Top 10 Things I Learned from Wilderness Education–Trips to the Field

Excerpted from Second Shelter: Family Strategies for Navigating Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers. By Rebecca Haid, M.Ed. and Elizabeth Donnelly, M.S.

  1. Best to keep your bug spray at the top of the pack, not at the very bottom! Bugs go for the sweetest-smelling thing around. But, after a couple of days, they’ll leave you alone. Frustration!
  1. Your fingernails will get filthy after only a couple of hours, but you become the cleanest you’ve ever been—physically and emotionally. Resilience!
  1. It’s hard work and learning to “bust a coal” for fire is even harder. Perseverance!
  1. You laugh and have fun, and “busting a coal” makes you smile even more! Success! (Then perhaps you celebrate with banana pudding made from banana chips? Creativity!)
  1. You don’t really hang bears when you do the “bear hang.” (All programs swear they have heard this—a true wilderness legend!) This is what you do to keep the critters out of your food. Teamwork!
  1. You cry, you’re angry, you’re afraid, you shut down, but comfort can be just around the next bend. Friendship!
  1. Wilderness staff care deeply about you. They nurture you when you’re sad, hold boundaries when you’re over the line. They ask you hard questions. Expectations!
  1. You’re safe.
  1. Your children enter hurt and unhappy, but leave strong and healing and happy. Empowerment!

   1. Your children learn to be children again. They love you and they need you. Trust!