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Wilderness School Frequently Asked Questions

What choices are available for a youth interested in the Wilderness School?

Choosing a Wilderness School program best suited for a youth's individual needs may be difficult and may include several considerations. A good place to start is becoming well informed of the choices available to you.

The first option many explore is the 20-Day or 5-Day Expedition. These are the Wilderness School's most challenging programs -- Expedition experiences involve rigorous physical as well as emotional challenges. These programs feature increasingly difficult activities culminating in an intensive final hiking expedition. Our students face demanding individual challenges and the highest expectations of self reliance and cooperation.

For an individual desiring a less intensive, entry level experience, others consider a Wilderness School Short Course. These programs offer several choices for groups as well as individuals wishing to get involved in a Wilderness School experience.

What are the requirements for attending a program?

In general, applicants must choose to attend the Wilderness School and be willing to try new, challenging activities. Applicants do not need to be athletic or physically adept, or to have had prior camp experience; however, they must be prepared for the physical stress and emotional demands of the Wilderness School experience they select.

Expedition Program requirements state aapplicants must be able to demonstrate emotional maturity appropriate for their age group and be in good physical health as determined by a physician. The Referring Agent, who provides a pre-enrollment screening to the Wilderness School and conducts a thorough interview of the applicant, will coordinate these steps with the involvement of the student and family. In addition, each 20-Day Expedition candidate must attend a half-day Orientation program at the Wilderness School.

The Enrollment Policies section of our webpage will provide information of all other requirements of an applicant.

Is Wilderness School the right choice for your son or daughter?

If choosing a Wilderness School Expedition, this experience may become one of the greatest challenges of your child's life to date. It is of the utmost importance that the youth is fully prepared for the difficulty of the experience and that he or she has freely chosen to attend.

Many parents encourage their children to attend a Wilderness School Expedition because they feel that the experience will be worthwhile. However, it may be beneficial for students who appear very resistant to the idea of attending Wilderness School to wait a year, attend a 5-Day Expedition, or find a program that suits them better.

As a parent, you can help your son or daughter prepare for an Expedition Program by discussing the benefits of attending the Wilderness School , his or her motivations and goals, and action plans for overcoming difficulties such as homesickness, wanting to give up, and adjusting to a new environment and group of peers. Be sure to discuss the difficulties of surmounting physical stress and working together as a group, as students tend to underestimate the challenge of the group process.

At any time during the Wilderness School experience do not hesitate to call to have questions answered. We strongly encourage parental support in assisting with the success of the students.

When Do Programs Take Place?

Wilderness School operates year-round, winter included. Fall through Spring, the Wilderness School offers Short Courses of 1 to 3 days in length, on weekends, school holidays and vacations. Most Expeditions of 5 to 20 days occur during the Summer.

What is the Student Population?

The Wilderness School accepts students who reside in Connecticut beginning at age 13 and ending at 18 years for certain programs. Wilderness School applicants may be male or female and comprise a diverse population.

The Wilderness School is a referral program servicing agencies such as DCF regional offices and other child welfare services, prevention services, and juvenile services; CSSD (Juvenile Court); youth service bureaus, school systems, counseling services, as well as residential programs.

Students attending the program typically exhibit school problems, may have had police or court contact, and are often involved in counseling or psychiatric care.

How are groups put together?

Wilderness School courses are diverse, and the great majority of Expeditions are enrolled in single gender groupings based on open enrollment. When courses are over-enrolled with either male or female students, mixed gender groupings may be considered based upon the discretion of the Wilderness School.

How well are students supervised?

Wilderness School students are directly supervised by Instructors at all times. Crews are never out of the immediate vicinity of Instructors, i.e. within visual and hearing distance, and do not conduct any activity without direct supervision. There are a maximum of ten (10) students assigned to three (3) instructors for the 20-Day Expedition, with two to three Instructors assigned for Expeditions of lesser duration. Any time that we schedule a special activity (Rock Climbing, White Water Canoeing, High Ropes Course etc.) additional staff members are assigned to the group.

Can students ever be made to attend the Wilderness School without their consent?

No. Voluntary participation is a requirement for acceptance. Applicants must choose to attend the Wilderness School, possess the willingness to try, and demonstrate appropriate motivation.

Although some applicants may be apprehensive when first learning about the Wilderness School, by the time the youth is ready to begin the Expedition, a strong commitment to completing the experience must be made. If your son or daughter is nervous, encourage him or her to call the Wilderness School.

Note: By State Statute, the Director of the Wilderness School must agree to the acceptance of any applicant to the program. If an applicant does not meet our admissions criteria, he/she will not be enrolled in the Expedition.

Are there any dangers from animals?

Of concern to anyone who frequents the outdoors is the potential for injury or mishap due to contact with animals. Fortunately encounters between humans and animals are unlikely due to the strong self-preservation instincts of all wildlife. Combined with their superior senses and an innate fear of humans, the chances of an incident are very slim. There are, however, times when an injured or diseased animal can behave in an abnormal manner.

Rabies, Lyme Disease, West Nile Disease and Giardia:

A Wilderness School student may be exposed to various diseases and/or illnesses through involvement in the out of doors. Rabies, Lyme's Disease, West Nile Disease and Giardia are potential ailments which may develop with exposure to infected insects, animals or untreated water. Therefore we recommend being aware of, and attentive to, any signs or symptoms that may present themselves and may indicate contraction of a disease or illness.

How does my son or daughter become involved?

The Wilderness School website presents this process in detail. Please refer to the Expedition and Follow-Up Programs section to view the The Steps of Enrollment, including:

  1. Pre-Enrollment
  2. Completing the Application
  3. Student Orientation, and
  4. Acceptance to the Program.

Short Course options and enrollment are covered in the section dedicated to 1-3 Day Programs.