Ever wonder what an SOS summer program looks like? Join us as we take a sneak peek into a Backyard Adventure program (BYA):
Staff arrive early the first day of a BYA program to meet the kids and their parents. Final waivers are signed, seat belts are fastened, and the van is off.
The first day’s activity is rock climbing, and the core values we’re discussing are courage, wisdom and humility. At the rock wall, our guides gather kids into SOS’s signature “circle of love.” Students have done this before during winter programs, and many are ready and excited to share their definition of the day’s core values. Others are more focused on the upcoming activity – the cliffs are intimidating up close. Summer guides deftly lead the conversation, by drawing kids out of their shells, acknowledging the emotions and challenges ahead and creating an overall encouraging and supportive community.
Fear is a common theme on rock climbing day. “Fear is good because it keeps us safe. Fear is bad when it stops us from trying things that are probably okay to try,” remarks Josiah, a gregarious twelve year old who is eager to climb. Joe, our climbing guide for the day, has a motto for the kids, relating to courage: he tell them to “just try things.”
Guides go over climbing safety, divide the kids into groups, everybody gets harnesses and helmets. Finally, it’s time to start climbing! Every team member sets a personal goal for the day. Some kids love it instantly and scale the wall easily, excited to discover something new that they are good at. Others are more hesitant. But with patient encouragement, every participant achieves their personal goal. Breaking for lunch, kids talk about what they’ve learned. Besides learning a new sport and finding courage in themselves, the kids also learn a valuable lesson through the teamwork required to execute a successful climb: climbing groups stay together, because teams support each other.
On Day 2, the process repeats, except today’s adventure is a hike, and the core values are courage and discipline. Day 3 brings stand up paddle boarding and a service project. Paddle boarding is usually the favorite activity of the week – kids love getting out on the water. Throughout both activities kids discuss the core value of compassion. On the last day, SOSers do ropes courses and team building activities, as well a circle of love discussing integrity.
By the end of the week, each participant has experienced a wide range of new outdoor activities. More importantly, however, they have formed close bonds with their peers and guides and discovered that they are capable of more than they thought. As we overheard one kid say during a service project a few weeks ago, “summer programs are awesome!”