Frequently Asked Questions about the Wilderness School

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 Expedition Program. Wilderness School‘s core program is the Expedition. Students, with Instructors, travel and camp for up to 20-days while working and living together, building wilderness skills, and confronting course activities along with weather and other environmental challenges (like bugs!). Students do not stay in cabins or eat in a cafeteria. Students are responsible for cooking, cleaning, maintaining hygiene, and taking care of all equipment while existing, traveling, and working together in a wilderness setting. Wilderness School is a school and not a traditional camp or “boot camp”; students are supported and expected to develop the skills required to live as a group, achieve personal goals, and participate through each program and activity (Most expeditions are 3 to 20 days in length).

Shorter programs are designed to focus on comfort and belonging while longer courses expand the focus to include resilience through physical and emotional challenge as well as teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, service to others, cooperation, and self-discovery of newfound capability. Course offerings may also include Summer Youth Employment Work Programs and Alumni Expeditions in broader regional locations.

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.

For Expedition Programs, applicants must be able to demonstrate emotional maturity appropriate for their age group and be in good physical health as determined by a physician. See the Expedition Program section for more information.

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 3 to 20 days in length 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 19 years for certain programs. Wilderness School applicants comprise a diverse population and may be male, female, and/or gender diverse.

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 are often recognized as benefiting from extra support. The Wilderness School serves as an enrichment program for young people looking to make positive changes. For many young people, the Wilderness School may serve as a prevention or intervention service. The Wilderness School programs are an enhancement to the work of social service agencies in Connecticut and are available to the community at large.

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 most Expedition programs.

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 or designate 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.

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/guardian, 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.