As you read this, I am deep in Pisgah National Forest with our 8th grade on our Outward Bound course, along with Mr. Kirstein, Ms. McNeil, Ms. McEowen, and Mr. Tomlinson. We are spending the week backpacking (using a leave-no-trace ethic), rock climbing, and engaged in activities designed to promote team-building, problem-solving, confidence, independence, and experiencing God more intimately through His creation.
This trip has become one of the hallmark differentiating programs of Episcopal Day School. In significant numbers, alumni regularly reference it as one of their most impactful growth experiences. Based on my conversations with alumni and their parentsincluding my own sonsit is clear to me that our Outward Bound trip is one of those experiences that not only becomes a lasting memory, but one from which the lessons grow as the person grows. These students will use and apply their experience in manifold ways over their years.
A few years ago, I studied the impact of this trip as the basis for my doctoral thesis project. Using several different instruments, I was able to quantify a number of effects over two 8th grade classes, including the following:
- 69% of students agreed that they had “seen God in a new way” on the trip.
- 77% of parents affirmed that they believed their child experienced or saw God in a new way. 78% of the students reported learning “about living well in community.”
- 72% of the students agreed that they experienced a sense of accomplishment, and the parent surveys overwhelmingly agreed.
However, even more meaningful were the words and reflections of the students. These are the exact words of some of those 8th graders:
I loved Outward Bound. Spending a week in the mountains really made me appreciate the beauty in this world. Just thinking about all of the wonderful things God made amazes me, and I really saw his creation in a new way during Outward Bound. I enjoyed growing closer to my classmates, while finding things out about myself. Outward Bound is definitely an experience I will never forget.
On Outward Bound I learned I just need to trust myself, and my friends and God will do the rest. I now know that when put to the test, my peers and I are awesome and can accomplish anything that challenges us.
The first day was kind of tough because I didn’t know exactly what to do, but we all worked together and figured it out.
Through these challenges, we learned to trust each other and try different ideas and work together in an orderly fashion to get things done.
My Outward Bound pin is like my treasure, showing me that nothing is impossible. I’m not the tallest, or the smartest, but I do have a purpose, and I just have to stay positive. There will always be a journey, and that means, there were always be an Outward Bound.
And my personal favorite:
When you go to bed under a moon and thousands of stars as your ceiling and then wake up to an amazing red sun rising over a cloudy sea of mountains in the horizon, you realize that you are one beautiful brush stroke inside a huge painting but without that one brush stroke there would not be a full picture.
EDS is committed to providing our students the best possible academic foundation. But that is only part of our commitment to youand to our students. We know what life will demand of them and what challenges they will face, just as we are keenly aware of the opportunities and blessings available to them in their lives. We are committed to nurturing the experiences, tools, and mindsets that will provide a firm foundation on which to build lives of meaning, purpose, and well-being.
Please pray for God to be with us. I hope you have a wonderful week, and I look forward to sharing some new stories, insights, and quotations when I see you next.