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Nature as a central component of treatment has taken many forms in Northwest Passage programs for nearly 40 years, from formalized nature excursions traversing beautiful and scenic terrain to highly focused nature photography. There is a large body of evidence that points to the benefits of the healing qualities of nature in the promotion of both mental and physical health. At Passage we strive to inject as much time spent in nature as possible into our programming. Learn more about the role nature plays in building a therapeutic lifestyle by investigating some of our favorite resources below.

Doctor’s Orders, Get Outdoors!

Get Hooked on Nature

Our Blue Minds

Richard Louv on Schools

Connecting Children to Nature

Standford Prescribes Nature



The PassageWay is grounded in solid research. If you’re interested in learning more about the background of our approach, please dive in and investigate some of the resources we’ve used in developing our guiding principals.


Lifestyle and Mental Health article, by Roger Walsh of the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine.

Main points from the article:

  • Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improves your cognitive function at zero cost.” What therapy method is Roger Walsh talking about? One hint, we have plenty of it here at Northwest Passage… it is Nature!
  • Research suggests an inescapable link between mental health and nature.
  • Nature heals and calms, removes mental trivia, and reminds one of what really matters.
  • Artificial environments have noise, low-quality light, non-natural spectra and rhythms. The psychological costs of these features of the great indoors impact our minds and our ability to perform academically.
  • We consume hours of multimedia stimuli every single day which impacts how we live and communicate and our brains!
  • Nature can lead to greater cognitive, attention, emotional, spiritual, and subjective well being.
  • Nature offers the gift of silence!

You can learn more about their impact on our work by visiting their website.


NBC recently published a great article about just how good nature is for you with tips for enjoyment to boot!



Does Nature Make us Happy provides insight about why you’ll find nature infused at every level of our work at Passage, written by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. The article can be found here: Does Nature Make Us Happy?

  • Our connections with nature could just be the best medicine for people of all ages–improving our health, happiness, and well-being.
  • There are no required classes in nature connectedness in our schools, nor is nature a well-utilized tool for teaching kids to critically think about the world around them. New research, however, suggests our relationship with nature may be deeply linked to our happiness.
  • Nature relatedness often predicts happiness regardless of other psychological factors.
  • Psychological connections with nature have the capacity to facilitate sustainable attitudes, and may be an important tool in preserving our environment.
  • Many experts have sounded the alarm about our disconnection from the natural world, from the Industrial Revolution onward. But the Digital Age evokes additional concerns.
  • Kids who learn in outdoor classrooms improve their science scores by 27% and when we feel connected to nature, we are more likely to live sustainable lifestyles.



Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv best selling author of, Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N (and others)

Richard Louv says:

  • The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.
  • Last Child in the Woods

The Children & Nature Movement can be found here: Children & Nature Movement

Today our children face a crisis as:

  • 90% of them spend time indoors
  • An average of 50 hours per week is spent on media
  • Obesity has risen to 20%

But nature can help as it has been used for families of both married and divorced parents to help their children become more environmentally engaged as well as helping to prevent “therapy fatigue.”


We here at Passage have been prescribing nature for decades, but never has it been more imperative.


The important discussion of getting children hooked on nature can be found here: Hooked on Nature

Benefits of children and adults spending time in  nature includes:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Lower rates of heart disease, osteoporosis, MS, and some cancers
  • Lower obesity rates
  • Lower anxiety, stress and depression
  • Better focus, particularly for those with ADHD

However, we are in the midst of a crisis as:

  • Many kids get less than an hour outside each day
  • Many schools have completely removed recess
  • In one generation, child obesity has tripled
  • Many kids have an average of 7 hours and 40 minutes of screen time per day

On the bright side:

  • We can incorporate technology into environmental learning such as using a smartphone to capture photos of differing aspects of nature.


Podcast! Getting Kids Outside

Children, Nature, and the Importance of Getting Kids Outside brought to you by the Partnerships for Environmental Health (PEPH)

Active kids less likely to be depressed later on

IT’S ALL CONNECTED… The individual elements of the PassageWay are deeply ingrained with one another. The qualities of spending time in nature can enhance the qualities of other elements. Here are our favorite elements to pair with the great outdoors.

Women of the Valley project takes girls to River Falls

On July 11, 2015, a group of seven girls from Northwest Passage Prairieview set out to meet and interview Danette Olson - their first assignment as a photojournalist team. This summer the girls at Northwest Passage will meet many women throughout the St. Croix River...

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Costa Rica through the eyes of Northwest Passage

Costa Rica through the eyes of Northwest Passage

Follow along as Ethan and Renny go on the adventure of a lifetime to Corcovado National Park, in Costa Rica. To see the full exhibit, check out our Gallery. Posts to check out from the trip: Thank you Tropical Wings! Adventures in Drake Bay and Sierpe Day 3 at...

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Underwater photography’s second year is up and running

Underwater photography’s second year is up and running

What's that sound you hear? It is the collective sigh from a group of therapists, project coordinators, and most importantly kids, in northwestern Wisconsin. We're all breathing sighs of relief because our second year of underwater photography programming, New Light:...

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