One of the biggest challenges teens face in school is feeling that the material they learn is applicable to their personal lives and the world around them. While traditional classrooms focus on absorbing new material, wilderness therapy offers opportunities for experiential education. The outdoors provide a unique and hands-on learning environment where students can apply the skills they’ve learned to everyday scenarios and gain deeper insight into the meaning of these lessons. Many of our students have struggled with learning differences, a lack of motivation, problems with authority figures, and mental health issues that have affected their academic performance. They’ve internalized the problems they’ve had as a reflection of their intelligence and their potential and given up on their personal academic goals when they first come to our wilderness program. Integrating experiential education into our program empowers students to see education as an opportunity for curiosity, new perspectives, and connection.

Understanding Alternative Learning Styles

As teens grow up, they recognize that academic strengths are an umbrella of qualities rather than a spectrum. Most students do not learn the same way. In traditional classroom settings, teachers do not have the resources or time to get to know every student’s learning style and personalize instruction to meet individual needs, so they rely more on standard types of instruction that may be a good fit for the majority, but not the entire class. Many students fall behind and don’t know how to advocate for their needs. They tend to blame the teacher for being mean or unqualified instead of recognizing that they would help if they knew how. 

When students first come to blueFire, we create individualized treatment plans based on their academic and personal goals to better understand how to meet their needs. Many teens lack the self-awareness to realize that the problems they are facing are complex and tied to underlying issues. They feel hopeless and doubt their ability to succeed. Every teen takes a Learning Styles Assessment and Youth Outcome Questionnaire that help outline treatment goals and offer insight into how they struggles they’re experiencing are interrelated. This helps change their perspective and reminds them that there are possible solutions to help them succeed.

Experiential Education: Learning by Doing

As teens’ brains are still developing at a rapid rate, communication between emotional areas of the brain and rational areas of the brain is weaker than it is in adults. While talk therapy is beneficial for a lot of people, teens benefit from sensory and experiential therapies that keep them more engaged. Topics that arise during therapy and class are often abstract and make more sense when they recognize how they show up in the moment. Teens who struggle with ADHD, trauma, and other issues that affect executive functioning have a hard time processing negative emotions and difficult experiences using language. 

Our staff have years of experience working in outdoor education and therapeutic settings and understand how emotional and behavioral issues affect learning. Experiential adventure activities and learning opportunities are effective approaches for this age group.  

blueFire takes a holistic approach to helping students succeed in all areas of their lives by incorporating lessons on the following into the program:

 

  • Geography
  • Science
  • History

 

Applying What They’ve Learned

Living in the wilderness is not a long-term solution, but it is a strong tool to help teens make positive life-long changes behaviorally and educationally. We focus on teaching translatable skills in academics, as well as emotional and behavioral growth. This eases the transition from our wilderness school program back to the “real world.” Educational elements of our program ensure that teens are staying engaged in critical thinking skills outside of a traditional classroom environment. Having a better grasp on their unique learning needs and more confidence in their academic abilities sets them up for success when they return to school.

blueFire Wilderness Can Help

blueFire is a wilderness therapy program for students ages 11-17 who struggle with mental health disorders. We offer experiential education and adventure activities to help students remove themselves from their fast-paced lives and stay engaged in a peaceful and natural setting—the wilderness. Students will learn skills that will help them develop their independence and gain a newfound sense of self-awareness, responsibility, and confidence. blueFire offers the opportunity to learn new healthy activities, nutrition habits, and communication skills; all things that are transferable to the real world. This program is dedicated to inspiring a positive change in the lives of young men and women and helping them step their best foot forward towards a bright and healthy future. 

Contact us at 1-844-413-1999 to learn more about opportunities for experiential learning in wilderness therapy. We can help your family today!

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