection?  It has also been shown through these moments positive personal and social development can occur.

Aspects such as these are of the utmost importance as we enter a generational period where technological advances influence environmental policy and personal choices or a lack there of.  As research demonstrates more youth are opting to choose a sedentary lifestyle leading to outcomes such as childhood obesity, gaming abuse, poor academic performance and other at-risk behavior. With the increase and advancement in mobile technology there is even greater need to ensure that we support programs and organizations that provide opportunities to intentionally reconnect youth to their natural system of checks and balance.

At SOLE we believe that the natural learning environment provides such a system, while also providing an opportunity to develop an affinity for nature. In the book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv stated, “in the United States, children ages six to eleven spend about thirty hours a week looking at a TV or computer monitor” (2005, p.47). In addition, if we look at the statistics from 1997 to 2003 we can see a 50 percent decline in the amount of time spent hiking, walking, fishing, gardening, and playing at the beach by children ages nine to twelve (Hofferth and Sandberg, 2001).

“This principle holds that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.” ~ Richard Louv, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder

WIMG_1643ith evidence such as this it is safe to say, playing and learning in nature is no longer commonplace, as it was when my generation was my son’s age and older.  And the potential ramifications are noteworthy. Today our youth have less access to intentional experiential education programming which supports developing and sustaining a nature-based connection.  How can they with a standards-based, extra curricular activity driven society?  At SOLE, we meet this need head on by providing intentionally designed and facilitated experiential and outdoor education programs to immerse youth and adults in environs where they can experience sincere emotional connections, and therefore, develop an affinity for nature that is lasting.

Because of the hectic school and after-school schedule, summer often provides the perfect time of year to experience something which allows you to unplug and reconnect.  These outdoor experiences can make memories which last a lifetime, some which can shift your entire paradigm.  From day-based outdoor science camps to outdoor leadership expeditions and adventure therapy exploratory expeditions, SOLE provides transformational experiences which allow youth and adults to truly explore, achieve, and lead.  We welcome you to join our team this summer to truly experience SOLE and let the experience speak for itself!  For more information on all of our upcoming programs please visit our Upcoming Experiences and Events.

Hope to see you on the trail or water,
Dennison