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Outdoor Education Philosophy
Outdoor Education Theory
Outward Bound

Outward Bound
Philosophy & Theory

James Neill
Last updated:
29 Aug 2004

Outward Bound programs are based on a "development-by-challenge" philosophy, eloquently and passionately articulated by its inspirational founder, Dr. Kurt Hahn.

Hahn emphasized that Outward Bound was about training the mind through the body.  Hahn strove to provide youth with challenging experiences in a supportive educational format so that each boy would develop inner strength, character and resolve.  The educational medium for was often physical, but the desired effect was very much psychological and social.

Outward Bound, the first modern adventure education program, has attracted an interesting variety of philosophers, researchers and innovative educators.  This has lead to considerable development of Outward Bound philosophy and theory, much of which has formed an important foundational basis for the field of adventure education and outdoor education.  Outward Bound philosophy and theory has spawned (and continues to spawn) a wide variety of educational experiments.  Outward Bound remains an important pillar in the development of modern day outdoor education.


Bacon, S. B. (1987).  The evolution of the Outward Bound process.  Greenwich, CT: Outward Bound USA.

Gorrell (n.d.). Nature's path to inner peace. [an ecopsychological look at a Costa Rica Outward Bound School program]. Psychology Today.

James, T. (1980/2000).  Can the mountains speak for themselves?  Scisco Conscientia, 3

James, T. (2000).  Kurt Hahn and the aims of education.

Martin, A. J. (2002). Creativity and innovation in a holistic program design. Unpublished paper. Massey University: New Zealand. http://www.outward-bound.org/docs/research/Dramaturgy.pdf

Martin, A. J., & Krowell, B. (2002). Rejuvenating Outward Bound programme designPaper presented to the 8th International Conference on Experiential Learning, July 1 to 5, 2002, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

McKenzie, M. (2002). Beyond "the Outward Bound process": Rethinking student learning. Unpublished manuscript. Simon Fraser University.

Nold, J. (1978). A primer on Outward Bound theory. Unpublished manuscript.