A School Without Walls utilizes a student-driven curriculum — combining individual “passion projects,” real world learning and community-facing action.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is NYC Outward Bound Schools’ mission?
To use Outward Bound’s educational approach to effect positive and lasting change in the lives of New York City’s young people and their public schools.
How is NYC Outward Bound Schools funded?
Activities are funded through a diverse mix of public and private dollars. Please check our Financials page for details.
How many participants experience NYC Outward Bound Schools programs each year?
Annually we serve more than 27,000 young people and about 2,800 educators from over 75 NYC public schools.
What is Outward Bound?
Founded in 1941, Outward Bound is a non-profit educational organization that changes lives, builds teams and transforms schools through challenge and discovery. Outward Bound’s founder, Kurt Hahn, was a renowned educator who emphasized experience-based learning approaches that incorporate adventure, service, and opportunities for intellectual development, character growth, and the exercise of leadership.
How does NYC Outward Bound Schools fit into the overall Outward Bound organization?
NYC Outward Bound Schools is an autonomous 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which operates pursuant to a charter from Outward Bound USA. Founded in 1987, NYC Outward Bound Schools is dedicated to bringing the lessons and activities of Outward Bound to NYC’s young people and their public schools.
What is EL Education?
EL Education, formerly known as Expeditionary Learning, was created in 1991 through the collaboration of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound. EL Education is a national nonprofit partnering with K-12 educators to transform public schools and districts into hubs of opportunity for all students to achieve excellent equitable outcomes. EL Education offers research-proven resources and practices, including a K-8 Language Arts curriculum, Core Practices, and aligned professional learning. EL Education was founded in 1991 and currently serves 440,000 students in diverse communities across the country.
In New York City, NYC Outward Bound Schools supports our Network Schools to implement the EL Education whole school framework — a set of 38 core, research-based practices that address every aspect of a school’s instructional program, culture, and leadership and drive towards achievement – character, knowledge and skills, and craftsmanship.
Our Network Schools
What does it mean for NYC Outward Bound Schools to partner with the NYC Department of Education in operating a network of schools?
While the NYC Department of Education is legally responsible for our Network Schools, NYC Outward Bound Schools advises school leadership in setting and shaping overall school strategy and direction, and in all significant school decisions, including the hiring of the principal. We partnered with the NYC Department of Education to open 10 of our 14 Network Schools, most often starting with one grade and then adding a grade each year until they were at full capacity. The other 4 were schools that we were providing professional development for who after a few years of partnership wanted to adopt our whole school approach. To learn more about that approach and the services we provide our Network Schools click here.
What kinds of schools are your Network Schools? Are they charter schools?
All but one of our Network Schools are district public schools. Our only charter school is Launch in Weeksville, Brooklyn. All of our schools are “unscreened,” which means that there are no testing requirements and any student may apply to enroll. Our network also includes one transfer high school, James Baldwin. Transfer schools are small, academically rigorous, full-time high schools designed to re-engage students who are not succeeding in other schools or have dropped out.
What distinguishes your Network Schools?
All of our Network Schools use the EL whole school framework, a set of 38 core, research-based practices that address every aspect of a school’s instructional program, culture, and leadership and drive towards achievement – character, knowledge and skills, and craftsmanship. Our Network Schools schedules, school structures and classroom practices are aimed at ensuring that all students feel they belong, have agency, and are engaged in challenging and relevant work, so that they can thrive in college, career and beyond. Key school-wide practices that help ensure this and are common across our Network Schools and EL Education schools nationally are: Crew; Project-Based Learning; and Student-Engaged Assessment.
What supports do you provide your Network Schools?
Our support is multi-faceted and includes work both with the staff and students. These supports include:
- A School Coach who partners with the principal and leadership team to set academic goals to meet student needs and monitor progress. Coaches are onsite 12-30 days a year at each school and each work with 3-5 schools.
- Cross-school professional development.
- Quarterly Leadership Convenings for principals, assistant principals and instructional guides focused on sharing best practices across the Network towards our shared goal of improving equity and impact.
- A web of postsecondary supports including support for college counselors, career exposure for students, and alumni support.
- Outdoor Adventure programming for students ranging from one day on-site programs to overnight programs and rock climbing.
The schools and educators we work with develop their own lesson plans and curriculum but we coach them to help ensure the curriculum is culturally responsive, provides opportunity for student voice and includes real-world experiences. The coaching includes modeling, co-planning and high-quality examples from other EL schools in NYC and nationally.
What grades do you serve?
Our network includes three middle schools which serve grades 6 – 8 (Launch, MS 839, and MAELS), six high schools which serve grades 9 – 12 (The James Baldwin School, Leaders, Kurt Hahn, Community School for Social Justice, Gaynor McCown and IHPCH), four schools that serve grades 6 – 12 (Brooklyn Collaborative, Channel View, West End Secondary, and MELS), and one school that serves PreK – 12 (WHEELS).
What is Restorative Justice?
Many of our schools use restorative justice, a set of practices, including peer-mediation, that emphasize resolving and preventing conflicts and potential conflicts, instead of employing punitive action by school administrators. This approach to discipline is focused on changing behavior and repairing harm, and allows students to reflect on and learn from their mistakes, and resolve conflicts as a community.
What are PBATs?
Six of our Network Schools are members of the NY Performance Standards Consortium, a small coalition of high schools in New York State that have a performance assessment system. In lieu of Regents exams (except for English Regents, which is still requisite), these schools require performance-based assessment tasks, or PBATs. A PBAT consists of an extensive, original paper written by the student and includes a presentation and defense of the paper in front of a panel. In order to graduate, students must complete four PBATs: an analytic literature essay, a social studies research paper, a student-designed science experiment, and higher-level mathematics problems that have real-world applications. They include both written and oral components.
How do I enroll my child in an NYC Outward Bound School?
Each of our schools is a NYC public school, so enrollment is managed by the schools themselves. You can find out how to enroll by visiting each school’s individual website and contacting them directly.
My child does not attend one of your schools, how can they get involved?
Only students enrolled in one of the schools or other schools that we work with have access to our services; we do not work with individual students. If you are interested in an Outward Bound course for your child, please visit Outward Bound.
How can my school become involved with NYC Outward Bound Schools?
Beyond our network, we bring our most scalable, high-impact practices and programs to even more schools across the city. These include: Crew, our signature advisory program; Project-Based Learning; Student-Engaged Assessment; and our Outdoor Adventure programs, which use adventure activities to promote community, character, and achievement. Click here to learn more. If you are an educator and would like your school to become involved with us, please contact Badari Ambatti, Director of Client Relations, at [email protected] or (718) 706-9900 x 125.
Select Strategies Schools
Why are they called Select Strategies Schools?
We have identified—or selected—highly effective, replicable, and successful practices and strategies in our Network Schools and packaged them to be utilized by schools outside of our network. Select Strategies Schools are partner schools which do not employ our whole-school approach but are interested in implementing one or more of our Network Schools’ strategies to benefit their students. We know what works — and we’re committed to sharing our best practices with even more schools, educators and students across the city.
What are your Select Strategies?
We help our Select Strategies Schools adapt and implement one or more of these practices and leverage their existing assets to address an articulated area of school need. Our Select Strategies are specially designed to strengthen schools’ capacity to build belonging, delivering demanding and engaging academics, and increase student agency. The schools and educators we work with develop their own lesson plans and curriculum but we coach them to help ensure the curriculum is culturally responsive, provides opportunity for student voice and includes real-world experiences.
What does participation look like and how do we start?
Typical Select Strategies partnerships involve between 12 and 30 days of support, which can include large group professional learning, individualized classroom-based coaching and direct student services. The coaching includes modeling, co-planning and high-quality examples from other using these practices in NYC and nationally. In all of our Select Strategies partnerships our School Coaches work closely with the school’s leadership to put the systems in place (such as school schedules, common planning time for teacher teams, etc…) for the practice to take root.
Select Strategy prices are calculated based on the number of service days and the nature of the services and activities provided. In addition, schools may choose to include Outdoor Adventure programming for students and/or teachers to complement and enhance the core services.
Crew Initiative Schools
What is Crew?
Crew is our signature advisory program and a proven vehicle for addressing the social-emotional and academic needs of students and for catalyzing inclusive, supportive school cultures. Crews are teams of 10-16 students who meet 3-5 days a week with the guidance and individualized support of an adult Crew Advisor to foster a collective sense of belonging, engagement, and compassion, creating an ethos of community that permeates the whole school. To learn more about Crew click here.
What is the Crew Initiative?
Thanks to joint funding by the City and private grants, we are bringing our most effective community-building work to 50 more schools in New York City and in 2022-23 are able to do so at no cost to participating schools. Schools that are part of Crew Initiative work with NYC Outward Bound Schools to build the capacity to successfully embed a Crew program and culture in their school communities. Click Here to learn more.
My school already has an advisory program. Should I still consider Crew?
If your school has the time set aside for advisory but lacks a school-wide vision for that time, participating in the Crew Initiative can help address that.
What support do Crew Initiative schools receive?
Each school is assigned one of NYC Outward Bound Schools’ Crew Coaches and each school identifies a staff member to lead this work and serve as a Crew Guide. This person works one-on-one with one of our Crew Coaches to develop a vision for Crew at their school and to develop a professional development plan to support Crew Advisors in achieving that vision. In addition to supporting the planning process and helping schools create space in their schedules to accommodate Crew, our Crew Coaches model best practices, provide coaching focused on the implementation of these practices, and provide resources to assist in planning Crew curricula and lessons.
How long does it take to implement Crew school-wide?
Typically we suggest school’s implement Crews one grade at a time starting with the youngest grade they serve. How long it takes to implement the practice across all grades depends on a number of factors but in general 4-5 years for a high school and 6-7 years for a 6-12th grade school.
Do you provide a Crew curriculum?
No. Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach, we support and guide schools in planning their own Crew curricula, providing models and resources along the way. Our Coaches work with Crew Guides to help them customize the sequence for their school and build the skills they need to effectively engage their Crews.
Do all Crew Initiative schools participate in Outdoor Adventure activities?
Participating schools may contract with us to provide Outdoor Adventure programs for their students that connect to Crew. These programs provide students with opportunities to step out of their comfort zones while engaging in challenge, discovery and adventure together.
Are you a Department of Education vendor?
Yes. Our vendor number is NEW203000. We accept DOE Purchase Orders for payment of services.
How far in advance do I have to book the program?
During our peak Fall and Spring seasons we suggest booking your program at least three months in advance. During non-peak seasons we can usually schedule programs with shorter notice. Many of our repeat clients book more than six months in advance.
Do you customize? How?
Yes. After assessing your group’s needs and outlining activities, locations, and staff qualified to meet them, we assign a Course Director who will work with you to design and deliver your program and ensure that all outcomes and program details are thoughtfully developed and properly executed. Course Directors prepare our instructors to facilitate your course in a way that achieves the specific outcomes of your group.
What forms must participants fill out prior to their program?
Most of our programs require a simple Medical Questionnaire and a Liability Release to enroll, both of which require parent signatures for children under 18 (but do not require a doctor’s visit). We require clients to submit all completed forms two to three weeks prior to the program date, to allow time for full screening by our staff medical screener and any follow up with family or health care providers, should that be necessary.
What are the qualifications for an NYC Outward Bound Schools instructor?
NYC Outward Bound Schools’ instructors are responsible for working with NYC public school students, creating and facilitating course curriculum, and upholding all physical and emotional safety standards. Instructors have extensive educational, technical, and interpersonal knowledge to meet intended course outcomes and expectations. They work with participants in many different settings including public parks and at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. They have a strong commitment to educational equity for BIPOC youth and supporting explicit anti-racist work within our organization and partner schools.
What is the purpose of the College March?
The College March is a powerful symbol of educational equity — the idea that college can and needs to be accessible for every student, regardless of background or circumstance. The annual event is an inspiring ritual that helps establish college-going cultures and post-graduate planning in participating schools, reminding every student that with perseverance, resilience, hard work — and the necessary school support — each of them can graduate with a college acceptance in-hand and go on to lead fulfilling, purposeful and economically secure lives. The December date gives seniors a deadline to work toward in submitting their college applications on time.
How can my school host its own College March?
We have a suite of resources available for schools who would like to host their own College March. If you still have questions about producing a College March at your school, please contact Chief Advancement Officer Paola Vita at [email protected].
Most schools require applications to be submitted online. What are students actually mailing?
Students and schools may choose to mail any number of application materials, including SAT/ACT scores, application fee waivers, thank you letters to admissions officers, and/or recommendation letters. We’ve even had seniors who used their College March as an opportunity to send letters to their younger siblings about the importance of the college application process they were undergoing.
Still have questions? Please email us at [email protected].