Many parents question us about the adventure component of our programs. In their eyes, it can be hard to imagine their child (who may spend hours in front of TV, phones, and video games) participating in “extreme sports in far and remote locations”. We understand this hesitancy, and urge parents to consider all the benefits these incredible adventures offer. The outdoors provides an ideal classroom for youth to discover their strengths and to “unplug” from everyday distractions. In fact, an interesting study found that nature can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
Our programs provide adventures for all skill levels- from beginner to experienced campers. Below are some of the adventure activities SOAR offers and their potential benefits.
• Backpacking provides an excellent opportunity to challenge oneself and is one of our most rewarding activities. Each trip into the backcountry requires careful planning, organization and preparation- as campers will bring only the essentials and must rely on themselves and their team.
• Did you know that in rock climbing, bouldering routes are called “problems”? It’s no wonder, as rock climbing is an excellent way to help campers learn effective problem solving. Rock climbing requires participants to start from the beginning, to make progress incrementally- one step at a time, and to keep your sights high! In addition, campers are taught to rely on their support systems and to trust in the gear and people that help keep them safe while climbing to new heights.
• Horses are used frequently in therapy for a variety of physical and emotional conditions to help increase self-esteem, communication, develop emotional control, and improve risk taking. Although our programs aren’t therapeutic, we still see many of these gains throughout our horseback riding adventures. Campers bond with their horse through learning how to care for and trust these amazing animals. They will also experience “taking the reins” and develop a sense of empowerment.
• Fishing combines relaxation, patience, and with some luck, reward. Whether fishing in mountain streams of North Carolina and Wyoming, the deep ocean waters off the California coast, or night fishing in the Dry Tortugas of the Caribbean, campers experience what it is like to sit and wait. Fishing requires attention to detail, mental relaxations, and has even been found to decrease anxiety. It’s no surprise that “piscatorial therapy” is now being used in some treatment for PTSD.
• SCUBA diving can be a rewarding experience for those with LD and ADHD. In order to earn a SCUBA certification, campers must learn to pay close attention to detail and will see first-hand a practical application of science. Campers will learn to regulate breathing, which is an important skill in emotional coping strategies. In addition, successful completion of this course will provide campers a huge sense of accomplishment and a life-long skill.
• Archery and riflery are both excellent ways to teach concentration, perseverance, and focus. Campers learn that they are in control of the outcome, and when they may “miss the mark,” they can make adjustments and try again. This is an important lesson to learn, and helps campers understand that perceived “failures” aren’t failures at all, but in reality, are just a step toward success.
• Whitewater rafting provides campers a lesson in the value of communication and teamwork, as teams must work together to navigate the challenges of the river. Campers will also learn that instead of fighting the current, it is important to find inner strength and embrace the challenges ahead! The thrill of whitewater rafting helps campers push beyond their comfort zone, and teaches campers that when they are faced with difficulties, to push themselves, to readjust, and to keep on going.
Problem solving, communication, concentration, perseverance, teamwork, trust, organization, empowerment….the list, though long, is only a sample of the potential benefits adventure can provide.
Kuo, F. and Taylor, A. American Journal of Public Health, September 2004; vol 94. News release, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/