Outward Bound: Bigger than us


Jacqueline Lovci, Staff Writer

Outward Bound as of this year will celebrate its 50th year in the U.S. and its 80th year since creation. We talk about our core values and we have an outward bound logo above our front doors but beyond that, the only interaction we’ve had is with the 6th-grade camping trip, that many of us associate with growing as a Crew, bug bites, and in my class’s case, rain. So, I thought that I would take a step back, and get some real information about the history of Outward Bound, its role in our school, and how that compares to other High Schools.

History of Outward Bound

Kurt Hahn founded Outward Bound after World War II. He had noticed during the war, that the more experienced soldiers (the older ones), survived better for several reasons. These young soldiers he noted, had the skills to survive but lacked the mindset and will to make it in the military and taxing situations. Together with Laurance Holt he helped start a month-long program in which soldiers learned through team building, and outdoor experiences about the power of teamwork, and perseverance. Outward Bound NYC was started in 1987 after Outward Bound enthusiasts in NYC saw a flaw in the educational system. At the time less than half of NYC’s public school students graduated high school on time, and those who graduated were unprepared for College. Since then Outward Bound NYC has been using the ideals first brought to light by Kurt Hahn in order to cure the ills of New York’s educational system.

Outward bound in the city

Outward Bound NYC is an entirely different organization, separate from the Greater Outward Bound organization worldwide, as I learned in my interview with Ingrid Wong the Outward Bound Liaison for the school. Outward Bound in schools follows the expeditionary learning model for curriculum. Making sure that teachers incorporate this into their lessons is Ingrid’s main job at the school. She meets with grade teams of teachers and helps them plan expeditions and interdisciplinary projects. Interdisciplinary projects are projects that explain learning from multiple classes. Examples of these include the study of ancient diseases in 6th grade and the typhoid project. If you’re new to the school this is probably a good time to point out that as we get older our projects become less and less interdisciplinary. This is because the classes get more rigorous, and specific to particular content areas. 

How Are Outward Bound Schools Different

Outward Bound schools are different than other schools. In ways we don’t even realize are unique to our school. One of the things that Ingrid emphasized is the fact that EL (Expeditionary Learning) schools focus on the depth of a subject, rather than its breadth. You’ll notice how we look closely at our classes at specific parts of time, books, language, and even biological systems. The idea is that knowing a lot in one content area can help students make references to other content areas. For example, in history, we look at the rise and fall of different civilizations. Based on this we can gain a greater understanding of other parts of history, and our modern lives. The EL process embodies the fact that we can learn from the past. The EL model is about more than memorizing facts, it encompasses explaining your knowledge, and demonstrating an understanding of content. With this in mind, the goal is for a student to be able to achieve a higher quality of work.

Our school has always been very involved in our lives in trying to understand social issues and helping us learn and act on them. Some examples of this are the National walkout that we participated in memory of the students who died in the Parkland High School shooting. In social studies, we learned about the shooting, debated it, and worked as a school to find a form of expression that represented the atrocity, and sadness of the event. This year before the climate strike, we studied global warming in 10th grade English class. I’ll never forget being told by my 8th grade Social Studies teacher, this is important to be a part of because history is being made right now.


We are a part of a school change in mindset if you will. Outward Bound in New York is teaching schools all over the importance of Expeditionary Learning, Mastery based grading, and depth over breadth. We are a few hundred out of the 5,500 students Outward Bound schools in New York City alone. It’s our job at WESS to learn in a new way, think past the bug bites and camping trips, and reach for the future. To WESS and beyond.