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Solo Time

Instruction

Here are some tips, tricks, and thoughts for facilitating a successful solo activity with students!

In the midst of a busy classroom schedule that involves a significant amount of large-group time, solo activities- or alone time- for students (and for educators) provide an essential time for everyone to re-energize, refresh, and reflect.

By creating a space for solo time, educators are able to:

  • Provide a time for closer observation that is not affected by social stimulus or peer distractions
  • Facilitate quiet moments that are beneficial to all students, especially to the students that require a (quiet) moment to process.
  • Create a quiet space for reflection that allows students to return to the group feeling refreshed

Solo Activity Formats: Solo time can be incorporated into any classroom format. Depending on the indoor or outdoor nature of the classroom, when facilitating a solo activity, an option is to go on a solo walk where students start and end a walk or hike together, but are alone on the trail. Solo time can also be facilitated through a solo sit in which instructors give clear directions for students to sit alone for a certain amount of time.  

Gearing Up: In order for solo time to go smoothly and for each student to feel comfortable enough to be alone either outdoors or in an indoor space, there is a good amount of preparation and clear direction that needs to be given before sending students off to sit, walk, or hike.

  • While this is a valuable opportunity for students to challenge themselves in a different manner, it is important for instructors to gauge their students and their comfort levels before facilitating a solo activity.
  • Solo activities can be magical experiences, but if a student is not comfortable, it can have a negative impact. It is important that instructors look to establish a certain degree of trust and rapport before asking students to leave the group and be alone.
  • Consider the possible environmental factors. Are the students prepared with the gear and materials they need to stay comfortable and engaged during their time alone?
  • In the instructor’s rollout speech that outlines clear expectations and instructions, address safety and what to do if a situation comes up.

Ask the students:

    • “What are our comfort levels with this activity?”
    • “What should you do if you think you are lost?” (Stay in one place!)
    • “Where will the other group members be?”
    • “What should you do if you have to go to the bathroom?” (Situation dependent, but ensure to present it in a way that will not interrupt others’ solo experiences.)
    • “Where will the adults in the group be?”

Solo Activities: If the instructor observes some unease going into the activity, it can be helpful to pair a task with the solo time.

  • Possible tasks include, placing solo walk cards on the ground for the hike that ask questions of the students. Students can respond to these in writing along the way or they can be interactive, asking the students to observe with their five senses.
  • During a solo activity, students can be tasked with a writing activity, such as creative writing, poetry, or listing observations they are making.
  • Students can sketch or draw their observations.
  • If outdoors, students can focus on specific ecosystem observations that are done by using the four senses (instructor discretion if taste is encouraged).
  • Another outdoor option is to encourage students to “make a plant friend.” By spending time observing one plant, students are able to thoroughly get to know it. It then can be tied into a plant identification activity in the future.
  • Instructors can encourage students during this time to practice being present, and not having a specific task at all, just to observe their surroundings.

Student Adjustments:

Depending on the student group, solo time can be adjusted to accommodate each group’s abilities.

  • Some options are, rather than solo time, the activity can be adjusted to “quiet time” in which students are spread out, but still within eyesight. “Quiet time” also provides the quiet time and space that the instructor is looking for.
  • Instructors can additionally adjust the length of the walk or time of the sit according to student comfort and/or ability.
  • As mentioned above, instructors can choose to incorporate a task along with the solo activity that is catered to each group.
  • If student(s) seem uncomfortable about the idea of being alone, there is always the option of walking silently or quietly with a partner. It’s helpful to add a disclaimer for this accommodation that they are responsible for being respectful of their partner’s experience and for walking quietly together.

Solo Time… for the instructor too!

Solo time is an opportunity for the instructor as well! It can be a time and space to reflect on and improve teaching practice, collect intentions for the remainder of the teaching time, prepare for the next lesson (mentally and physically- in terms of setting up the next lesson), or maybe it is just a moment of quiet. 

Here are some tips, tricks, and thoughts for facilitating a successful solo activity with students!

In the midst of a busy classroom schedule that involves a significant amount of large-group time, solo activities- or alone time- for students (and for educators) provide an essential time for everyone to re-energize, refresh, and reflect.

By creating a space for solo time, educators are able to:

  • Provide a time for closer observation that is not affected by social stimulus or peer distractions
  • Facilitate quiet moments that are beneficial to all students, especially to the students that require a (quiet) moment to process.
  • Create a quiet space for reflection that allows students to return to the group feeling refreshed

Solo Activity Formats: Solo time can be incorporated into any classroom format. Depending on the indoor or outdoor nature of the classroom, when facilitating a solo activity, an option is to go on a solo walk where students start and end a walk or hike together, but are alone on the trail. Solo time can also be facilitated through a solo sit in which instructors give clear directions for students to sit alone for a certain amount of time.  

Gearing Up: In order for solo time to go smoothly and for each student to feel comfortable enough to be alone either outdoors or in an indoor space, there is a good amount of preparation and clear direction that needs to be given before sending students off to sit, walk, or hike.

  • While this is a valuable opportunity for students to challenge themselves in a different manner, it is important for instructors to gauge their students and their comfort levels before facilitating a solo activity.
  • Solo activities can be magical experiences, but if a student is not comfortable, it can have a negative impact. It is important that instructors look to establish a certain degree of trust and rapport before asking students to leave the group and be alone.
  • Consider the possible environmental factors. Are the students prepared with the gear and materials they need to stay comfortable and engaged during their time alone?
  • In the instructor’s rollout speech that outlines clear expectations and instructions, address safety and what to do if a situation comes up.

Ask the students:

    • “What are our comfort levels with this activity?”
    • “What should you do if you think you are lost?” (Stay in one place!)
    • “Where will the other group members be?”
    • “What should you do if you have to go to the bathroom?” (Situation dependent, but ensure to present it in a way that will not interrupt others’ solo experiences.)
    • “Where will the adults in the group be?”

Solo Activities: If the instructor observes some unease going into the activity, it can be helpful to pair a task with the solo time.

  • Possible tasks include, placing solo walk cards on the ground for the hike that ask questions of the students. Students can respond to these in writing along the way or they can be interactive, asking the students to observe with their five senses.
  • During a solo activity, students can be tasked with a writing activity, such as creative writing, poetry, or listing observations they are making.
  • Students can sketch or draw their observations.
  • If outdoors, students can focus on specific ecosystem observations that are done by using the four senses (instructor discretion if taste is encouraged).
  • Another outdoor option is to encourage students to “make a plant friend.” By spending time observing one plant, students are able to thoroughly get to know it. It then can be tied into a plant identification activity in the future.
  • Instructors can encourage students during this time to practice being present, and not having a specific task at all, just to observe their surroundings.

Student Adjustments:

Depending on the student group, solo time can be adjusted to accommodate each group’s abilities.

  • Some options are, rather than solo time, the activity can be adjusted to “quiet time” in which students are spread out, but still within eyesight. “Quiet time” also provides the quiet time and space that the instructor is looking for.
  • Instructors can additionally adjust the length of the walk or time of the sit according to student comfort and/or ability.
  • As mentioned above, instructors can choose to incorporate a task along with the solo activity that is catered to each group.
  • If student(s) seem uncomfortable about the idea of being alone, there is always the option of walking silently or quietly with a partner. It’s helpful to add a disclaimer for this accommodation that they are responsible for being respectful of their partner’s experience and for walking quietly together.

Solo Time… for the instructor too!

Solo time is an opportunity for the instructor as well! It can be a time and space to reflect on and improve teaching practice, collect intentions for the remainder of the teaching time, prepare for the next lesson (mentally and physically- in terms of setting up the next lesson), or maybe it is just a moment of quiet. 

About the Author
Alli Qubain
Author: Alli Qubain

Alli grew up in Southern Colorado, and although she missed the dry air and consistent sunshine, she quickly fell in love with the Pacific Northwest after attending college at the University of Puget Sound. She studied biology and environmental sciences and spent a semester living in and studying the many ecosystems of Ecuador. Since she graduated, Alli’s summers and falls have been wonderfully consumed by leading wilderness trips for students in Washington, Montana, and Alaska. She has spent multiple fall seasons in North Carolina as a leader and program director for the same company’s school programs. In between, she spent half of a year backpacking, skiing and exploring New Zealand. Alli currently lives in Seattle and works as an outdoor educator and is the Guide Program Assistant at Alpine Ascents International. As an avid back country skier (and wanna-be mountain biker) she loves exploring Washington’s mountains and will take any opportunity to go skiing in Canada.