AEI offers an opportunity…

to nurture the mind, body and soul by merging the wonders of the outdoors with strength based curriculums.

AEI utilizes the highest professional standards in experiential modalities to facilitate outdoor experiences that educate, empower and engage adults, teens and communities across the globe.

AEI provides opportunities for mastery of outdoor and human skills through adventure expeditions, professionally taught workshops and wilderness medicine certifications. Apply Now and join AEI, the leader in Adventure Education, for the wilderness experience of a lifetime!

Note: You might have noticed a recent downtime. We’d like to apologise for that. Our hosting servers went down and since then we’ve moved to a seedbox hosting server. Be rest assured we’re doing everything in our power to make sure that there won’t be any downtimes in the future. 🙂


Why Experiential Education?

Why Experiential Education?

It’s not hard to understand why so many people prefer experiential education to more traditional, classroom-based learning. There’s nothing wrong with learning in a classroom, of course, and all of us do it at some point in our lives.  But Panacea Adventures offers an opportunity to escape the four walls of a classroom and enjoy an enriching and affirming educational experience. Our summer block course offers students a great way to earn school credits while also learning how to be successful at life.


A common question, though, is the question of just how beneficial experiential education truly is. Is it really an education, or is it just goofing around outside? Educators have been refining the experiential education model for decades now, and this entire enterprise has come to be regarded as a truly legitimate and powerful way to learn about the self, about relationships with other people, and about the natural world.

Here are just some of the benefits of experiential education, beyond the fact that it’s just fun:

n  Experiential education encourages cooperative learning. Everyone involved in the group works together to learn, as opposed to everyone working separately. Experts say this is a great model for any group of kids who have different learning styles—and that’s basically every group of kids.

n  Experiential education also encourages peer-to-peer interaction, which is optimal for helping kids find their own unique voice.

n  When we talk about experiential education, we are talking about a hands-on learning style—and it is well established that people tend to learn best by doing as opposed to just listening or reading. The skills and lessons learned through experiential education really stick, in other words, and take deep root within us.

n  Experiential education encourages interdependent activity, which in turn helps each and every student to develop unique decision-making and leadership skills, while also fostering a spirit of teamwork.

n  Experiential learning is action learning—which means that students are constantly processing information, constantly using their skills, constantly making decisions. What’s learned through experiential education is constantly affirmed and re-enforced.

Experiential education offers immense benefits; because experiential educators seek to create profoundly memorable experiences, the lessons learned really stick. This makes for a wholly effective way to cultivate life skills, leadership abilities, communication abilities, and more—in addition to having an absolute blast!


Experiential Education

Experiential Education 101… and Panacea Adventures!

All of us are experiential learners. That is, we learn by doing. How many times have you heard someone tell you that practice makes perfect?

The idea is that you develop skills and abilities not just by reading about them, but by putting them into action, over and over, again and again.

Likewise, many of us say that we learn through trial and error, and we encourage our kids to learn from their mistakes.

The thinking behind all of these axioms is that our intellect, our character, and our ability are all shaped through experience.

So when someone talks about Experiential Education, they are not talking about something that is new or unusual.

Mountain to Sea


They are talking about the time-tested and innately human notion that learning happens through experience, through activity, and through adventure!

That’s the philosophy that drives the entire Experiential Education field, and it’s at the heart of what Panacea Adventures is all about.  Panacea offers a variety of programs, some of which you might call Adventure Education, or simply Outdoor Education.

All of them encourage learning by doing, and they offer so much fun, so many incredible experiences and memories, that the kids who take part in our programs may not even realize, at the time, that they’re learning so much!

Our Youth Leading the Way program, for example, is a multi-day wilderness learning expedition that includes plenty of backpacking as well as rock climbing and river rafting; the emphasis is on setting goals, learning teamwork, and developing the skills of communication and leadership.

Participants will enjoy group discussions about the goal’s they have set and the challenges they face, really hammering these personal development traits home without ever scrimping on the fun.


Even the Mountain to Sea program is about the learning process. Like Youth Leading the Way, this Panacea program involves plenty of fun in the outdoors. Youth who come will surely have the best summer of their lives!

Unlike Youth Leading the Way, Mountain to Sea does not have the group discussions and structured team goals—and yet, these things can’t help but naturally arise! For the Mountain to Sea Program, we recommend you get your hands on some good road bikes. BGG has a list of best road bikes and best mountain bikes under $1000 to help you get started.

When you’re out in the backwoods, enjoying the outdoor adventure of your life, issues of teamwork, responsibility, decision-making, and communication are bound to come up again and again.

The Experiential Education philosophy permeates Panacea’s less adventure-oriented programs, as well, including Education Without Walls. This program mixes classroom learning with backwoods experiences and hands-on, outdoor activities.

It’s all in service of for-credit programs in such topics as Geology, Native American Studies, even Social Justice. It’s a different way for kids to learn, and it’s an effective one, too—because it’s all aboutlearning by doing.

And that’s the great thing about Experiential Education. It combines the best of both worlds—classroom values and life-skill development on the one hand, and an amazing, absolute blast of a good time on the other.

It’s a great way to enjoy some of the most memorable and exciting experiences of your life, and grow as a person at the same time. That’s what Experiential Education—and Panacea Adventures—is all about.


What Is Wilderness Therapy Part 2

Wilderness Therapy largely evolved from Adventure Education, which involves experiential learning.   The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE),  understood the impact of   learning by experiencing :He said “I hear, I know.  I see something, I remember.  I do something, I understand.”  Although not as eloquent as Confucius, today we would say “learning by doing”. According to the experiential approach, learning happens more effectively if the learner is fully engaged in the activity. It is precisely this sort of engagement that Experiential Education seeks to promote.  The process that is able to transform “experience into experiential education” is referred to as “reflection”.  Guided reflection and analysis of the experience completes the cycle.   Reflections and analysis  motivate the learner towards further action for a new experience.

In experiential classrooms, individuals are placed in “real life” situations. This makes it necessary to develop problem solving techniques, or creative methods of working with the environment.  Effective experiential activities involve the participants in situations in which they must take some form of action to successfully cope with their surroundings.  Many outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or surfing are atypical of everyday life,. It is necessary for people involved in these activities to face situations outside their normal range of experiences and to develop skills to deal with these situations.  In the early 1900s “groups of hospitalized tuberculosis patients were taken out of doors to camp in tents on the hospital grounds as a way to quarantine them.”  Follow up reports showed significant physical and attitudinal changes.

Adventure education can be traced back to the 1800s.  In the past forty years it has gained popularity. Through Adventure Education the ability to understand things about oneself (intrapersonal intelligence) and the ability to understand others and work effectively with them (interpersonal intelligence) is developed. Students acquire self-esteem as they learn to trust and believe in themselves.  Adventure Education also fosters team-building activities and students are able to bond with their group.  Leadership skills are often harnessed as well.  Zuckerman (1979) listed a number of psychological benefits associated with Adventure Education: “self-concept, self-confidence and self-efficacy (perceived levels of abilities), self-actualization and well-being”  With such testaments providing a basis for the therapeutic benefits of adventure activities, Adventure Therapy evolved, becoming the next major development in Experiential Education following Adventure Education.  Adventure Therapy uses challenging experiences and the natural outdoor environment to treat psychological dysfunctions through the development of emotional, behavioral and life-effectiveness skills.  Adventure Therapy, which aims to approach psychological and emotional therapy through adventure-based learning experiences, is rooted in the tradition of Experiential Education philosophy, defined as learning by doing, with reflections.  Experiential Education, based on the belief that learning is a result of direct experience, includes the premise that persons learn best when they have multiple senses actively involved in learning. By increasing the intensity of the mental and physical demands of learning, Gass (2002) says the “participant engages all sensory systems in a learning and change process”.

Psychological research on information processing provides some support of this premise, an indication that multi-sensory processing account for a higher level of cognitive activity and increased memory . Applied specifically to the context of Adventure Therapy, the multi-sensory level of the therapeutic experience inherent in adventure activities may account for the high level of change reported by practitioners, thereby suggesting that experiential learning may be more deeply rooted for the client because of this broad sensory experience .  Accordingly, it may be expected that the effects of Adventure Therapy are more lasting and feature a lower probability for relapse of symptoms than more traditional forms of therapy.

Lund, J. & Tannehill, D. (2005). Standards-based physical education curriculum development. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Priest, S. & Gass, A. (2006). Effective leadership in adventure programming, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Ringer, M. & Gillis H. L. (1995). Managing psychological depth in adventure programming. Journal of Experiential Education, 18(1), 42-50.

Gass, A. (1993). Adventure Therapy: Therapeutic applications of adventure programming. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt publishers.

Kimball, R.O., & Bacon, S. B. (1993) The wilderness challenge model. In M. Gass (1993) Adventure therapy: Therapeutic applications of adventure programming, Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Lund, J. & Tannehill, D. (2005). Standards-based physical education curriculum development. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.


Signs and Symptoms

Last blog, we got a little glimpse into what wilderness therapy is and the types of populations we aim to serve.

The following reviews the signs and symptoms of common mental health concerns and follows up with some tips to manage these struggles:

Depression : Most people feel sad or depressed at times, especially after suffering a loss, dealing with life’s struggles, or a hit to their self-esteem.  Typically, people bounce back fairly quickly, but when feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and extreme sadness keep you from functioning normally, there may be something more serious going on.

According to the DSM-IV, if you experience at least five of the following nine symptoms, you may have depression.

  • a depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • a sense of restlessness or being slowed down
  • significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

Anxiety : Many people with depression also experience some degree of anxiety, anxiety that goes beyond the typical tension we experience when we face life’s challenges.  For people with an anxiety disorder, the overwhelming worry and fear is constant – with obsessive thoughts, feelings of panic, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, cold or sweaty hands.

Too much anxiety can be disabling, but a little anxiety is part of life – sometimes it’s even a motivating factor! For millions of people, worry disrupts everyday life, restricting it to some degree or even overshadowing it entirely.  An estimated 15 percent of Americans suffer from one or another of the anxiety disorders. These include generalized anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and flat-out panic attacks. As a group, anxiety disorders constitute the most common disorder in the country.

At least 5 percent of American adults experience panic attacks.  Often, panic attacks come out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Or they can come on when a person is coping with extreme stress.  Either way panic attacks can last for several minutes.

Stress : Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. But when you’re unable to cope well with the stress in your life, your mind and body may pay the price.  Both personal problems and social/job issues can cause a person a significant amount of stress. Some common stressors include: chronic health problems, emotional problems, relationships, major life issues, family issues, conflicts with your beliefs or values, your surroundings, your job, and your social situation.

Managing stress can be difficult for some and easier for others.  If you want to reduce stress, try setting a goal. Here are three steps that help in setting a stress-reducing goal:

1. Find out what creates stress for you.  Write in a journal- think about triggering events, your coping strategies, how you react and record it.

2. Think about why you want to reduce stress.  The reason you want to reduce stress comes from you- and it is important! Maybe you want to enjoy life more, or protect your health.  Whatever your reason, try to find it.

3. Set a goal to reduce the stress.  Set short-term and long-term goals and start small. If you start small and make the changes needed, it will be a lot easier to accomplish your long-term goals.

Setting goals to reduce stress as a way of taking control of your life is only one way of  making yourself a happier and healthier person all around.  Obvious effects of high stress, such as mental health problems and physical health problems, can lead to problems in your future.  On the flipside, even though you have high marks for physical health,  your mental or spiritual health may be lacking.

There are various ways to nurture your mind, body, and spirit to hold a calm and balanced energy.

1. Exercise: reduces stress by increasing endorphins (your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters) and improves mood and self-esteem.  Keep moving (no matter the activity) daily tensions seem to melt away and your mind focuses only on your body’s movement.

Choose something you love to do, whether it be running, hiking, swimming, walking , biking, surfing, organized sports, etc. Don’t force yourself into an activity just for the sheer exercise – enjoy it! Make sure you consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regimen to make sure your body can handle it.  Start out slow and work up your fitness level gradually (after all, we learned to crawl before we walked, right?). And lastly, keep it consistent.  Pick the same time each day, so it becomes a regular part of your day.  If you need help, find a buddy.  Commit to each other (and yourself) and to an activity.

2. Yoga: Is a great alternative to high-cardio exercise.  If you have never done yoga, try it out! Yoga can improve your flexibility, strength, and posture .  Lower blood pressue, improved breathing, calmness, increased concentration and elevated mood are some of the benefits of Yoga.

3. Meditation and relaxation: Relaxation techniques are an essential part of your quest for stress management.  Relaxation isn’t just about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is a process that decreases the wear and tear on your mind and body from the challenges and hassles of daily life.  In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body.  t doesn’t matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly to reap the benefits.

The most important message you can take from this information is this: take a little time for yourself.  Find out what’s not working and make small changes – for your mind, body, and spirit. Check in with yourself on a regular basis.  Keep your body moving!

Information provided by: HealthWise, WebMD,


What is Wilderness Therapy?


We hope that through this blog and through Panacea Adventures you will come to understand what the wilderness therapy experience is all about. There is debate in the literature of current and ongoing research of a strict definition of wilderness therapy.

This blog is simply one way to look at the whole picture of wilderness therapy.    The wilderness therapy experience can be summed up as “a theory-based adventure experience that promotes positive change for people with behavioral, developmental, emotional and physical challenges.”

Many people confuse wilderness therapy programs with wilderness or adventure programs.  The distinguishing factor is the clinical application to the wilderness experience.  A wilderness or adventure program typically has a “let the mountains speak for themselves” approach which focuses more on the “hard skills” Vs developing insight and personal change.  A wilderness therapy program, such as Panacea Adventures focuses on facilitating insight by processing the adventure experience.  In addition to teaching the “hard skills, wilderness therapy utilizes intervention, treatment, and assessment of the outcomes by a licensed therapist. Wilderness therapy is an emerging treatment intervention in the mental health field for helping people overcome barriers.

The wilderness therapist utilizes the experiences through-out the expedition to enhance the participant’s personal growth and insight.  This typically involves immersion in an unfamiliar environment, group-living with peers, individual and group therapy sessions, journal writing, educational curricula and application of technical outdoor skills. These processes are all designed to address problem behaviors by fostering personal and social responsibility and emotional growth of clients.

There are many different models and theories that are used in the wilderness therapy context.  Most wilderness therapy programs are based upon integration of wilderness programming theory and a clinically-based, eclectic, therapeutic model. By applying the processes to each of the phases of an outdoor adventure, the outcomes may includes; improved esteem, coping skills, relationships and insight as well as matured decision making and contemplation skills.

Please come back to visit us for the Part 2 of What is Wilderness Therapy? Coming soon!

Works Cited:

Russell , K. C., Hendee, J. C., and Phillips-Miller, D. (1999. How Wilderness Therapy

Works: An Examination of the Wilderness Therapy Process to Treat Adolescents with

Behavioral Problems and Addictions. In: Cole, D. N.; McCool, S. F. 2000. Proceedings:

Wilderness Science in a Time of Change. Proc. RMRS-P-000. Ogden, UT: U.S.

Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.



New things happening at Panacea!

Hi Everyone! I know its been a while since our last update, because we sure have been busy! Thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers, we have upgraded to forming committees for our organizational needs.

These volunteers are professionals in the community with a widespread knowledge and strong connections that will help us build this amazing organization.

So far we have formed two new committees: Marketing and Development.

Divide and Conquer: Our Marketing Committee will be working on marketing, advertising, and public relations with various community organizations, companies, and individuals to get the word about Panacea and our upcoming programs (Let It Go!).

Within this committee, we hope to send out quarterly newsletters; attend community meetings; connect with local radio, newspapers, and magazines; and keep ourselves linked in to local networking sites.

Our Development Committee will be working on grants and planning upcoming events. We have a few grant opportunities currently being researched to help fund our “Let It Go” Program.

(Our goal is to have this program 100% funded for our participants – a tall order, no doubt!) This committee is also undertaking the huge task of planning fundraising events. We are gearing up for our April 27th event at Mellow Mushroom: a night of music, fellowship, and prizes.

They have done a wonderful job soliciting for marvelous auction prizes as well as collecting some great bands to play at our event. We hope to host a Golf Tournament  in the fall of 2010 also. Keep your ears open for details about that!

If you feel that you have valuable experience that you want to bring to Panacea Adventures, please feel free to contact us – we would love to have your expertise!

A Learning Experience: We have certainly learned that dedicated volunteers and sponsors are hard to find. Panacea was founded in June of 2009 and we are just discovering that things in the non-profit world don’t move as quickly as possible.

It has been such a struggle for us to hang on to great volunteers and get funding for our programs.

We have pushed our “Let It Go” program to launch in the summer of 2011 due to this struggle, but we feel it is in the best interest of the kids! Like we mentioned before, our goal is to have this particular wilderness therapy program 100% funded for our participants…a task that we need a little more time to accomplish.

Fun Stuff: In leiu of post-poning our “Let It Go” program, we will have more time to run some pilot adventure programs this summer!

This will help us to fine-tune our program development in the natural setting and put our plans to work. We hope to launch at least two different 5-7 day long trips; one with rock climbing, resistance band training, and backpacking, and the other with kayaking, surfing, and backpacking.

We are working with a few different organizations who will provide the participants for these trips, but we are definitely taking more ideas.

If you have an idea, or know of an organization that would like to work with Panacea to build interpersonal growth or for teambuilding, etc, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you for following us and supporting our cause.

Peacefully yours,

Panacea Adventures Staff


Zac’s story

One of the professors in my graduate program would say “How we do anything, is how we do everything.”

If this statement is as true as I have found it to be then Zac Adair will never let barriers block him from success. He is a fabulous example of making the best of a bad situation and as Winston Churchill said; “Never. never never give up.”

The following links tells more about his story. One article was published by the Star- News, the other is an interview with Dustin Tester, Founder of Maui Surfer Girls. Both are worth the read.


In the beginning…

Like most things worth waiting for, this has been a long time in the making.

My first job out of high school was in the lush mountains of NC working as a camp counselor for Green Cove. After one summer of lighting camp fires, sharing adventures and growing in ways I never expected, I “signed-on” for a lifetime pursuit of exploration.

Zac spent his time either paddling east coast rivers, surfing waves in S.America, or skiing mountains in Utah and Colorado. He owned and operate his own business, but was unable to keep it afloat when he lost his vision in 2004.

Independently we have dreamed of founding an organization to offer therapeutic adventure programs to those whom otherwise wouldn’t have the means to do so.

The very first time Zac and I spoke was a result of Zac’s researching “therapeutic surfing” programs. I was working as the assistant director for the beloved Maui Surfer Girls (M.S.G.) and his Google searches continually hit on (M.S.G’s) surf program. It took about about 3 years from that first conversation for Panacea Adventures to become established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Now that we have the basic structure established, we are working daily to launch our first trip in spring of 2010 . Panacea will be teaming up with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental illness) and IndoJax Surf school for a sea kayak and surfing expedition. We will happily keep you posted on the details…