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February 3, 2020

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New Video Highlights Training

An important aspect of the PQ model is staff development and the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our students. 

Staff members recently participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, MSSW, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

Many thanks to Nick Vejvoda, Adolescent Field Manager, who made this video!

WATCH the video here!

October 22, 2019

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Staff Training at the Farm!

Last week Pacific Quest staff members participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle teaching a workshop on “Rites of Passage in the Garden” highlighting the Polynesian voyage and canoe plants.

The training began with an introduction to the Four Shields and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics that’s utilized at Pacific Quest and an integral part of our program.  After the intro, the team divided up and spent the morning at various “stations” that focused on different learning objectives.  Staff members had the option of picking which workshop they wanted to participate in. Some of the options included: Meditation & Mandala workshop, Cordage and Ti lei making, medicine walk and planting skills, soil & compost, and hard project skills & “imagineering”. 

Field Manager Anthony Florig leads a workshop on “Tools for Relating with Tools”

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

November 6, 2018

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October Harvest

Last month, Reed’s Bay students harvested 153 pounds of produce.  They enjoyed the fruits of their labor (literally), including eggplant, cabbage, bok choy, purple and green beans, taro, sweet potato, breadfruit, papaya, peppers, basil, and cilantro.  The group plucked oranges, tangerines and kumquats to marinade chicken and tofu, and livened up vegetables and salads with blended citrus herb combinations.  One student proudly cut and carried in a 40 pound rack of bananas which were enjoyed by all.  Green papaya pickling continued and students complimented their savory garlic sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup.  Even dessert came from the garden, as students created and duplicated breadfruit pudding, cacao oatmeal cookies and no bake lemon cheesecake.  As the month came to a close, the students began eyeballing November’s fruits, including five racks of young green bananas.  Thank you to everyone who keeps the garden thriving.

  

 

July 9, 2018

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Eat Local Initiative Update!

By:  Annette Nickontro, Kitchen Supervisor

Jackfruit harvest at Reeds Bay

I’m so grateful for the grub we get to grow!  Summer is here and June’s harvest was no joke – 255 pounds worth of beautiful leafy greens, herbs and a huge chunk of weight coming from jackfruit and those white and yellow pineapples we’d been waiting for!  We cut, cooked and pureed 117 pounds from the harvest, some pineapples still waiting on the shelf to be eaten.

We tore into a 31 pound jackfruit and made vegan pulled pork twice!  Wellness coordinators rallied the students and guides for a second pickling class using excess green papayas and slightly young white pineapples. Students took advantage of fresh flavor by adding the likes of rosemary, dill, Hawaiian hot peppers, ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, basil, and habaneros.

To keep the garden bounty going, students and staff got their fingers in the soil and transplanted keiki tomato, basil, cilantro, cucumber, beans, egg plant, brussels sprouts, and at least 4 kinds of peppers.

Nice job everyone, looking forward to the outcome of July!

December 12, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training Day

By:  Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

This month Pacific Quest will host two company wide Horticultural Therapy trainings.  Last week, over 40 staff members gathered at Reed’s Bay for the first training.  We were able to utilize the full campus and make the most of our garden experiences for staff and the land. The day included plenty of high-energy horticulture-themed games and scavenger hunts to help people across departments and programs get to know one another and get excited about the land.

Square foot gardening at Reeds Bay

Expert facilitators who have extensive experience in the field, led lessons on everything from how to care for a tree and how to treat a seed to the science of compost and a practical approach to the square-foot gardening technique. There were also quieter break-out sessions during which Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director, shared his expertise and experience with everyone and his team of clinicians worked closely with small groups on how to lead horticultural therapy activities and manage student needs.  Travis comments, “At PQ, we believe the greatest thing we can grow in a garden is a genuine curiosity about life, and a deeper awareness of ourselves and our relationship with the environment.  The beauty of this training is the opportunity for all direct care staff at PQ to come together to learn and practice experiential methods that integrate horticultural activity with the most current evidence based practices and research from the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). By participating in this training, therapists and guides join a growing movement in nature assisted therapies that goes beyond the hiking and survival approach of traditional wilderness therapy.”

New this year were the Learning Passports, a compilation of worksheets containing thoughtful questions about each lesson so that participants could take notes, cement their new knowledge, and begin to plan ways to take that knowledge and experience forward to our students. After a delicious lunch, the group rotated through regulating activity stations, learning to make cordage, practicing their drumming skills while learning about the regulating capabilities of bilateral movement, and learning about the Hawaiian concept of “Ha” meaning breath.

The experience culminated in a speed-dating style activity where participants prepared a brief pitch to convince a hesitant student to join them and learn something new about the garden. The group rotated round-robin style through two lines, counting how many colleagues they could convince to join their lesson!

The day concluded in handing out completion certificates, which everyone greatly appreciated. There were many thank-yous and positive responses to the organization and thoughtful content of the day, as well as much gratitude for our energetic facilitators! We look forward to the second training this week!

October 20, 2017

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Eat Local Initiative at PQ!

By: Dara Downs, Alumni & Family Services Liaison

Green beans thriving at Reeds Bay

In mid April of 2016 we started the Eat Local Initiative at our Young Adult Program at Reeds Bay.  This initiative was designed to help track the amount of produce being harvested, being cooked, as well as to help create motivation in the student milieu. It’s set up so that every time we grow and harvest food from our gardens, we weigh it, clean in, and document it. Then when it’s time for meal prep, we check to see if any of our freshly harvested produce can be cooked with that meal. If this is the case, then the food is used during that meal and documented. At the end of the month, based on how much home grown produce was cooked in our meals, the students are given a stipend to spend on specialty or rare items to use in the kitchen. In the past student have purchased cacao nibs, fruit leathers, passion fruit, dried spiced bananas, coconuts, ulu flower, and other island treats.

I work closely with Annette Nickontro, our Young Adult Kitchen Manager, who is really hands on in motivating students to use produce from the garden.  She oversees every part of the kitchen, working directly with students in creating weekly menus and recipes.  For many students, wandering the garden to collect herbs and produce is a whole new experience. Annette notes, “It’s been exciting to see the students pulling produce they grew from seeds and creating some amazing recipes for things like hot sauce, pesto, leafy green stir-fries, and kale chips!”  It’s a wonderful collaboration for both Annette and I to help students see their potential in gardening and cooking from something so small as a seed and feeding their fellow students.

Working together we found that since the Eat Local Initiative started, we have harvested 990 pounds of produce from our gardens, and of that, we have cooked 490 pounds of food!  With these numbers, we concluded that we are harvesting approximately 55 pounds of food per month and we are preparing about 27 pounds of food from our gardens per month.

Basil harvest for fresh pesto!

Once I found out how close we were to reaching 1000 pounds, I told our current students, and their immediate response was, “What?! Only 10 pounds away from 1000, we are so close, let’s keep eating what we grow! That’s a crazy amount of food.” Soon after, Annette and the students harvested 12 pounds of Basil and made a bunch of pesto to freeze for the winter! So we are happy to say that after a year and a half we have reached 1000 pounds of harvested produce from our gardens.  When asked to comment, PQ’s Horticultural Therapy, Travis Slagle, M.A. said, “The need for self-sufficiency is both practical and emotional.  The young people we serve benefit by knowing where their food comes from and taking an active role in sustaining their community.  At PQ, we believe the experience of self-sufficiency is transferable and relevant across the lifespan.”

With the Eat Local Initiative in place, we are focused on creating realistic goals and continuing to build a self sustaining agricultural model at PQ. We are excited to celebrate this accomplishment!

October 11, 2017

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Healthy Self = Heal + Thy + Self

By: Cynthia Albers, Admissions Coordinator

Harvesting fresh green beans from the garden

There is an onslaught of advice, cautions, directives and warnings supposedly to guide us toward a healthy lifestyle.  So, what, exactly, does it mean to be healthy?  What does healthy feel like?  At Pacific Quest students are given the opportunity to ask themselves this same question and discern what that means to them by practicing the five pillars of health…and nutrition is on that list. I asked myself those questions starting around age 16 and now into my 7th decade, many choices, actions and paths have brought me to the happy condition of enjoying health.  Undeniably, food and all that surrounds it, has played a big part.  Here’s part of that story…

I grew up with 8 siblings, birth position 2, in Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon line. At age 6, our brood moved into a home my parents built in the country, where we kids quickly learned the joy and freedom of roaming the woods, waterfront and fields that were part of our new domain.  Our diet was like that of most Americans of the era: 3 squares a day, with flesh featured at dinner; milk, kool-aid, water and the occasional soda pop for beverages; sandwiches of lunch meat or tuna on white Wonder Bread for school lunch, and hot or cold cereal with milk for most breakfasts. Stony Creek, an inlet to the Chesapeake Bay, supplied fresh fish and crabs, caught by our own hands, so seafood was frequently on the menu. A garden plot was carved out and tended by the clan.  As kids, we hated it!  All that work that took us away from exploring. But then, came the strawberries, cantaloupes, green beans, kale and corn on the cob, which we frequently ate right off the stalk ~ raw and full of  sweet goodness!  I began to realize how yummy these foods were, especially compared to the slimy, horrid mash that is canned spinach in the dead of winter.  I was developing a deep connection to sourcing my own food, though I had no idea at the time.

Late summers were spent helping my mother with canning: prepping and blanching corn, tomatoes and green beans, then ladling the hot veggies into sterilized jars; turn ‘em upside down to wait for the tell-tale “Pop!” signaling the seal. In the damp coolness of Autumn we took frenzied forays into conifer forests, with cousins galore, each of us given a large brown paper grocery bag and entrusted with a serrated knife. We were set loose to find and sever the wild mushrooms that lay hidden in beds of pine needles.  Now that was my kinda fun! Many bushel baskets were fungi-filled, and the families joined at our house for cleaning and sautéing the ‘shrooms with onions and butter, then filling quart plastic bags to be frozen. The bounty was distributed among the families and was served at holiday dinners all winter.

The desire to gather and grow food had inculcated my sensibilities and would last a lifetime.

Preparing a healthy meal at PQ

Fulfilling that desire has waxed and waned over the years, changing with occupation, domicile, region and season.  On the shores of Hood Canal, Washington, oysters were free for the plucking and shucking, along with wild blackberries copious along roadways. Montana mountains gave huckleberries by the bucketful, boletes and coral mushrooms to fill the pot; hunter friends who shared venison, bear (yes, bear) and elk sausage satisfied my omnivore leanings. In Hawaii, where a third of my years were lived, our jungle homestead boasted 4 varieties of avocado, papayas, bananas, citrus, and required the patience of 2 years for white pineapples; collards were endless and found their way into nearly every dinner dish.

Now, home is the high desert mountains of the Southern Sierra, gardening in this arid climate with mostly granitic soil beckons an entirely new approach. Apricot, pomegranate and mulberry trees grow most willingly here and also resist the nibbling of deer above ground and gopher below. I’ll undoubtedly find ways to forage and grow food to fuel both the yearnings and health. Doing so feeds more than the just my body…it feeds my soul.   Pacific Quest fosters ways for students and staff alike to build a meaningful connection to food and nutrition.  May connections realized at PQ stay with each of us for a lifetime and fuel health for years to come.

March 16, 2017

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Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ

By:  Dara Downs, Alumni and Family Services Liaison

Pacific Quest recently offered a Horticultural Therapy training for all staff members at our Young Adult campus at Reeds Bay.  This training was a unique experience where field managers came alongside field guides, and logistics staff worked side by side with nurses. Therapists and administrative staff traded their computers and phones for a trowel and some compost. In order to participate everyone left their job titles in the parking lot and put on their close toed shoes, long pants, and work gloves. They all knew, it was time to work in the garden!

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Back to Basics Gardening Stations

One of the main goals of this training was to assist all employees in developing a relationship with the garden, and increase individual’s confidence on the land.  In addition, the training was designed to help staff members understand the role of Horticultural Therapy (HT) and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics® (NMT) at PQ. In doing so, our Academic Coordinator was able to weave in parts of the HT curriculum into the training events to help set guides up with applicable lessons to use directly in the field.

The day was filled with numerous hands on activities and as every farmer knows, the best way to learn something is to get your hands dirty!  The group started off with a scavenger hunt in the ethnobotanical gardens at Reeds Bay called “The Village”. These gardens focus on growing traditional Hawaiian plants which are referred to as canoe plants. Everyone used the clues in the scavenger hunt to find specific plants. Upon finding each plant, participants followed a lesson from the curriculum based off the acronym CARE (Commitment, Awareness, Relationship/Responsibility, Effort).  They were able to practice caring for these sacred plants while also racing the clock!

After this competitive challenge, everyone engaged in “Back to Basics Gardening Stations” around campus. These stations focused on educating and providing hands on experiences in the following topics:

  • Compost and Soil Health
  • Tree Health and Bed Maintenance
  • Nursery and Transplanting
  • Square Foot Gardening

Presenters at each of these stations role modeled the three “R’s” of NMT: Regulate, Relate, and Reason. Each station started off with a breathing exercise, or something tactile and rhythmic, before jumping into relating to the environment, reasoning and teaching a lesson.

Following this, the group enjoyed lunch, and afterwards set up to process what they gained from the morning activities.  PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, MA, led the group discussion on how to use these activities to engage students in meaningful conversations. He touched upon practicing these gardening techniques while developing

Horticultural Therapy Training at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Travis Slagle leading group lesson

relationships with students who may be challenging or disengaged. He comments, “It is essential that we are able to successfully translate skills of intuition and observation from a gardening experience to our daily lives.”  Staff members began sharing their stories and openly discussing techniques and experiences of successes they’ve had on the land. Participants shared ideas and methods that worked and helped to reach a wide variety of students.

After this open forum discussion, everyone broke into their groups again for afternoon stations which were focused on specific activities for assisting our students in the NMT model (regulate, relate and reason). The groups included, cordage making, weeding/bilateral movement, planting play, and wellness. These groups introduced themes of music and play into the garden, while also demonstrating tools like cordage making where you can bring the garden to a student. The wellness department also led a group that focused on EFT (a breathing/meditation technique), the bucket theory, and connecting plant health with gut health.

To end the day, everyone was invited to a garden party where music was played and pineapple paradise was saved from weeds and invasive species like african tulip trees.  Amanda Moreno, PQ Therapist, mentioned that, “It was a gift to spend a day in the garden connecting with my peers and collaborating with my colleagues. I learned a lot about gardening and can’t wait to use it with the students.”  An Adolescent Program Field Supervisor also commented, “One of my key takeaways from this training was the value of regulate, relate, and reason. I learned so many ways to engage in each of these in the field.”

February 13, 2017

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Oh Coconuts!

By Kate Goodwin, Young Adult Wellness Medical Supervisor

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut has many uses and health benefits

The tropical coconut is an incredible superfood with endless uses, especially in Polynesian cultures.  The Hawaiians used “Niu” or coconut for drink, food, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more.

Traditionally, a coconut palm was planted at a Hawaiian’s birth with a he’e (octopus) under it for fertilizer.  After the tree fruits at age seven, it will continue to fruit for 70-100 years to provide food for the individual or community.  Just one tree can produce 50 coconuts a year!

Coconut meat contains high quantities of lauric acid, a rare medium-chain saturated fatty acid.  Lauric acid is the reason coconut oil is so good for your skin, it can reduce bacterial and fungal infections while moisturizing.  Consuming the coconut meat provides B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Coconut water is an alkali producer in the digestive system and can help balance the body’s pH.  The water inside a coconut is sterile, yet packed with nutrients and electrolytes, it could even be used in a pinch for IV rehydration.

During a recent wellness training with Annie, the students learned how to pick a perfect coconut and “tap” into it to drink the water.  The coconuts were then cracked open to enjoy the delicious meat inside.  They also learned how to fashion a makeshift deodorant out of coconut oil as well as learning how the niu is culturally relevant to the Hawaiians.

How to select the perfect drinking coconut:

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut ready for drinking!

The perfect drinking coconut is full-sized, yet immature. Green and picked from the tree is ideal (yellow color and found on the ground is okay and still delicious).

Up to one quart of water is inside, but you should not hear “sloshing” when you shake it.  If the nut sloshes, it is no longer sterile and could cause some digestive irritation.

The yellow or browning coconut is mature when it drops to the ground. There is still some water in the cavity, which can be combined to make coconut milk. Coconut milk is a blend of coconut water and the scrapings of the coconut meat. This milk is a good source of iron and contains calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Wahi ka niu, break open the coconut!

February 8, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Student Testimonial

Pacific quest changed my life; I realize now that nothing is impossible. With just some water and a seed I can create a whole ecosystem of life. Life at Pacific Quest helped me express my emotions in a positive way. Pacific Quest will change your life, too, if you just let it.” – Pacific Quest student testimonial

Pacific Quest: True To Our Testimonials

Pacific Quest is an internationally-recognized residential wilderness therapy program based in Hawaii that serves struggling teens and young adults from around the world. Our testimonials show just how Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs: by cultivating change through sustainable growth. Our outdoor wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy programs teach sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment. It helps young people make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives.

The many amazing testimonials from both alumni and their parents point to the pivotal changes made to each and every student who was ready for positive change. The testimonials also speak to the invaluable lessons and experiences students have had that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Read more incredible testimonials on just how and why Pacific Quest is consistently sought after as the best wilderness therapy program.

The Pacific Quest Program Through Testimonials

“My negative emotions were affecting everyone around me and I was out of control. I didn’t care about life and that was obvious by my behavior. It was a sad and difficult time for me and my family.”

Read More

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