11th & 12th-Grade SOLO Mission: Done and Done
"I was unsure what to expect but prepared for what my mind might think about."
Our 11th and 12th-Grade HS Students have been learning about the criminal justice system all year including the use of solitary confinement and the impact it has on individuals. Our students wanted to dig into the group vs individual mindset so they created a group fieldwork experience to Sacramento and the Bay Area this past fall. For the spring they wanted to subject themselves to 48-hour SOLOs in the wilderness. Our school’s Co-Founder Taylor Simmers (aka Mr. Constructive Adversity at TEA) was happy to make that happen.
The guiding questions for this SOLO fieldwork experience were:
– Who am I?
– What am I capable of doing and what challenges do I face when removed from social norms?
Led by Taylor and TEA Activities Manager Alex Peugnet, students and their trip leaders took two SUVs loaded up with all of their gear in an epic Tetris format and set off from the Martis Valley Campus. They traveled south on US 395 along the Eastern Sierras to the Alabama Hills to camp on BLM land. They stopped along the way to create individual menus, get groceries, and prepare for the field. Once at their site, students were welcomed by epic mountains and rocks everywhere.
Mother Nature had her own plans for Constructive Adversity with storm clouds looming.
So how did the students feel going into this 48-Hour SOLO experience? Here are some excerpts from their journals:
I am pretty excited and curious about what it is going to be like.
I am open to the possibility of me knowing myself better.
I am curious how it would be to be alone for 40 hours.
I am anxious and dreading it because I don’t like being by myself.
I’m nervous and intrigued at the same time.
I’m nervous about how I will react to being alone for that long because I have never done it before.
I’m unsure what to expect but prepared for what my mind might think about.
"it was dark so I have been trying to find a way to pass the time. Normally, I go on my phone, but I don’t have one."
Students spent the first night of their experience camped out as a group. The following day, students were situated into isolated camp spots that were far enough away from one another to create a truly isolated experience, yet close enough to the base camp so our trip leaders could keep tabs on everyone. Once in isolation, students were forced to entertain themselves with nothing but their own minds, a single personal item (like a ball or a box of art supplies) and a journal. We interviewed the students after their experience and asked them how they passed the time, what they experienced during the nighttime hours, and how they grew during the SOLO.
What was it like trying to pass time?
After a bit, I just wanted to get out of my tent and roam around but wasn’t supposed to.
I just slept most of the day.
I’ve written a lot of reflections and did 1000 push-ups.
I fell asleep on a rock in the sun and I ate a lot.
I was barking like a dog for a bit today.
Tried to draw and then got frustrated because I only brought mechanical pencils.
Was really bored in my tent not able to sleep. Being bored let my mind wander to a lot of scenarios and over think.
Tried drawing cars until I forgot what a car looked like. Then tried to draw humans but forgot what a human looked like. So I drew the gallon water jugs over and over again.
What were the nighttime hours like?
I didn’t like it. Full-moon so it was bright. Felt uneasy towards the nighttime because you cannot sit outside anymore because it is cold. I didn’t like feeling confined.
Had coyotes sniffing around my tent. Finally fell asleep.
Had this incredibly big salad that I had to eat so I rotated between eating and sleeping.
I was OK until it started raining. Slowly my tent started to get more wet so I kept adjusting.
I was relieved when it got dark. Hung out in my sleeping bag and couldn’t sleep.
I wasn’t ready to go to sleep when it was time to go to sleep, but it was dark so trying to find a way to pass the time. Normally, I go on my phone, but I didn’t have one.
How did you grow during the SOLO?
I started to like my space because it became my little area.
I got so bored so I actually did some homework.
It became surprisingly easy to pass time. Sat on my perch, made a kite, did a lot of stick drawings, through a tennis ball against a rock, exercised.
I didn’t do anything. Just sat there. It felt good to not think about anything. Then I came back and immediately started thinking about a ton.
Threw rocks. Threw a football at a wall a couple of time and then got bored. Thought about movies and tv shows and critiqued them.
Wrote a paper without technology and without an ability to grammar check it was hard.
Did a lot of pushups and walked in circles. Sat on my rock and looked out a lot. Last quarter of the day I just wrote and reflected. The moon was sick!
"When I was on my solo it was the first time I could just be and I was able to be comfortable not thinking or doing, but just being."
At the end of the 48-hour SOLO, some students actually felt it too was easy and would benefit from a more “survival skills” opportunity to prove they are TEA strong. Others felt this pushed them just enough as they struggled with being by themselves. One student said, “I just want to go back to the SOLO. Being around other people and the reality of life I immediately started thinking about everything I had to do. When I was on my SOLO it was the first time I could just be and I was able to be comfortable not thinking or doing, but just being.”
We are so proud of our students and their ability to complete their 48-hour SOLOs. In the end, the students were better able to reflect on who they are as individuals and who they want to become. They learned how to identify the strengths and struggles of being isolated from group interactions through personal experiences. And lastly, and most importantly, they learned that they can survive and thrive on their own.