John Willson – Outdoor Adventure: A Path to Developing Grit

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“John is most well known for hosting summer camp experiences for youth with learning and attention challenges.”

“Today he’ll be sharing strategies he’s used to help kids get outside and maximize those experiences to nurture Grit and resilience.”

Something that really impressed me about John, as someone experienced with adventure therapy, is his depth of knowledge and experience in the subject of developing youth’s sense of grit using the outdoors as a medium.

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This master class will examine the role outdoor adventure experiences have on developing a growth mindset and nurturing grit.

I will highlight concepts regarding developing a failing forward mentality, enhancing emotional coping skills, nurturing strengths, fostering courage, and developing the skills necessary to move purposely forward in life.

Webster’s Definition of Grit would be: Firmness of mind; invincible spirit, unyielding courage; fortitude. For the purposes of this master class, I have modified the definition to the following: The ability to draw on a reservoir of strength when faced with adversity and persevere in order to: Overcome obstacles; pursue passions, and work towards long-term goals.

Outdoor adventure can be an extraordinary tool to nurture grit and develop critical life skills needed to grow and learn.

Most of my seminal moments of learning through perseverance came with the additional gifts of blisters, being sun-kissed, completely exhausted, and totally inspired by what I have seen, accomplished, or helped others experience in the outdoors.

Come explore this journey with me, then take your own.

John Willson, M.S. | John Willson received his M.S in Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration from Aurora University in 1993.

He has spent 30 years working in youth programs with an emphasis on youth diagnosed with learning and attention challenges and has led hundreds of adventure courses around the world.

He is currently the Executive Director of SOAR, a non profit residential boarding school, adventure camp, and gap year program serving youth diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD. John is also the Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of North Carolina and served on the national board for CHADD.

He actively presents to teachers, parents, and professionals at local, state, and national conferences. In addition, he has been an adjunct professor at Western Carolina University and Mars Hill College teaching Outdoor Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses.

His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

Finally, and most importantly, he is an adult thriving with ADHD and the proud parent of two magnificent, creative, children living with learning and attention challenges.

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