When Social is Essential: How Daytrips Support Growth

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 6:00am

Story Location:
58 Park Street
Ste 202
Rockland  Maine  04843
United States

Peak foliage meant peak daytrip season for Trekkers, a Rockland-based youth mentoring non-profit. Two groups of eighth-grade students embarked on their first outing together – going hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, journaling and playing games in and around Camden Hill State Park, joined by local experts from Maine Sport Outfitters and Equinox Guiding Services.

These daytrips can seem like nothing more than just fun and games. But experts see socialization as critical for youth. “People think that socialization is just leisure, but for adolescents it’s required for proper development,” says Dr. Tammy Chang, an assistant professor, health services researcher and practicing family physician at University of Michigan. (University of Michigan, Health Blog)

Why? “Young brains need social connection to feel secure about their identity and place in the world,” says Gregory Lewis, who studies the neurobiology of social interaction at Indiana University. "Younger people are missing a larger percentage of what previously was there to buffer them." (Maine Public)

Building connections happens over 6 years for Trekkers students. While expeditions are a big part of the program, they are just a fraction of the time teams spend together. In the months leading up to a trip, teams meet regularly. Much of the program is student-driven, so they help plan the details of trips, develop a team charter, explore topics and issues the group is interested in, receive access to college and career guidance, meet peers from across the country and state, play games and take part in community service.

One by one, students on Team Squaliform scaled Mt. Megunticook. Program Manager Katlyn Rich overheard one student energetically say, “I don’t know why I don’t do this more often.” Later that week, Program Director Brandon Caron received a message from the student’s parent. “Just thought I would let you know – [he] had such a blast last weekend. He just came into our room and asked if we could go hiking this weekend, which is not something he would have asked to do before! I would say he’s caught the Trekkers bug for sure.”

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About Program Safety Guidelines: Programs are developed in accordance with guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, American Camp Association, and the Department of Education and the State of Maine. Find Program Guidelines on the Trekkers website here or contact the organization at info@trekkers.org.

About Trekkers: For over 25 years, non-profit organization Trekkers has been dedicated to helping young people thrive. It offers programming in midcoast Maine and consulting across the country, rooted in a travel and outdoor-based experiential learning model. Beginning in 7th grade, students embark on a six-year journey that lasts through high school graduation, with each year culminating in an expedition. Students meet throughout the year, developing long-term relationships with their team of peers, mentors, and program managers. Each year of the program is structured to fit the developmental needs of students but is otherwise driven by student choice. In partnership with The Pear Institute, the Trekkers has proven to help students build resiliency, develop supportive relationships, engage interests, and plan a path towards success after high school. To learn more about Trekkers programming or professional development opportunities, visit their website at trekkers.org.