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Project Adventure

Project Adventure: In Brief

James Neill
Last updated:
01 Oct 2005

About Project Adventure

Project Adventure (Related link: PA official home page) is a non-profit education and training organization.

Project Adventure focuses on fostering human learning and growth via adventure-based programming in settings such as schools, therapeutic treatment, and for corporate groups. 

In many ways, the theme of Project Adventure is well captured by its motto: "Bringing the adventure home"

Project Adventure's mission is: “to be the leading organization helping others use adventure education as a catalyst for personal/professional growth and change”.

Brief History

Project Adventure began as an adventure-based physical education program at a high school in Massachusetts (New England), USA, in 1971.  The experimental curriculum applied principles of adventure learning that had proven so successful in Outward Bound (Related link: About Outward Bound) wilderness program settings. 

In the years that followed, Project Adventure receive federal funding to expand its implementation across the United States and from the mid-1970's to the present day, Project Adventure has been a leading and well-known organization, particularly in the USA. (Related link: Evolution of Project Adventure)

What Happens on a Project Adventure Program?

Typically, a Project Adventure program could involve anywhere from half a day to several days (or for an hour a week over several weeks) in small groups going through a series of adventure-based activities in which group participants get to know one another better and learn how to work through difficult adventure-based challenges.  Depending on the goals of the client group, the activities and the briefing/debriefing may be tailored to target particular issues or goals. 

The activities often use low-ropes course elements (constructed activities which are just above the ground and which involve physical balance and flexible, problem-solving, determination and cooperation) or high-ropes course elements (similar to low elements, but involve being "on belay" (being a attached to a safety line).  Related link: Ropes Challenge Courses

It is important to understand that Project Adventure is not a set program which is delivered in a standard format time after time, but rather Project Adventure is a series of adventure-based principles, processes, and activities which are adapted and applied to meet particular needs in different settings.  For example, Project Adventure is used within physical education in High Schools and in use with treating drug and alcohol problems in youth.

Educational Principles & Contributions of Project Adventure

Project Adventure has been renowned for its innovation and creativity in developing ropes challenge course activities (Related link: Ropes Challenge Courses) and their application in a variety of settings, as well as developing an extensive variety of warm-ups, games, initiative and problem solving tasks (Related links: Activities, Games, & Initiatives; Project Adventure Bookshop). 

Along the way, Project Adventure has developed its own characteristic educational philosophy about how constructed exercises (such as initiative tasks and ropes challenge course elements) are to be structured, briefed, facilitated, and debriefed, as well as how to manage and guide groups and individuals through adventure-based experiences and towards educational, developmental and therapeutic goals (Related link: Adventure-based Counselling; Project Adventure Adventure Theory Books).  The most important educational principles to Project Adventure programs have been:

  • Challenge by Choice (each person can make an individual choice about whether or not to participate in any activity and this choice is to respected by the group and instructor)

  • Full Value Contract (an agreement about appropriate behavior amongst group members, usually involving providing support, respect, and encouragement)

  • Experiential Learning Cycle (doing an activity, followed by reflecting, followed by abstracting the main learning points, followed by planning how to do the next iteration of such an activity)