Experiential Learning at White River Academy

Experiential Learning at White River Academy

White River Academy is a therapeutic residential treatment center for troubled adolescent males from ages 12 through 17. Our programs combine therapy, academics, experiential activities and community service to facilitate our students’ personal growth. Each program element complements all other components to help each student reach his fullest potential. Our therapeutic approach is based on a Positive Peer Culture (PPC), which encourages students to develop dignity, responsibility, self-worth and significance as they become committed to the positive values of helping and caring for others.

What is experiential learning?

White River Academy provides adolescents with different educational interventions and learning styles using a holistic experiential learning theory (ELT) approach. Providing adolescents with different learning styles and tools can assist them with learning in academic settings as well as with life experiences outside the classroom. Learning is a dynamic cycle in which the learners grasp and transform their experiences by reflecting, thinking and acting. Learning is a cyclical process that incorporates experience and reflection, integration to develop new ways of thinking and application to the real world.

Other ways to describe ELT include:

  • Concrete experience (feeling)

  • Reflective observation (watching)

  • Active experimentation (doing)

The experiential learning cycle includes active involvement in the experience, reflection and analysis of the experience and then implementing what is learned from the experience. White River Academy provides students with opportunities to engage in experiential learning through service-learning projects and community service. Students learn to reflect on and analyze their experiences so that they can apply their newfound knowledge in future endeavors.

Teamwork, strengths and weaknesses

The outdoor adventures and activities offered at White River Academy challenge students physically and emotionally, and teach them how to interact effectively with others and work with others as part of a team. Learning to communicate successfully with peers and becoming valuable members of a group or team are essential to achieving personal growth. Responsibility and accountability — to themselves and to their groups — are important life lessons.

To develop competence and self-esteem, students are guided to think about and reflect on their personal experiences and take part in activities that benefit others. This approach engages students and enables them to discover more about their personal strengths and weaknesses both in and out of the classroom.

Academic approach at White River Academy

White River Academy goes beyond teaching students about specific subjects in the classroom — students receive learning tools and training to use in situations where they will be most effective. Based on existing evidence, watching and reading something are not enough. White River Academy stresses the value of hands-on experiences combined with active engagement with peers as important aspects of the learning process. When scaling a rock or whitewater rafting, students can’t take shortcuts. These experiences are a combination of hard work and fun, yet provide an opportunity for students to think about their value and meaning.

Students become actively involved in new and concrete experiences. While some experiences involve exposure to new knowledge in the classroom setting, experiential learning also applies to volunteer activities in the community and outdoor adventures such as hiking, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. Students also participate in service-learning projects and activities that enhance their moral development and transform them into positive and productive young men.

At White River Academy, our students begin to see life as a process of continuous growth and learning. Although our academic program includes a customized curriculum that helps students catch up on their academics and prepare for college, we believe that learning should also occur outside the classroom, which is why we utilize ELT throughout our curriculum. To learn more about White River Academy or to enroll your son today, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our admissions team.

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What makes us great!


Justin Nielson

Program Administrator

It is natural for parents to worry and have concerns when sending their son away to a residential treatment center. We hope this detailed description of the admission process at White River Academy will answer some of your questions.

  • Small and Family-Directed

  • Accredited Educational Facility

  • Individualized Academics

  • Behavior Learning Component

  • Positive Peer Culture

  • Licensed Residential Treatment Center

Service Projects

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