Outward Bound

The History


"To inspire character development and self-discovery in people of all ages and walks of life thought challenge and adventure, and to impel them to achieve more than they ever thought possible, to show compassion for others and to actively engage in creating a better world."-Outward Bound Mission Statement

Outward Bound was founded in 1941 by educator Kurt Hahn and British shipping merchant Sir Lawrence Holt. Hahn was interested in continuing his County Badge Scheme, a national plan to help British youth develop fitness, enterprise, tenacity, and compassion, while Holt was interested in developing a training program that would equip young sailors with the experiences and skills necessary to survive the wartime seas. These two men joined forces and established the first Outward Bound School in Aberdovey, Wales. The first course began on October 14, 1941.

Students at Aberdovey attended one-month courses composed of small-boat training, athletics, map and compass navigation, rescue training, a sea expedition, a mountain expedition, and local service projects. Hahn believed this training was "less a training for the sea than through the sea, and so benefited all walks of life" (73). The idea of training through, rather than for became a key component of the Outward Bound philosophy.

While attending Outward Bound, students were often placed in challenging and uncomfortable situations. Hahn believed "it is culpable neglect not to guide and even plunge the young into experiences which are likely to present opportunities for self-discovery." Students were encouraged to rise to these challenges and "defeat their defeatism," often giving them a new confidence that carried into their academic and personal lives (60). In addition to this belief in personal challenge, Hahn was also deeply committed to the Samaritan Ethic. Hahn believed that "he who drills and labors, accepts hardships, boredom, and dangers, all for the sake of helping his brother in peril and distress, discovers God's purpose in his inner life" (62). Accordingly, Hahn required students to join in service projects, such as mountain rescue.

The Outward Bound Trust was established in 1946 to expand Outward Bound ideas and schools. A second Outward Bound school opened at Eskdale, in the English Lake district, in 1950 and held the first women's course. Another Outward Bound school opened in 1955 at Ullswater (also in the Lake district).

Outward Bound was established in the United States when Josh Minor, a former teacher at Hahn's Gordonstoun School, founded the Colorado Outward Bound School in 1962. From the beginning of it's establishment, U.S. Outward Bound strove to broaden the student constituency of their schools by requiring at least half of the school's enrollment to be scholarship students, many of whom came from disadvantaged inner city homes. Over the next 8 years 5 more schools opened in the United States and schools were also created in Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Zambia, and Lesotho. Also during the 1960's, the first all-girl school opened in Rhownair, Wales and co-educational, youth at risk, and inner city programs were created.

During the 1970's, Outward Bound Schools opened in Hong Kong and Belgium. Courses for special populations such as corporate clients, recovering alcoholics, war veterans, abuse victims, and the physically or emotionally handicapped were also created. In the 1980's, New York City Outward Bound and Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center were created as the worlds first two independently chartered urban centers. Also during the 1980's, an International Advisory Board, comprised of delegates from different regions of the world, was created and a mission statement was developed.

New Schools in Eastern and Northern Europe, South East Asia, and South Africa were created in the 1990's. This decade also brought the development of Expeditionary Learning (ELOB), which brought the Outward Bound philosophy back into the public school system. Over 150 Expeditionary Learning Schools exist across the country today. Outward Bound currently reaches 70,000 teachers and students every year with the following ideas:

Outward Bound Educational Framework:

    • Compassion
    • Integrity
    • Excellence
    • Inclusion and Diversity
    • Learning through Experience
    • Challenge and Adventure
    • Supportive Environment
    • Character Development
    • Leadership
    • Service

1. Outward Bound USA- www.outwardbound.org
2. Outward Bound International- www.outwardbound.net
3. Miles, J., Priest, S. (1990). Adventure Education. Venture Publishing, State College, PA.

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