Experiential learning is a unique process where students gain knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences with the outside world. When faced with the unfamiliar setting of the wilderness, far from the comforts of home, it forces an individual to confront and take responsibility for the issues that brought them there. The wilderness activities offered at SUWS of the Carolinas forces our students to confront fears and personal issues, allowing him or her to move past them. If our students can learn to cope with the challenges they encounter in the wilderness it is likely they will be able to cope with the challenges of everyday life.
From learning first aid to developing basic orienteering and primitive living skills, SUWS students are personally challenged on a daily basis. We allow our students to discover their inner value and strengths by becoming essential, functioning members of a team. SUWS of the Carolina’s treatment program maintains a focus on clinical intervention and assessment. The wilderness setting facilitates the opportunity for experiential learning, or learning by doing, in which the individual learning process is emphasized. Furthermore, the wilderness provides continuous opportunities for students to learn and master age appropriate developmental goals. Guidance through a level system, that uses a Search and Rescue metaphor, promotes character development, assists in identifying core values and guiding principles. Each level has its own set of demands that correspond with developmental benchmarks. Completion of each phase is celebrated with a rite of passage, or ceremony, signifying transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood.