Why Wilderness Living?
Structured, simplified, wholesome—the long-term camping experience demands group unity and personal development. Nature’s challenges are immediate and relevant. Each day offers the group opportunities for meaningful work, learning, appreciation, and fun. All must contribute, and so all have the chance to belong.
The Discovery School uses a relational therapeutic approach focusing on the power of positive relationships to stabilize, heal, and personally grow. This process encourages the student to become self-confident and promotes an improved ability to live and work within a community. The outdoor setting fosters healthy inter-dependence, as each individual is challenged to grow both individually and as part of a team.
Each student is assigned to a group that includes eight to twelve students, two adult group leaders, and a supervisor. The group lives in a rustic campsite village comprised of cabin-sized tents which the students design, maintain and replace as needed.
The goal of the group is to help each individual mature and grow emotionally to his or her potential. As individuals gain self-esteem, maturity, self-control and new problem-solving strategies, the group accomplishes increasingly greater achievements. These skills can be translated to their academic experience on campus, as well as practiced during home visits and upon their return to their home communities. The peer group and the outdoor environment provide daily challenges for each student, increasing their understanding of the cause and effect relationship between actions and consequences.
On campus there are traditional recreational activities including basketball, football, soccer, softball, and volleyball. Outings within the community occur weekly and may include swimming, bowling, and skating. These outings may also include trips to museums, historical sites, zoos, state parks or other areas of interest expressed by and decided by the group.
The Discovery School of Virginia also offers an opportunity for students to plan recreational adventure trips such as backpacking or canoeing. Some of the trips planned by the groups include extensive hikes along the Appalachian Trail.
Philosophy and Guiding Principles
Working together expands us individually.
The Discovery School asserts that students with emotional and behavioral problems can be affected positively by learning to hold themselves accountable for their actions and emotions through a group process in an outdoor setting.
Our group process is meant to meet basic human needs for belonging, achievement, autonomy, learning, and fun. Firm, fair, dependable limits encourage inner strength. Small group campsite living clarifies both natural and logical consequences. Predictable structure encourages each student to grow emotionally, intellectually and interpersonally. Repeated opportunities to both succeed and fail in these areas allow students to learn experientially and choose success for themselves as individuals, as friends, as family members, and as good citizens.
Any student we can help to grow internally will begin to flourish externally when we know where to look. Within a structured and nurturing approach, academic success naturally tracks a student’s emotional and personal growth. Successful family reintegration is based on mutual respect, good communication, and effective problem solving. When challenged appropriately, students grow to develop the sense of self-worth and personal responsibility they need to become successful within their communities.