News & Views - Feb,
1999 Issue #56
SHOUTING AT THE SKY
TROUBLED TEENS AND THE PROMISE OF THE WILD
By: Gary Ferguson, 1999
Book review by: Lon Woodbury
Gary Ferguson spent three months in the high desert country of Utah last
year with what some might call a “rite of passage” for at-risk teens. In this book he writes about how one quality wilderness program,
by using the wilderness, relationships and structure (supplemented by doses of therapy) can help at-risk children get back on track
by learning the lessons a person must know in order to live a successful life. These lessons include such concepts as the relationship
of cause and effect, how honesty helps a person live with themselves and others better, how to make good friendships, and how good
it feels to break through self- imposed limits.
He saw teens from all segments of society come into the program with an attitude
and a past. Not necessarily bad kids or those with a mental health disorder, but kids who had been abusing drugs, or flirting with
gang activity, or full scale rebellion against their parents or any adult who might tell them ”no”, or teens close to giving up on
He watched them start the trek trying their usual manipulation, anger and
self-defeating patterns they had been using back home. He observed how those patterns quickly were questioned as unsuccessful in the
face of the unforgiving demands of the wilderness and having to learn how to get along with a small group of peers and staff where
survival and comfort depended on cooperation and honesty. He tells how the kids then try to change their patterns, struggling with
unfamiliar emotions and actions, until they find ways that can work better there and back home.
The book is really a collection of stories about real kids, with real problems,
finding solutions with more promise than their old solutions. It is also a story about how the wilderness, introduced to the children
by competent staff, can be a healing tool that for many children, is much more effective than those traditional therapies of once
a week counseling or residential treatment centers.
For anyone who wonders how the wilderness can possibly help at risk teens,
this book provides valuable insight. It not only clarifies by examples how the wilderness can be such a powerful healing tool, but
more importantly, the author gives the reader the FEEL of a wilderness experience as seen through the eyes of a scared and angry at-risk
This book will be valuable to the parent needing insight as to what a wilderness
program might uniquely accomplish for their child with behavioral/emotional problems.
The book will be valuable to the parent of a wilderness graduate, giving
more depth to their understanding of what their child really experienced. . This book will be valuable to the referring professional
looking for something that will reach their youthful clients when standard interventions have not worked.
This book will be valuable to public leaders by demonstrating there are new
approaches that have great promise for young people.
Now, when someone asks me the question, “Why the wilderness?” I have a ready
answer. “Read Gary Ferguson’s book SHOUTING AT THE SKY!”
(This book is available at the Woodbury
Reports Online Store ).
Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)