Providing a Genuine Healing Community
Most of our early adolescents at Open Sky struggle from emotional wounds of some kind. Those wounds have often been internalized, and the hurt is deep. The source of pain could be any number of events or life moments: the loss of a loved one, a challenging or unexpected change, constant trouble at school or home, regret of a past behavior, or a feeling of not being accepted or appreciated. At Open Sky, we provide an emotionally safe and supportive community where students can be heard and acknowledged as they work toward healing.
Early adolescents at Open Sky share their stories with their therapists, field guides, and other students. In so doing, they have the opportunity to heal and receive support for growing and learning. Students also use art, drawing, and other creative means to explore and transform their hurt and pain. Through the day-to-day time spent in the nurturing presence of the treatment team and peers, early adolescents have the chance to discover the strength and courage that emerge from overcoming challenges. Students begin to see how these experiences enable them to expand their compassion for themselves and others.
Inspiring Self-Confidence through Real Successes
The modern age has taken away much of the challenge of our physical existence, arguably creating an unhealthy culture. Material abundance has brought the highest rates of obesity and apathy ever known. Living in the outdoors, on the other hand, requires work. Adapting to changing weather, walking everywhere, and living without furniture means that early adolescents learn how to take care of themselves in ways that are normally taken for granted. There are no showers, beds, toilets, microwaves, televisions, computers, or electric lighting. Students learn how to not only function but thrive without the modern conveniences that typically prop up their lives. This engenders a sense of empowerment, of being capable of keeping themselves physically comfortable and safe. They learn how to stay warm when it is cold, dry when it is wet, and nourished when they are hungry. At Open Sky, early adolescents become successful students of life, confident in themselves and their abilities.
Harnessing Nature’s Healing Capacity
Being outside provides a space in which everything is free to be felt and expressed without judgment or limit. Nature can handle an early adolescent’s barrage of angry outbursts or their depths of grief and sorrow. Nature is receptive to everyone’s presence; it provides a space that isn’t available in the busy-ness and materialism that surrounds modern civilization. The pure beauty of vistas, mountains, and desert landscapes generates a reverence and appreciation for life and our surroundings. With Mother Nature embracing them as a part of this spectacular planet, our early adolescents heal and rebalance themselves.
Providing Real Life Skills
Unlike most wilderness programs, Open Sky aims to provide transferable skills and practices that can help our students better succeed in their lives outside of wilderness. Each day, students prepare and eat healthy, whole-foods meals. They participate in yoga, meditation, and exercise, all healthy resources for managing anxiety, depression, grief, and anger. They learn to effectively communicate with others, which is essential to creating and sustaining genuine relationships. Our guides and therapists specialize in helping teach early adolescents how to become more self-aware, manage emotions effectively, and successfully and authentically relate to others. At Open Sky, students begin to develop a set of healthy skills that they can use both during and after their time with us. As a result, they are better prepared to respond when the stresses of life are upon them.
We value our early adolescent students’ playful, curious, and energetic natures and make space to cultivate these qualities. Students are immersed in several new experiences. They have the opportunity to explore a beautiful and diverse landscape, learn a variety of primitive skills, and receive cultural education from Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. We incorporate fun and thoughtful games into the daily routine, along with yoga, meditation, healthy meal preparation, hiking, backpacking, and simply gathering around the campfire to play music and connect with one another. The skills and experiences early adolescents are introduced to at Open Sky often become interests or hobbies they want to share with their families and friends.
Before Open Sky, many of our students were stuck in unhealthy habits and avoided the difficult, but also fulfilling, parts of life. We offer early adolescents a safe space to explore themselves, what they value, and who they want to become as people. Since success often comes from facing and overcoming challenges, we encourage our early adolescent students to be courageous and take healthy risks by learning how to speak up, try new experiences, practice honesty and authenticity, and ultimately step out of their comfort zones. Our guides and therapists support each student in this important journey, and in the end, students discover how resourceful, resilient, and capable they are.