Our newly hired Education Consultant said that one of the main reasons that Wilderness works is that it is peer based. The kids hold each other accountable, especially on past actions. They seldom want to go back to their exact old life and are happy to start school somewhere fresh. They often drop the negative friends and make strides in self belief and self confidence. They do this by having experiences in nature, without the distraction of screens! Their lives become simple. Get up, eat, hike, set up a tent, eat, sleep. REPEAT. Oh, there is a lot of therapy and many assignments about accountability, as well.
The time spent in a program is around 6-12 weeks on average. And most programs go year round, even through snowy and cold winters. That’s why the summertime is so popular for many. It doesn’t cut into the school year and the weather is better. The ages go from 11-17 and then there is an older adult group that goes 18-28. One program may have a boys group, a girls group, a younger and an older group. The down sides are the cost (most cost around $500/day) and getting the kids delivered to the programs (there are transport services which safely get kids to the program for hire). And it’s not like the images on old TV shows, the transport people are truly like “angels” and they use words to motivate. They don’t lay a finger on the kids.
The kids come to the program without any supplies. Everything they need is given to them by the program: clothing, utensils, tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots. Some programs offer experiences like Equine therapy with horses, rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking. At night the kid’s boots and clothes are taken just in case they are “runners”. The food is basic, healthy and with very little sugar. They are uncomfortable enough that change will happen. And they are comfortable enough that they really can enjoy themselves in the activities. Most have a rolling admission so kids come and go through the program, some will always have more experience than others. It wouldn’t be good for their to be ALL newbies!
My notebook was filled with notes to consider. It was time to digest all we learned. The main thing was that we still had not exhausted every possible solution before deciding any future plan. Find out how Disneyland helped us get through this difficult time.