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).
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- 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!
1 Kersting, T. Disconnected: How to reconnect our digitally distracted kids.