Into the Woods: The Effects of Wilderness-Based Camp Programs on Adolescent Small Group Development
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Groups work together every day all over the world. They make the decisions that determine anything from world-changing events to where to go for dinner. Small group work is an integral part of living within a society and is virtually unavoidable. Thus, understanding how groups interact and develop can teach us how to better work within them. Wilderness trips have been studied for many years as the ideal small group environment; the group members are isolated form other non-group influences, and there are specific, attainable goals. My experiences on wilderness trips over the past five years have shown me how intense and influential such trips can be. I have seen great changes in individuals and the making of lifelong friendships over relatively short periods of time (1-2 weeks). Because of my experiences and the importance that small group development has within a society, I set out to study the effects of wilderness trips. Last summer I worked at a New Hampshire-based summer camp leading canoeing and hiking trip throughout New England. The groups I led were made up of adolescents ages 10-14, many of who had no prior camping experience. I observed the groups interact and work through problems during their orientation to wilderness camping.