Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Schools & Programs
Chat Board
Online Store
Contact Us

Schools & Program Visits - Aug, 2000 Issue #72 

Crater Lake School
Bobbie Christenson

July 18, 2000 visit by Loi Eberle, M.A 

[Loi Eberle has worked with Lon Woodbury since 1998 as an educational consultant and editor of Woodbury Reports]

From Klamath Falls, Oregon, Crater Lake School is about 45 minutes on good roads, through high desert and sagebrush, with majestic Mt. Shasta towering on the southern horizon. Crater Lake itself is about 40 miles north of Klamath Falls. After entering Crater Lake School’s property and driving to the main house, I observed the almost 80 acres of a shallow-water lake and grassy marshes that created a lovely view from the house’s wrap-around deck. This beautiful and calming setting was easily viewed through the house’s large windows. Inside, was a large living room, kitchen, classroom and bedrooms for the students. Presently they housed 19 adolescents, though they are licensed for a total of 25 coeds.

I had been invited to the morning “town meeting,” where everyone had the opportunity to discuss schedules, chores and issues that arise when living in a group setting. The boys sat on couches on one side of the circle, the girls on the other. David Hedelman, M.A., the therapist, led the meeting with Program Director, Steve Long, who provided input and direction. As I looked at the students, I realized this was a more open program, for “softer” students – ones who are dealing with being bi-polar, or self-mutilators, or who are dealing with depression. These students are permitted more self-expression as they work through the program phases than they would in some other programs. Those who worked through the beginning phases are allowed to wear a little makeup, jewelry, and less conservative clothing. Some students have earned the privilege of listening to program-approved music on walkmans, as well. I questioned whether this causes students to be too influenced by outer appearances and the media, although the students I spoke with claimed the program has taught them to de-emphasize material items, and to be more truthful in their interactions with others.

This is a program that has experienced a lot of transition since it began three years ago. It seems at this point they are beginning to recognize the kind of adolescent with whom they wish to work. They are now in the process of building a team specifically designed to work with adolescents who have mood disorders, most of whom are on medication. They stay in close contact with Intermountain Hospital and Behavioral Management Centers in Boise, Idaho, for assessment and monitoring of medication. Many of the students in this program have been shown to have differences in how their brains function. While in most cases medication has been prescribed to help them manage cognitive and behavioral difficulties, program owner, Bobbie Christianson, and therapist David Hiddleman, are exploring other ways students can learn to re-pattern their brain wave activity. They are excited about using drumming and movement as ways to create new connections between brain synapses that may eventually facilitate less reliance on medication for these students. This work is based on emerging research on brain activity.

They have individualized academic classes, which is necessary since their students range in age from 13 to 17. They are in the process of adding another teacher to work with their classroom aide to further individualize the accredited program. Currently, David, the therapist, is taking on some of the teaching responsibilities until they locate a teacher to replace their previous one. He is being assisted by an interim teacher until the permanent position is filled. David enjoys seeing the different aspects of the students when working both as teacher and therapist. They are also examining the Keystone program as a way to tailor the academic program and curriculum materials to better suit each student’s individualized needs.

The program is in the process of adding a fourth phase to what has been a three-phase program. They are also building more structure into the daily schedule, which the students seem to welcome. The days are a combination of ranch work, service projects, physical activity and academics. They have therapeutic group work three times a week, and individual therapy when needed. They are also negotiating with the local community for NA/AA meetings to be held at the house. In the past they haven’t had a lot of participation in the meetings in town since many of the kids haven’t had drug abuse as their issue, and the program staff disagreed with cigarette use by the meeting leaders.

Crater Lake School finds the Intermountain Hospital and Behavioral Management Center in Boise, Idaho to be a good resource for assessment; many of their students have undergone the “Brain Mapping” QEEGs conducted by Drs. Heyrend and Bars. These tests provide more specific information about what parts of the brain are not functioning within normal parameters, thus providing valuable information for prescribing medications. In addition to issues of medication, I am hoping Crater Lake School can actually utilize the brain-mapping information to complement their academic program, especially in regard to differences in learning styles. I saw some students working individually with study kits who perhaps will welcome more teacher-student interaction, with the arrival of the new teacher. I suspect self-directed and motivated students do fine within the current situation. In fact, some students have actually worked through the coursework fast enough to graduate early from high school. They are also exploring the possibility of students earning credit in community college programs, though at this point nothing has been finalized. While Crater Lake School doesn’t have a formal apprenticeship or job- training program established, they are attempting to teach the kids basic maintenance and life skills to at least be able to get started in a job when they leave.

This program is certainly less structured than some. When I discussed this with Bobbie Christianson, she emphasized that they are working with a different population: kids who have mood disorders, who respond to re-direction, rather than confrontation. Keeping the communication open and helping them to develop insight about their behaviors and beliefs is nurturing, and enables students to choose how they will respond, rather than acting out.

Talking to the students gave me the impression that they are developing more insight about themselves and their behavior, but again, it is a different population, one that many professionals have already determined, needs medication to maintain appropriate behavior. Crater Lake School is working to supplement pharmaceutical protocols with their efforts to foster greater insight in their students while also shaping student behavior so they can function more successfully in society.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright © 2000 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.