One of the advantages of the backpack is that in a small group it’s easy to make friends. Conversations in tents, beautiful views, tasty meals cooked and shared together, and the absence of electronic distractions allow students to get to know each other at a level often lost in the digital age. In this small group, our instructors are able to make a big imprint by modeling behaviors like teamwork, collaboration, and kindness—values already instilled by parents.
After the first backpack, the big group comes back together for a celebration of all the fun, hard work, and growth during a “Mexi Cook-off,” where teams of students cook a meal for a panel of celebrity judges (i.e., the instructors). This is a perfect time for individual groups to be welcomed back into the community as a whole, and to demonstrate the values that our instructors have modeled during the past week. Most important, it is also a ton of fun.
Before we go any further, we want to stress that we make Adventure Treks fun for a reason. More than simply competing with video games, teenagers are most receptive to learning when they are relaxed, having fun, and don’t feel like they are being forced to learn. They have enough of that the rest of the year.
We find the growth and learning is happening anyway. Social skills are being reinforced through day-to-day living with other students, many who started as strangers just a few days ago and are now close friends. Self-esteem grows when one overcomes the fears of backpacking or rock climbing for a few days. Acquiring new skills on mountain bikes or rafts boosts confidence, allowing students to accept new challenges. Independence is developed when they learn they can survive (and thrive) away from family and the comparative comforts of life at home. The supportive AT environment enables students to “be themselves” instead of whom the “in” crowd at school wants them to be. More than anything, we hear this from our students: “I love being at AT because no one judges me here. I am appreciated for who I am, not who I’m supposed to be!”
We don’t preach these things as much as we quietly model them while holding our kids to high expectations for behavior. This works because our students respect their instructors and generally want to be like them. Students naturally want to be “their best selves!”