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Researcher investigates Outward Bound success

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Researcher investigates Outward Bound success

It may have gone 50 years with only minor changes to its programme, but a Massey University researcher says Outward Bound is still a valuable and relevant course, which continues to benefit thousands of New Zealanders.

School of Sport and Exercise researcher Associate Professor Andy Martin is studying what still makes the Outward Bound course a success.

He has interviewed past and current school and executive directors for the study.

Dr Martin, who undertook the course in 1996, has carried out a number of previous studies on Outward Bound, including his PhD. He says the holistic approach at the heart of the Outward Bound programme is important in building self-esteem, personal relationships and other therapeutic outcomes.

“It’s an approach that allows the instructors to weave different elements of the programme together to push participants’ comfort zones in a variety of ways,” he says. “There is a lot of research that shows outdoor adventure-based activity can counter the trend towards overprotective parenting and the behaviours that result from this.”

Essentially, Dr Martin says, it is better for young people to find their boundaries through physical, group and cultural activities than be left to seek them elsewhere.

“Encouraging manageable risk-taking and responsibility in teens helps them become more confident and caring contributors for their families, schools and communities,” he says.

Outward Bound is just one of a number of outdoor experiential education courses run worldwide that are successful. “An inspiring international example is based in Botswana where thousands of children have experienced grief and social challenges as a result of multiple AIDS related deaths of parents and relatives. Through cultural, physical and creative arts activities, along with community involvement, the EARTH programme, as it is known, combines elements of traditional rites of passage with Western therapeutic approaches to empower these children and their families.”

Dr Martin says courses that provide an experiential education in nature, have helped enrich other programmes across the world as well.

Outward Bound chief executive Trevor Taylor says when he was approached by Dr Martin to undertake this research he jumped at the opportunity. “Having a real understanding as to how Outward Bound’s values and philosophy have developed over the years will greatly assist us as we plan the strategy to take us forward for the next 50 years.”

Caption: Associate Professor Andy Martin.

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