When we hear Outward Bound, we don’t think of screens, internet connectivity, or Zoom meetings. But, a year ago, due to the strange circumstances of the pandemic, Outward Bound as a whole had to do something it had never done—shut down its wilderness programs.
We all found ourselves in unique circumstances and with a long history of service, the School’s focus quickly shifted to, what can we do to help our students? How can we find a way to offer our staff meaningful work, and of course, how can we save the school from extinction?
We asked Virtual and Outward Bound Professional Program Director, Sarah Goldman, to give us some highlights from the year as we offered virtual programs to students, teachers, and professional groups. Here is what she said:
- The program has been highly successful and shows no signs of slowing down. Over the last year, done 100 sessions with 24 clients, and facilitated over 1,715 students!
- It has been inspiring to watch our staff lean into a new method of program delivery; to watch them stretch their comfort zones and find success when they realize that they’ve created an Outward Bound experience for their students. It has really been a paradigm shift and it’s always awesome to witness that kind of growth. They’ve approached virtual with true open-mindedness and curiosity.
- On the student front, watching an adult team take time to stop, slow down, and address some real issues they were having. To hear things like, “we’ve never been able to talk like this before,” or “I had no idea until now” is exactly what a facilitator is after, so to accomplish that in a virtual setting is very rewarding.
- One of the more unique things that Virtual Programs offer that our wilderness programs don’t is that we can be with our clients, no matter the distance. So far, we’ve done programs with participants in Brazil, Ireland, Austria, India, and the US. In the US we’ve programmed in seven different states.
- This is just one more tool in our toolbox that we can use to change lives through challenge and discovery. It’s something we can use long after the pandemic is over to engage with our students and follow up with them after course.