History of Outward Bound

“We are better than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”
—Barbara La Fontaine

Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding is a non-profit, 501(c)3 approved organization and a member of the Global Outward Bound network.

The largest and most successful experience-based outdoor leadership organization in the world, Outward Bound was founded over 60 years ago by celebrated educator Kurt Hahn to provide active learning expeditions that inspire character development and leadership. The Outward Bound community now consists of more than 40 centers operating in over 35 countries and works with an estimated 200,000 students annually. Outward Bound’s ethic, history, and global reach are unequalled.

The birth of today’s Outward Bound began somewhat humbly with the opening of Gordonstoun school in Scotland in the 1930’s with only two students. Here, founder Kurt Hahn refined his philosophies into a practical curriculum.  In addition to achievements in the classroom, the curriculum rewarded the development of physical skills such as running, jumping, and throwing as well as learning to live in the outdoors through an expedition and embarking upon a hobby or project.

After relocating the school to Wales, the next step of Outward Bound’s evolution came via a joint effort with British shipping baron Sir Lawrence Holt to teach young British sailors the vital survival skills necessary during World War II. With a curriculum based mainly on Hahn’s belief that character development was just as important as academic achievement, the new school became the wellspring of experiential learning in the post-war period. Hahn found that people who were put in challenging, adventurous outdoor situations gained confidence, redefined their own perceptions of their personal possibilities, demonstrated compassion, and developed a spirit of camaraderie with their peers. 

It took only a few years for this ground-breaking educational program called “Outward Bound” – the nautical term to describe a ship leaving the safety of its harbor to head for the open seas— to begin its international expansion. As Outward Bound grew, there was considerable adaptation of programs and venues. Programs became available for corporate teambuilding, for inner-city youth, and for special populations such as recovering alcoholics, families, or adjudicated youth. Programs moved from being solely wilderness-based to also being offered in settings like classrooms and urban centers.

Now, more than sixty years later and with schools in over 30 countries on six continents that offer a wide-variety of programs catering to the particular populations of those countries, Outward Bound continues to evolve and its future looks very promising.

Additional information on Outward Bound and its founder Kurt Hahn can be found at the following sites:

Outward Bound International 

 Photos courtesy of Outward Bound International