New Day offers children outdoor activities like rappelling down cliffs, hiking in the wilderness, and riding horses.
“We offer positive outdoor activities like rappelling, hiking, and horseback riding to replace other negative activities that they’re accustomed to,” said Marcus Red-Thunder, New Day cultural adviser. “The key here is replacing negative activities with positive activities. It’s important they feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Marcus said it’s takes courage for children to lean over the edge of a cliff, trust the rope with their lives, then rappel down a rock face. “They can apply what they learn in that activity to their lives,” Marcus pointed out. “It also takes courage to become drug or alcohol free. These kids relate better and learn more about life, patience, and perseverance by being actively involved in these activities – not sitting in a classroom being lectured,” Marcus said.
New Day likes to say that much of its children activities are experiential, but what does that mean? Simply put, it means doing something rather being told about it. It means watching someone doing something, then doing it yourself. The thinking behind it is that New Day feels children learn more when they actually shoot arrows, care for a horse, or hike through the hills.
Anna Clayton, New Day quality assurance coordinator, remembers when a teen girl, about 14 or 15 years old, was hesitant to try rappelling because of a disability. “She was hesitant to try rappelling. But she tried it, succeeded, and that feeling of accomplishment transferred over into her therapy sessions, as well as into all other areas. That simple activity was an extreme emotional booster for her. She was thinking that if she could conquer rappelling, she could clearly do anything else.”
For youth staying in group homes, New Day mixes experiential activities with clinical treatment. Youth can take part in drum groups, spiritual support groups, talking circles, sweat lodge ceremony and equine (horse) therapy.
The program helps children strengthen their beliefs about themselves. They get more attuned with themselves and those around them, which helps them gradually fit back in with their families, schools, and community. The combination of clinical therapy with experiential activities has proven success for many children.
“I try to inspire the kids to hang on to their tribal traditions and cultures as a way of drug and alcohol prevention,” Marcus said. “However, I get a positive reaction from all the kids, Indian and non-Indians, because they learn more with hands-on instruction.”
Positive outdoor activities include the following: