For many parents, the thought of sending their child to a youth wilderness program or nature-based program seems daunting (if not terrifying). Will my child be safe? Is this component even effective? Do they really need to live outside?
All of these are excellent questions asked by parents seeking hope and healing for their teens.
How is a Youth Nature Based Program Different?
When you think of a nature-based program for troubled teens, do you think of hiking? Or long adventures in nature? At Shepherd’s Hill Academy (SHA), our nature-based component is just that – a component of our whole program.
While students live in a safe and secure wilderness setting, they also go to school, enjoy healthy meals, and go to chapel on the main campus.
The main campus includes the modern conveniences of electricity, running water, technology in the classrooms, a cafeteria, and other essentials.
Our Nature Based Program is unique at SHA because it offers a safe, holistic approach to healing. The nature-based setting provides an environment that is conducive not only to healing, but to true and lasting change.
Benefits of a Nature Based Program for Troubled Teens
Nature based programs offer more than just a unique experience for your adolescent child. It’s an opportunity for them to learn, grow, and become stronger in every aspect of their life. The advantages of a youth wilderness program range from becoming more independent to developing helpful skills.
1. Gain Independence
While attending a nature-based program, teens are able to grow their sense of independence. They’ll be able to take care of themselves and even care for others. This newfound freedom will only grow more and translate into their life as they become an adult.
2. Boost confidence
Independence leads to renewed confidence, which teens learn more from a wilderness program. They will be more comfortable in social situations and will better understand how to communicate with others.
3. Build Awareness
When it comes to awareness, this benefit means they’ll be less self-centered and more focused on helping other people. Your teen will learn how to be mindful of the needs of others and how to fulfill those needs in a mature way.
4. Develop a Passion for Learning
In a world where information is only a click away, many teens take learning for granted. But a wilderness program puts them in a situation where they must learn in a completely new way. With no Google to turn to for help, they’ll learn how to adapt and find answers on their own.
5. Learn Important Skills
From cooking to building a campfire, a wilderness program for youth helps them develop lifelong skills. These talents will be used throughout the remainder of their childhood as well as into adulthood.
A Letter from a Shepherd’s Hill Academy Alum
We recently received a letter from a graduate of our program. In this letter, the alum explains their experience with Shepherd’s Hill Academy, carefully describing their favorite experience: the wilderness component:
“My time at SHA has been life changing. I wouldn’t trade my time at SHA for anything. One of the things that makes SHA what it is, is the wilderness aspect of it. When I first came to SHA, I remember going down to what we call “our site” and seeing the cabins. It was really hard for me to picture myself staying for the next year.
Little did I know it was going to be the best year of my life.
Before coming to the program, I was living in a large city, so coming to sleep in the woods with nothing but a tarp over my head didn’t seem ideal. I realized later on that staying in those cabins, in the middle of nowhere was the safest I had felt in a long time. You’re surrounded with such good people who love and care for you.
Almost every night we have devotions and prayed. We have hard days, especially at the beginning, but it’s through those hard times that I was able to grow the most. We live in a simple environment. We only have what we really need, which was hard at first, but without that simple environment I wouldn’t have realized how blessed I really am.
Before coming to SHA I viewed a lot of Christians as crazy, boring, hypocritical and selfish. The authenticity of the people working at SHA really influenced me to give Christianity a second chance. What was so different about them was the way they handled situations, how selfless they are, how much fun they have, how much they care and love others, how they treat others and much more. I began to open my mind and heart so that when they presented the Gospel I was able to hear it.
They never shoved the Gospel down our throats, but they did present it to those who wanted to know more.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7″
Find Out How a Youth Nature Based Program Could Help Your Teen
Have you considered sending your child to a wilderness program for troubled teens? There are many benefits that come with this difficult decision. Learn more by getting in touch with our staff today!