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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 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.

August 20, 2017

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Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

April 8, 2017

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Community Service at Punalu’u Pond

By: Nikki Robinson, Adolescent Program Master Guide

A group of Pacific Quest adolescent students recently joined the community at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to participate in removing invasive plant species.  The pond at Punalu’u is a unique and rare ecosystem – an anchialine pool, it is connected to the ocean by an underground fissure, consists of brackish water, and the water level changes with the tides. Of all the anchialine pools on the planet, more than half of them can be found on the island of Hawai’i!  These ponds are home to a plethora of endemic plants and animals. Water hyacinth, an introduced and invasive species, thrives in this pond, crowding out native plants and animals, blocks sunlight into the pond, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and threatens the existence of many species that only exist in this rare ecosystem.  Our job, pulling water hyacinth out of the pond, ensures the survival of endemic species to the island.

Pacific Quest community service pond clean up at Punalu'u

Removing water hyacinth from pond

Upon our arrival to the beach park, most students were eager to jump into the murky pond and work together with members of the community to eradicate the water hyacinth from an area of the pond.  As the rest of the group eased into the pond, students broke into groups.  Some students pushed clumps of hyacinth in towards the shore, while others threw the plants onto and away from the shore. The students spent time pausing to investigate the life forms in the pond. They discovered crayfish, tadpoles ducks, and the endangered nene. As they cleared the pond, they shared stories with community members; some of whom have lived in the region all of their lives. After some time working, the students were satisfied with the large area of cleared pond and ready to eat lunch.

Before lunch, we all jumped into the ocean to clean off. The cool water felt great after all the hard work we had done. The group circled up, had a round of thanks, and ate lunch over fun conversation topics. We enjoyed lunch and a view of palm trees, black sand, sea turtles, and beautiful blue waves. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. After digesting for a while, the group decided to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. Some choose to swim while others chose to float and chat.

Punalu’u was once a major residence for ancient Hawaiians. Hawaiians used this land for fishing and as a major source of fresh water. Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and sits on top of thousands of tons of fresh water flowing underground. During periods of drought, ancient Hawaiians would dive to the bottom of the ocean and fill “ipu” (gourds) with fresh water. Punalu’u is also home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles known as Honu’ea. Tourists come from far away to admire the fascinating creatures, but are warned: “do not touch or ride the turtles”. Students watched as turtles basked in the sun. They were awed by the turtles’ size and gentle nature, but made sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

After taking a nice swim, the students took some time to relax on the beach. The group played an organized bonding game and shared stories over the experience afterwards while loading up the van. We then headed back to Pacific Quest with about an hour to relax before it was time to hop into the gardens and kitchen to prepare dinner.

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!

January 15, 2017

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Rites of Passage Video: Tying the Threads of the Past to the Future

By: Darcy Ottey

Meaningful, intentional rites of passage have been a critical part of raising healthy adults for tens of thousands of years, and are no less relevant today. At Pacific Quest, rites of passage have been part of our program since our very first client. The speaker in this TEDx Talk, Darcy Ottey, helped design Pacific Quest’s innovative rite of passage programming, and continues to provide support and training for our staff. The talk shares the story of why rites of passage are so important, both for young people and for their communities.

 

Pacific Quest is part of an Youth Passageways, an international effort to bring rites of passage back into the lives of young people. For more information on Darcy Ottey and her work, please visit: www.darcyottey.com.

October 23, 2016

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Pacific Quest Receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

By: Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle M.A. recently accepted the national award in Therapeutic Garden Design from the  American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). The nomination process included an outpouring of inspiring testimonials from families, alumni, educational consultants, and mental health professionals from across the country. Travis comments, “The greatest part of this award is knowing that our gardens are saving lives, re-invigorating families, and changing the face of wilderness therapy.  Receiving this award is a humbling reminder that hard work pays off, and why healing gardens belong at the center of our communities as a reminder of our own resilience and of life’s endless possibilities.”

Pacific Quest receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

Travis accepting award at AHTA Conference in St. Louis

Pacific Quest’s commitment to stewardship and their neurosequential approach to garden design and program structure makes them well deserving of this recognition.  Here is one of the many testimonials that the AHTA committee received during the award nomination:

“Our daughter was lost, struggling, and unhappy. She reconnected to nature and her healthy self through Pacific Quest’s horticultural therapy program.  Simple and hard work in nature helped her strip away unhealthy behaviors and unproductive patterns, and empowered her to understand how good process leads to good outcomes. In the garden, she learned how to work with others, delay gratification, tend weeds (psychological and natural), embrace discomfort, and envision a positive future. She developed resilience and sense of self by getting a little dirty and doing a little hard work. Every day, PQ’s guides and therapists helped her see how her work was helping her heal. We will be forever grateful to PQ and that patch of dirt for helping our daughter get past a dark period in her life.”

Upon his return from the AHTA conference and award ceremony, Travis shared, “Looking back to when PQ first began, we spent most our days hauling rocks and burning piles of dead grass to clear the jungle to make space for a visionary garden that would one day become the epicenter of our values as an organization.  As we cleared the land, one by one we planted fruit trees and built garden beds that have become a beacon of hope and inspiration for so many people.  I feel honored to be a part of it!”

September 20, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part III

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II introduced Master Guide Alyson Alde.  In this third and final entry we meet Nick Olson and learn about his focus within this role!

Meet Nick Olson

Master Guide Position: Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Nick working with a student on the land.

Nick hails from the high plains of Wyoming. There his wonderful parents worked diligently to instill in him a strong connection to a healthy diet, gardening and traveling. He studied International Studies at the University of Wyoming and in embracing his dream of vagabonding, traveled for two years following college. In the backwoods of Thailand with rambunctious kids, he realized that playing with youth in the dirt rules.

Nick started at Pacific Quest in March of 2015. He finds purpose in this job by helping students foster their own connection with the land, their food and their own self worth. He pulls from growing up in his tight knit community to help students build their sense of responsibility to their community, both here at Pacific Quest and back home. It’s a good day for Nick when his students find themselves deep in conversation, comfortably seated on the earth with their hands in the soil.  He comments, “What motivates me here at Pacific Quest  is when a student transforms a section of the garden and through their hard work they get invested and connected with the well-being of the land.”  As a master guide he hopes to help garden-shy guides feel more comfortable working on the land and getting their hands dirty.

In his off time he enjoys the quirkiness of Hilo, the comfort of his porch swing and the adventures with his community here on the Big Island.

September 7, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part II

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II will introduce Master Guide Alyson Alde.  Check back next week to meet another team member and their focus within this role!

Meet Alyson Alde

Alyson was raised in a small town in Illinois.  There, she learned how to climb trees, play in the dirt, and plant seeds. Her love for the outdoors has continued to grow throughout her life.  She graduated with a degree in psychology with a focus in environmental studies.  Prior to graduating, it was her dream to work with adolescents in a natural setting. Post graduation, she is living this dream at Pacific Quest. The combination of working with The Girl Scouts of America in New York state and working at an all boys residential treatment center in Tennessee gave her the inspiration to combine the two: wilderness and mental health.

The Unique Role of the Master Guide at Pacific Quest

Alyson working with a student in the garden

Alyson loves empowering her students through education at Pacific Quest. She has a firm understanding that there are several types of intelligences, and she utilizes this knowledge with every lesson she teaches. Through her lessons, students are able to draw parallels between themselves and the garden, relate their lives to the Hero’s Journey, and learn sustainability for themselves and the environment.  Not only does Alyson empower her students, she empowers her fellow guides as well. Alyson makes it a priority to work alongside her fellow guides to develop new lessons plans each week.

Of her role, Alyson says, “The most rewarding aspect of the job is seeing the students’ growth.  Typically, I work the earlier phases in the program – Nalu and Kuleana. Several times a week, a student mentor comes back to Nalu and Kuleana. I love to see how the students have created their own leadership styles and I love to hear their invites on life. Often times, they even teach me something about the garden.”

August 22, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looks at the role itself and highlights Master Guide Nikki Robinson. Check back next week to meet another team member and their focus within this role! 

clementine_wilson_450x566

Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

The Master Guide role at Pacific Quest is a pathway for Program Guides to develop into dynamic leaders and mentors in the field. There’s a belief in mentoring and rites of passage work that “you can only take someone as far as you’ve been willing to go yourself.” All guides at PQ begin their journey as Apprentices, learning the trade of guide work in our unique environment from those who are seasoned and experienced. Master Guides have worked with the widest variety of student profiles and therefore have developed a comprehensive skill set in order to work safely and effectively with the students in our care.  In their extensive time in the field, they have uncovered joy and passion, faced challenges, navigated growth edges, earned respect, built confidence, and have now come full circle to give back to their peers.

Master Guides are an extension of the Field Management team.  They teach and coach their peers through role modeling, open authentic communication, direct leadership, and the feedback loop. With this, they aim to hold a safe and empowering container for our guides to learn and grow.  In addition to collaborating with various departments and being highly respected among peers, the Master Guides at PQ currently have a cumulative total of over 1,000 days in the field.

Each Master Guide has identified a niche they are focusing on in their role. Nikki Robinson has an especially keen eye for safety and risk management in the early phases of the program.  She  holds the big picture of structure and boundaries and is committed to supporting and mentoring Program Guides in this area. Alyson Alde is focused on ensuring our curriculum is being taught with creativity and passion, mentoring guides on lesson planning and dynamic teaching. Nick Olson is our land engagement guide, focusing on working with teams to further incorporate horticulture therapy into activities, and working with guides to increase experiential learning via the garden.

Meet Nikki Robinson

Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide at PQ

Nikki working with a student in the garden

Master Guide Nikki Robinson graduated from Naropa University with a BA in Contemplative Psychology. She is captivated by human behavior and as a result applied to Pacific Quest to pursue her passions.  Nikki started as a Program Guide at Pacific Quest two years ago and found a passion for holding boundaries and providing a consistent safe space for students.

Now, as a Master Guide, Nikki brings her extensive experience to mentor, train and support the Program Guide team.  She comments, “I’ve worked as a guide for two years and have been involved in some highly intense situations.  As a Master Guide, I want to teach and guide others and be that supportive mentor I believe everyone needs, to not just survive but thrive!  The students are our future.  My passion lies in assisting in their growth and helping them be the change they seek for themselves.”

Nikki values honesty and genuine connection and in return offers that to the students and guides.  She has a strong desire to help others and is driven to create change and continuously grow. She is interested in the human psyche and finds fulfillment in providing support for people who deeply suffer.

When Nikki is not at work you can find her at coffee shops, the beach swimming in the company of friends or studying astrology. She has a passion for reading self help books, studying astrology charts and providing knowledge to others who want to know themselves more.