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NYC Outward Bound Schools was founded in 1987 to bring Outward Bound’s powerful educational approach to New York City’s young people and their public schools.

Our Roots: Outward Bound

Our StoryIn 1986, a group of Outward Bound enthusiasts, frustrated by the enormous number of New York City students receiving an inadequate education, petitioned for a charter from Outward Bound USA to operate Outward Bound programs in New York City.  At the time, fewer than half the city’s public school students graduated on-time and many of those who did graduate were poorly prepared to succeed after high school. Based on their own experience with Outward Bound, our founders knew that it offered a powerful antidote to our city’s educational ills.

They understood that the lessons of Outward Bound transcend place: this highly adaptable, dynamic way of teaching and learning is as relevant and powerful in public schools as in the mountains, if not more so. They saw that if the transformational power of Outward Bound’s approach could be unleashed to change the trajectories of our City’s young people, students would graduate with the foundation of skills, knowledge, habits of mind, and qualities of character they would need for success in school, careers, and citizenship.

Outward Bound approved the petition in 1987, making NYC Outward Bound Schools the first independent Outward Bound urban center in the country.

Our Focus Today: Transforming Schools, Changing Lives

Since our founding, we’ve continually adapted to be responsive to the changing needs and circumstances of New York City’s students and to best leverage opportunities to transform schools and change lives.

Our StoryDuring the past three decades, we’ve evolved from an organization whose sole focus was on providing programs to students to one that redefines what educational excellence looks like in New York City’s public schools and disrupts systems that historically and currently prevent students from reaching their full potential.

Today, we operate a highly successful citywide network of public schools that are built upon our approach. And we are bringing elements of our approach and best practices from our network to a growing number of other public schools in NYC through our Outdoor Adventure programs and Select Strategies for Schools professional learning services.

Outward Bound is not merely a sequence of adventures in wild and beautiful places. It is a form of learning that brings people together in highly energized sequences of challenge, cooperation, and service. Outward Bound is designed to bring out the best in people through active learning, so that they will strive for a better life and defend human decency with all their will. Nothing could make more sense for New York City than to unleash such a form of learning…

Tom James

Provost of Columbia Teacher’s College and author of a 1987 NYC Outward Bound Schools feasibility study

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