Our founder, Kurt Hahn, was well-known for his stance on social justice -- within his historical context. While the beginnings of Hahn's work and Outward Bound would not be considered inclusive by today's standards (for example, the first courses were created for boys and remnants of that patriarchal construct still exist), the principles of Outward Bound have withstood the test of time. And now, as new generations of both alumni and school leadership continue to write Outward Bound's history, how we apply those principles to modern-day life continues to evolve.
The Outward Bound course experience is teeming with exercises in communication, teamwork, and problem-solving -- from technical aspects like route-finding to campfire discussions about our life experiences back home. These are all hands-on opportunities to explore the concepts of equity and inclusion. And in those experiences, representation matters. Having participants from different backgrounds working together strengthens everyone's opportunity to learn.
We recognize that our students, staff, and community need the perspectives, leadership, and voices that represent the racial diversity of our larger society, and we acknowledge that we have struggled to attract and support racial diversity in our community. People of color and other marginalized identities have often experienced barriers in access and feeling welcome to the public lands in which COBS operates and to inclusive experiences in the outdoors and the outdoor industry.
We're deeply committed to ensuring equal access to outdoor spaces and experiences, both for our students and our staff.
We understand the need for change within our organization and the outdoor industry as a whole. And while it doesn't happen overnight, we are taking both long- and short-term actions to do our part. This means recognizing and removing financial barriers, honoring the indigenous lands on which we operate, and prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in our work. And building connections between those tasks, our outcomes, and youth development is our path forward.
The Student Experience
At the Colorado Outward Bound School, we are committed to curiosity and discovery as a means of bettering ourselves, our work, and the world around us. We are strengthening the student experience and work to constantly evolve our learning. One way we do this is through Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab.
Launched in July 2017 with the generous support of The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab (‘The Lab’) was formed to continuously improve the student experience by evaluating program delivery and student outcomes and enhancing professional learning opportunities for staff.
The Lab originated as a collaborative community of intellect, research, and practice made up of Practice Leaders from each of the 11 Outward Bound regional schools, five core OBUSA staff, and visiting scholars and experts including the Noam Institute (research partner), the Lawrence Hall of Science/BEETLES (curriculum design partner), The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience, and Youth Outside (Equity, Inclusion and Diversity partner). The Lab is a collaborative community for the Outward Bound network of schools and our work will continue to use this data as a foundation to improve the student experience.
Fueling this work with actionable insights, students fill out the Outward Bound Outcomes Survey to help us evaluate our efficacy in these key areas:
Assertiveness, Perseverance, Group Relationships, Teamwork, Empathy, Self-Awareness, Responsibility, Physical Confidence, Self-Regulation, Emotion Control, Learning Engagement, Staff and Student Relationships
In 2019 and in 2020, all surveyed students (542 and 54 students, respectively) reported an increase in their engagement in all of these areas from their course start to the end of their course. Focusing on these metrics continues to be a driver of our staff training and curriculum so that we can truly meet each of our students where they are.
We strongly believe that removing financial barriers is an important step towards a more inclusive outdoor community. In 2019, we delivered 2,100 student program days for our 330 scholarship students from 26 partner schools and organizations. For more information and to apply for a scholarship, click here.
We also believe that it's imperative to invest in the development of educators who reflect the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the students in our communities. To this end, we have launched our Emerging Leaders Fellowship and are updating our training to include mental health first aid and embedded themes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
And we will continue to grow this work as part of our ongoing accountability.
Our Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
At the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS), we believe there is a wealth of untapped potential in every individual. As such, our programs and actions must be relevant, responsive, and accountable to the places and people we serve. COBS recognizes that social injustices can impact all aspects of our lives, including outdoor engagement. We seek to ensure access for underrepresented youth and young adults to engage in transformational experiences through the outdoor classroom and strive to remove barriers to this access. This requires humility and a commitment to our own learning and growth as it relates to equity, inclusion and diversity.
To this end, we have made the following commitments to support our values of integrity, excellence, compassion, and equity, diversity, and inclusion:
• Ensure culturally responsive and inclusive practices across our organization, including in our programs, services, and policies;
• Provide equitable access to our programs, to employment opportunities within our organization, and to vendor and contract opportunities;
• Promote equity in our organization and field;
• Serve students and prepare educators who reflect the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the region/s in which we operate;
• Be an authentic community partner; and,
• Be a growth-oriented organization.
As we engage in this ongoing process and continue to refine our approach, we are using resources and support from partners and organizations like The Avarna Group to support us.
Sign Up for Updates
Stay informed on Colorado Outward Bound School news and updates! Please fill out the form below to begin receiving our email newsletter.