"People say that what we‟re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don‟t think that‟s what we‟re really seeking. I think that what we‟re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive." ~Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth)
Analysis of life experiences can help us to define the human experience and to appreciate the profundity of our existence. Unfortunately for teens,there are few effective educational models that address life phases and smooth out the tranisition from dependent adolescence and responsible adulthood. Effectively meeting the challenge of this oversight in education can serve to expedite the process of finding direction and meaning in one's life.
Graduation exercises have become extremely frivolous, and participants rarely use this transitional period to reflect upon their existence or life purpose. The result is that the time between the adolescent condition and the adult condition has been extended in modern American society, with remnants of adolescence being expressed in individuals well into their thirties and beyond.
GLADE incorporates activities that can serve as a catalyst to promote a type of reflective reasoning that facilitates personal growth and development. These activities recognize that three conditions are necessary for personal transformation. These three conditions can be briefly described as the departure, the experience, and the reentry.
The first condition of departure indicates that elements of everyday life, formerly perceived as essential to the adolescents, are left behind. Many of our students leave their parents, homes, siblings, friends, and other valuable elements of their identity for the very first time in their lives in order to participate in the week-long, residential project. There is a going away, that elicits a sense of loneliness, soon to be replaced by a sense of independence in the second phase of transformation.
The second phase of the GLADE experience is full of new and exciting adventures that fill the mind and touch the heart. New friendships are established with kindred spirits that share a love for the outdoors and fill the void created upon their departure from family and friends earlier in the week. The tools of personal change are the tools of the research scientist and the conservationist: mist nets, dip nets, testing kits, shovels, handsaws, pencils, clipboards, writing and sketch pads, and much more. The doors to this natural realm are many. The keys to entry are the sciences, the arts, the humanities, the engaged mind, and the open heart. The immersive experience provides the youth with a new way of perceiving. Nature is a life instructor to those who enter its domain and experience its treasures.