Outward Bound USA

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Outward Bound USA (OBUSA) is the governing body for the national network of eleven regional Outward Bound schools in the United States. Each year more than 35,000 students participate in Outward Bound educational programs, in city classrooms and outdoors in amazing wilderness settings. The aims of Outward Bound learning are to foster personal growth and social skills of participants using challenging expeditions in the outdoors.[1] "These adventures are designed for people to compete against themselves, not against each other. Kurt Hahn [the founder] hoped to develop 'a sense of conquest without the humiliation of the conquered.' His aim was to develop people through performance, not to make expert performers out of people. And as all Outward Bound activities -- with the exception of solo -- are conducted with others on whom they have to depend, the trainees are caught up in the spirit of 'all for one and one for all.'"[2] Participants thus find that challenge converts to self-discovery, so that the world they return to looks and feels different from the one they left: it is charged with the possibility of making good.


Outward Bound USA is an experiential education organization in the United States, with a national network of regional schools across the country. The wide-ranging course offerings occur in the wilderness, on the sea and in the classroom, in cities and towns both close and far away.

Outward Bound USA and the national network of Outward Bound schools operate in collaborative partnership to assure consistent program standards across all schools and to ensure that Outward Bound safety practices, instructor qualifications and course curricula are, without exception, exceptional.[3]

As part of a national system, each Outward Bound school operates autonomously with rich local legacies, intimate knowledge of its course areas, and close ties with the communities it serves. Each school forges active relationships with school systems and other local organizations to weave the threads of character, leadership, and ethic of service into the fabric of the local community.[4]

Outward Bound Schools

Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School

Colorado Outward Bound School

Hurricane Island Outward Bound School

North Carolina Outward Bound School

Northwest Outward Bound School

Outward Bound California

Philadelphia Outward Bound School

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center

Voyageur Outward Bound School

New York City Outward Bound Schools

Omaha Outward Bound

Outward Bound Courses[5]

Outward Bound believes that every individual, regardless of age or circumstance, can benefit from an Outward Bound learning expedition. Each expedition is designed with the developmental needs and practical considerations of a particular age group or population in mind. All Outward Bound courses derive from the work of Kurt Hahn, a German educator (1886-1974) who considered it the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of five personal qualities: "an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion."[6]

Classic Expeditions

Middle School, High School, College & Adult

Classic extended wilderness expeditions take students into pristine wilderness environments and help individuals discover strengths: teamwork and leadership, self-reliance and group cohesion, perseverance in the face of adversity and willingness to seek challenge as a learning opportunity. Classic courses are available year-round at locations across the country. Courses range from four-day programs to expeditions several weeks long. The average program lasts for 15 days; challenging activities might include backpacking, canyoneering, canoeing, dog sledding, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, skiing and snowboarding.

Semester Expeditions

Outward Bound semester courses provide an alternative for college-age students looking for something beyond the traditional classroom environment, and for those who want to learn by doing. These 30-day to 85-day courses are opportunities to gain real wilderness skills while practicing decision making, problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Instructor Development Expeditions

Instructor Development expeditions provide participants with the skills they will need to successfully and safely lead a group of students in a wilderness setting. Every phase of the expedition is focused on learning about wilderness education through direct experience and reflection. As participants strive to become a high-functioning group able to communicate effectively, make decisions and take on challenges, they analyze teamwork and learn how to facilitate and foster it. Experienced Outward Bound Instructors conduct seminars and discussions about how to teach skills and manage a wilderness experience to achieve specific goals. In preparation to lead their own courses, participants earn Wilderness First Responder certification and practice risk management in a variety of settings and situations throughout the expedition.

Intercept Expeditions

Intercept Expeditions are specifically designed for families with teens struggling at home or in school. This highly structured and facilitated program removes students from the pressures and influences of home and school, and instead presents them with the healthy risks and real challenges of the natural world. Intercept courses focus on communication, conflict resolution and decision making tools. Students learn to examine the decisions that they have been making in their lives, and practice new ways of setting goals and connecting decisions with consequences. Throughout the course, a carefully designed curriculum prepares students to reunite with their families, reengage in their home lives in a meaningful way, and transfer their successes at Outward Bound to the challenges they will face in the future. The expedition culminates with a facilitated conversation between the students and their families, during which students share key takeaways and collaborate with their families to make a plan for the future.

Veterans Expeditions

Outward Bound Veterans offers 5-7 day wilderness courses at no cost to veterans, helping thousands of returning service members and military veterans readjust to life at home through the healing power of the wilderness. Veterans expeditions help to reinforce the gratification, confidence and self-worth that comes with working within a group, and to build the skills necessary for a successful return to life after wartime service. The program is supported through foundation, corporate and individual donations in order to offer 100% scholarship to all participating veterans.

Professional Expeditions

Outward Bound Professional programs often combine indoor and outdoor activities and can be held at conference centers, urban parks, rural basecamps or wilderness settings. Itineraries can be as short as a day or continue on a regular schedule over several months. To give their members the benefits of Outward Bound learning, commercial companies, non-profit groups, and civic organizations design these experiences collaboratively with an Outward Bound school or center

Grieving Teens Expeditions

Intended to provide respectful healing experiences in a wilderness environment, Outward Bound Grieving Teens courses implement personal growth methodologies and a simple support model that honors the griever. The grief work that is purposefully woven into every aspect of the curriculum is not intended to provide therapy, but rather to facilitate an environment where young people can connect, build relationships and share in a relevant healing experience with real-world outcomes.

Classic Family Expeditions

On Classic Family expeditions, the main goal is to provide families (whether that is just two family members or the entire extended group) with the opportunity to experience an Outward Bound expedition together as a unit. Family participants learn by doing.

Group Expeditions

Outward Bound provides courses to meet the specific team building and leadership goals of high school and college groups, as well as special groups like cancer survivors or families of 9/11 victims. Group Programs range from a single day ropes course to multi-week wilderness expeditions.

Educator Expeditions

On Educator expeditions, the main goal is to provide participants with a thorough understanding of the Outward Bound expeditionary learning approach and to help them identify meaningful ways to integrate the approach into their own classrooms or teaching roles. Educator participants experience firsthand how expedition-style travel gives rise to leadership lessons, practical skill development, teamwork, conflict resolution, and much more. During every phase of the expedition, educators reflect on what they have learned personally; but they also discuss as a group how these insights might relate to the educational programs in which they serve. Perhaps most valuable of all, instructors serve as knowledgeable sounding boards and credible experts as they model actual expeditionary learning practices throughout the journey.

EL Education and Outward Bound

A non-profit comprehensive school reform organization which is no longer a part of Outward Bound USA, EL Education works with over 129 urban and rural schools across the United States including Puerto Rico.[7]

Diversity training

In the United States, Outward Bound schools have employed "diversity trainings" for their staff in order to prepare instructors to address the various issues that may arise on course due to a diverse group of participants. Diversity trainings are intended to provide the arena where staff can be challenged in the same ways participants are challenged to step out of their comfort zone.

The methods employed to increase diversity awareness among Outward Bound staff have, as recently as 2008, come under some scrutiny from a small number of individuals. However, there have been no formal investigations or findings of wrongdoing at any point in time. Outward Bound USA continues to deny any violation of employees' basic civil rights.

Outward Bound programs continue to focus on enriching the lives of students from all walks of life, and strive to empower their staff in awareness of issues that arise in groups.

TV series

A television series aired on Discovery Kids from 1999-2003. In each location, the show followed a group of eight young adults as they learned to work together and help each other survive in the wilderness. Under the guidance of instructors from the Outward Bound school, the group members struggled to cope with nature and each other, with success and failure, with physical and mental challenges, and finally bonded together in an unforgettable life experience.


  1. ^ "Leadership | Outward Bound". www.outwardbound.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  2. ^ William Sloane Coffin, in Outward Bound USA: Crew not Passengers (Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 2002), p.10
  3. ^ "Outward Bound 2015 Program Guide". Issuu. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  4. ^ "USA | Outward Bound International". www.outwardbound.net. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  5. ^ "Wilderness Adventure Programs | Outward Bound". www.outwardbound.org. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  6. ^ "Dr. Kurt Hahn - On the life & philosophy of an inspirational educator". www.wilderdom.com. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  7. ^ "EL Education". eleducation.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.

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