Outward Bound Schools of America

First Regional Symposium
México 2020

Our Outward Bound network is growing stronger by the day. As an international organization we’re discovering the opportunities and synergies that lie within our reach, as well as the richness of ideas and inspiration gleaned from various meetings around the world. Some of the outcomes now tangible for the use of the network include the OBI brand manual, the ¨Peace, Place, Process¨ framework explaining our learning model, and a global strategic plan.

Programming in the Americas has come a long way since the first OB course held there in 1961. Programs have grown in their diversity, reach and relevancy as new schools have opened along the continent.

Following the trend of the Asian region schools, it has become increasingly relevant to share ideas across schools regionally. This movement towards international interaction inspired the idea for this first regional symposium. The mission of this symposium is to share expertise, opinions, and insights, with the goal of bringing the Outward Bounds of the Americas closer to create a more robust and more relevant experience for our current and future students.

The OB America’s Staff Symposium was focused on those closest to the programming of an Outward Bound experience: Operations and Program Directors, Staff Managers, Senior Staff and members from OB International. Outward Bound schools in Canada (3), USA (11), Bermuda, Costa Rica, Brazil and México, were represented at this symposium by inspired professionals whose combined OB service totals more than 170 years.

The framework for the Symposium was based on activities, processes and spaces that promoted the dialogue around the 3 P’s –people, place, and process — as delineated in the reference, “What it Means to Be Outward Bound. The main goal was to facilitatea rich exchange of know-how, experiences and best practices of our programs and shared processes.

People

When we mention the people in charge of an Outward Bound experience, we are referring to inspiring, well-prepared professional outdoor educators who challenge and impel participants to push their personal limits towards growth. When it came time to share our ideas of training and tools required to impart such experiences, we realized that we share a strong sense of the importance of the values and shared history of the creation of Outward Bound. We also realized that, the context of our participants is requiring that our trainings go above and beyond excellence in outdoor skills. Our participants constantly challenge us to be prepared to facilitate “challenge by choice” moments, which require a series of soft skills in order to safely push students to take risks and do things they never thought they were capable of. At the same time we must be assertive enough so as to effectively transfer relevant and meaningful learnings in the unique context of each student´s personality. The current context, as well as future projections demand, that instructors have more tools under their belts.

The opportunity we had to share these topics over the days of the symposium invites new possibilities to train our instructors in a regional, interrelated and progressive way. Multi-disciplinary development that also introduces new growth scenarios for schools, has the potential to be a new career horizon for instructors.

Place

 

Since its founding in the middle of the last century, Outward Bound has encouraged individuals to test their physical and emotional limits in challenging outdoor adventure programs.

”Inspiring locations that provide limitless opportunities.”

This is a phrase that inspired us to go deeper into the concept of place and explore how we are designing our programs. Under which challenge is the course area presented for our participants? What are the characteristics of backcountry and front country?

The variety of locations used in Outward Bound programs present unique challenges to our instructors, who are tasked with creating adventure and rich learning experiences while navigating issues like managing public transportation in large cities on a limited budget, camping on public spaces or trekking through the Amazon and setting up camp along a river bank. Outward Bound instructors have the ability to find teachable moments in each program, allowing their specific location to enhance the participants’ experience.

The power of nature, in turn, is a catalyst for learning, the best teacher to teach by example. The art of Instructors also extends to the power of natural language translation for personal and group development processes. By teaching participants to read clouds, tides, or mountains, instructors are also, -subtly-, teaching to read the principles of human relationships.

Today, this network can begin to visualize it´s potential by running programs in the largest cities in the world, with the most advanced technology, while simultaneously, managing programs in completely pristine locations, working closely with communities of indigenous peoples. By honoring the ancestral learning of those who have inhabited these places for thousands of years and connecting them with the fundamentally shared human principles, we work to build bridges within the technological and scientific scope of today. This we do, with the hope that these connections are the beginning of a better future.

For now, the network currently has a positive impact in the places where we operate. Our value of  service is an essential part of all our programs, whether it be in the form of adherence to

“Leave No Trace principles”, or environmental regeneration programs.

Process

Experiential learning processes: Practical application of theoretical models with continuous reviewing and reflection.

This practice applies to both, participants and the institution itself. Another important link between the schools in the network was finding this process applied in a particular way for each school, which made the conversation related to the significant learning processes of our programs extremely profound.

Beyond the obvious characteristics that make us unique as individual schools, what makes us very relevant today is the ability to push the limits of experiential education resulting in endless expressions of tangible applications of diverse theoretical models.

A hundred years have passed since Kurt Hahn wrote his book, “Declines of Modern Youth”. While these declines are equally relevant in 2020, the learning processes and education challenges have changed. The process of development through adventure and challenge means something different today than it did 50, 30 or even 15 years ago. We share models and theories that lead to their maximum expression of performance in the field, we know of their effectiveness, but the desire to continue exploring new tools and serve more communities has led to the development of more specialized learning processes. During this symposium, several models were shared that help us better understand how to serve our populations that participate in specialized courses for mental health, peacebuilding, post-trauma stress (PTS), and even for technology detoxification (NoMoPhobia – Fear of being out of contact with the mobile).

Equally, and possibly even more relevant, was sharing models that can help us collectively imagine better options to expand the relationship between ourselves and the environment. Models of experiential education programs that explore the principles of Mindfulness, Biophilia, Nature Flow Learning and Circular Economy, to name a few, inspire the network to continue seeking to nurture the relationships that connect and transcend us.

The processes of each of the days of this symposium were significant for the construction of the community. From the days of the expedition to the heights of the Nevado de Toluca, participants began to build the foundations upon which the dialogue developed. Though we already knew it, this space reinforced the great significance of our community is. Perhaps one of the most impactful results was to acknowledge the people that connect this network, crossing borders. We are grateful for the people who traveled such a long way to gather and share with us a corner of this beautiful country.

Research 

I offer my sincere thanks to everyone involved in the effort that has been made throughout the history of this institution to preserve knowledge, honor the origins and study the impact, in order to intentionally model the design of our service. Many thanks in particular to Nevin Harper for being an active participant in this first regional symposium, starting with the challenge of reaching a peak of 4,960 masl at dawn until sharing with us his work as part of the OB International team of researchers. He tackled the titanic challenge of measuring and evaluating the impact of our programs as well as developing the imagination necessary to remain relevant and leaders in outdoor experiential education worldwide. His work with the Global Impact Report and the Journal of Education helped us to structure the content of this meeting.

I am hugely grateful for all the history that has brought the OB Mexico school to the place where it is today, connected, without a doubt, to the greatness of the legends that share this noble spirit, the tireless desire to continue exploring the limits of human nobility with the desire to seek and determine the possibilities of a better future. Thank you very much to the initiatives of OB International that enables the platform of these regional initiatives to make a resilient global network, for the trust in us to be able to host this event, and especially to Rob Chatfield for travelling a long way to impart not only the shared global vision of our schools but also for teaching us by example the essential values ​​and dreams that we share as part of this community.

Looking forward to walking more closely and continuing the work we all are envisioning together.

Best regards

Hector Tello Mabarak

Executive Director OB Mexico

Special thanks to the organizing team:

Iain Peter and Rob Chatfield (Outward Bound International)

Andreas Martin (OB Brazil)

Jim Rowe (OB Costa Rica)

Brendan Madden (OB Canada)

Vicky Kerr and Matt Olsen (OB Colorado)

Flavio Bolang (OB Peacebuilding)

Monica Marín (OB Mexico)

And enormously grateful for the participation of: Rob Chatfield (OB International); Kelly Reynolds and Joey Barness (Baltimore); Humberto Medaglia (Brazil); Pete Smolders, Maraika Chandler, Nevin Harper (Canada); Matt Olsen, Lance Plank, Brandon Daun (Colorado); Daniel Jimenez (Costa Rica); Erick Patricio, Karina Sánchez, Patricia Garcia de Letona, Daniel Torres, Javier Michel, Stephanie Daniel, Angélica García, Héctor Tello (Mexico); Lindsay Ward, Mark Jantosik (North Carolina); Jamie Moon, Dan Hoffman, Sol Killian and Brock Weir (Philadelphia). Natasha Seiferling (Germany) See you soon!

Backpacking Expedition

to the Nevado de Toluca

Prior to the Regional Symposium, some participants enrolled in a backpacking trip to summit the Nevado de Toluca Volcano, the fourth tallest mountain in Mexico (4690 masl). Using the expeditionary learning style of Outward Bound, Instructors from the OB Schools of the Americas embraced the roles of this new crew for 5 days, camping in the pine forest that surrounds the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, topped off with a final challenge sunrise summit.  We, at OB Mexico, are very grateful to all the participants that joined us on this adventure to one of our favorite spots for courses. No doubt this pre-symposium expedition helped to better understand the rich relationship our network has.