A teenage girls works with a mentor as part of her therapeutic school work at ThreePeaks Ascent, a nature-based short-term residential treatment center for teens

at ThreePeaks Ascent

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of therapeutic treatment is the role that it plays in a teen's academic success. Research continues to support that nature-based treatment as being a powerful place to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, and maladaptive behaviors. However, the impact of nature-based treatment on academic success is just as significant.

Earn high school credit while healing

Gain The Academic Skills Needed To Thrive In School

The Academic Benefits of Nature-based Residential Treatment

People have utilized nature as a place of healing for centuries and long ago academic institutions identified the benefits nature can have on their students.

Many of the nation's top boarding schools offer nature-based experiences as a character-building tool during the unstructured summer terms. They found that students who attended these immersive nature experiences appeared more mature and could better balance their academic demands.

Universities also discovered the academic benefits of nature. One university found that students who attended their nature-based course performed better academically. As a result, they began offering the course in the summer as a way to help struggling students. When a student was on the verge of expulsion, they were instead given the option to take the immersive nature-based summer course. Once completed, they would be given another chance at the university.

It is from these academic origins that the emotional, social, and familial benefits were later discovered and became the foundation of our nature-based residential treatment program.

threepeaks academics

“An environment-based education movement--at all levels of education--will help students realize that school isn't supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder


Help Your Teen Realize Their Academic Potential

For many teens in crisis, academic difficulties have been either a major cause or a significant symptom of other internal struggles they experience. Academics are a major part of a teen's life and identity - their world revolves around it, similar to how many adults' worlds revolve around their work.

At ThreePeaks Ascent, we utilize the academic portion of our phases to help assess and treat academic difficulties. Additionally, many students receive formal academic testing to screen for cognitive and learning disorders. Even for participants who do not experience any difficulties with learning or attention, academics can still be a significant stressor.

Part of the immersive experience at ThreePeaks Ascent involves preparing students to be successful once they return to school. During their stay at ThreePeaks Ascent, teens continue to participate in academic work provided in our program. We equip them with positive academic experiences in addition to other confidence and relationship-building experiences they have in the field.

In a 2-year follow-up study of nature-based treatment participants, parents reported their child was engaging in high school, college, or had graduated and was working. (Russell, 2005).

High School Credits in a Nature-based Residential Treatment Center

Our priority at ThreePeaks Ascent is to ensure that students achieve the highest number of credits during their time with us. Since the length of stay for each student is flexible, we structure the credit system to be sequential rather than concurrent. During each term, which spans approximately 2-3 weeks, students have the opportunity to earn between .5 - .75 academic credits. However, we tailor the academic experience of each student to accommodate their individual abilities and level of engagement.

Here are the credits your teen can earn while at ThreePeaks Ascent:

Term 1

(2 - 3 Weeks)

  • Elective: Outdoor Education (.25 credits)
  • Career and Technical Education: Human Services (.25 credits)

Total: Up to .5 credits earned in the first 2 - 3 weeks at ThreePeaks.

Term 2

(2 - 3 Weeks)

  • Elective: Outdoor Education (.25 credits)
  • Career and Technical Education: Human Services (.25 credits)
  • Lifetime Activities (.25 credits)

Total: Students earn up to .75 credits earned during the second 2-3 week period at ThreePeaks Ascent.

Terms 3 & 4

(2 - 3 Weeks each)

  • Lifetime Activities (.25 credits)
  • Student Choice #1 (.25 credits)
  • Student Choice #2 (.25 credits)

Students choose from one of the following courses:

  • Creative Writing (Core English Credit)
  • Astronomy (Core Science Credit)
  • Botany (Core Science Credit)
  • Art (Core Credit)
  • Food and Nutrition (Career and Technology Education Credit)
  • Study Skills (Elective Credit)

Total: Students earn up to .75 credits every 2-3 weeks during their final weeks at ThreePeaks Ascent.

Theories on Academic Success and Nature-based Residential Treatment

The Attitude-Behavior Theory emphasizes the student's characteristics as the predictor of success. Three common characteristics that have been identified in academic success include self-confidence, resilience, and internal locus of control. These characteristics have a common theme - they are all focused on and developed through participation in our nature-based treatment program. Immersive experiences in nature have been proven to improve a teenager's self-confidence, resilience, and internal locus of control. What does this mean? Put simply: the characteristics that have been found to be predictive of academic success are direct outcomes of nature-based residential treatment.

Self-Theories of Intelligence state that having a moldable view of abilities and intellect in contrast with a fixed view of intelligence is predictive of academic success. For example: having a fixed mindset on intellect infers that if you are bad at math, you will always be bad at math. But, a malleable mindset regarding intellect helps the teen acknowledge that, through continued learning and work, they CAN be successful. When a student completes treatment at ThreePeaks Ascent, they complete a curriculum that includes reading, writing, and memorizing. Therefore, they are able to see themselves improving their intellect through positive learning experiences and hard work.

The Psychological Contract Theory states that students hold implicit beliefs about the relationships they have with their peers, faculty, and staff. Through ThreePeaks Ascent's curriculum of building trusting relationships, we begin to explore the relationships that students already have with academic settings. ThreePeaks Ascent's Narrative therapy approach allows teens to tell their stories in a safe and supportive environment. It is through exploring a teen's life or narrative that we can begin to unpack the negative beliefs they hold about school and their academic abilities, thus promoting more healing.

Nature-based Residential Treatment for Teens in Crisis: Where Academic Success Comes Naturally.

ThreePeaks Ascent has a long, proven history of supporting academic success in teens. Even though many do not think of nature therapy programs as a place to treat academic underachievement, many teens have experienced the positive impact nature has on academics. Ultimately, there is solid logic and reason to believe that a nature-based experience has much to offer in school settings.

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