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 Project Adventure

Project Adventure

James Neill
Last updated:
24 Aug 2004

About this section

Outward Bound as the spawn for Project Adventure

Federal funding in 1974 launches Project Adventure

Project Adventure today

About This Section

This section is more advanced than the Project Adventure: In Brief section above - it provides more detailed background to Project Adventure, its origins in the Outward Bound movement, and how Project Adventure evolved during the early 1970's.  It is recommended that you also familiarize yourself with the History of Outdoor Education and the History of Outward Bound.

Outward Bound as the Spawn for Project Adventure

In practical and philosophical ways, Project Adventure emerged from the Outward Bound movement.  Whilst many see Project Adventure as having pioneered the adaptation of adventure education techniques into urban settings, I see Project Adventure as in many ways returning to some of the roots of the educational vision of Kurt Hahn, who had founded the Salem Schule, Germany (1920), Gordonstoun, Scotland (1934), and Aberdovey, Wales (1941), prior to a scheme that become the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and Outward Bound. 

It is important to understand that, except for Outward Bound, all of Hahn's projects were innovative educational programs based in traditional school settings.  The Duke of Edinburgh's Award was developed around Hahn's four educational pillars (expeditions, service, crafts, and sport) and the format allowed for participation by students over several years in a wide variety of settings.  Outward Bound was developed as a compact version of Hahn's educational principles and techniques -- it was devised as a short-term, "shot in the arm" version of his character building programs. 

When Outward Bound took off in post-World War II Britain, many of the former (or current) British colonies created Outward Bound schools, and then they took off in the USA in 1962, with the creation of the Colorado Outward Bound School, in Boulder, Colorado.  Outward Bound programs specialized in taking groups of about 10 to 20 people on extended wilderness-based expeditions for the purposes of personal and social development.  Since Outward Bound's methods relied so heavily on expeditions in the wilderness, it was increasingly asked during the 1960's in the USA whether similar positive effects could could be provided through adapted adventure activities within traditional schools and organizations.

Jerry Pieh started Project Adventure in 1971 with staff at Hamilton-Wendham (a Massachusetts high school).  Importantly, Jerry Pieh was the son of Bob Pieh who had founded the Minnesota Outward Bound School (later to become the Voyageur Outward Bound School), and Jerry himself had been a senior Outward Bound instructor, so he had a good understanding of the principles of Outward Bound.  The challenge for Jerry was to bring those principles into a mainstream school.  Thus Project Adventure became the second major spin-off from Outward Bound (the National Outdoor Leadership School being the first major spinoff).

Federal Funding in 1974 Launches Project Adventure

The second major step in the evolution of Project Adventure was in 1974, when it received federal funding through the federally funded National Diffusion Network, which allowed Project Adventure to spread into 400 schools across the USA, which itself spawned a variety of new experiments with adventure-based learning in schools.  In many ways, Project Adventure never looked back.

Project Adventure Today

Project Adventure is well known for stimulating the substantial ropes challenge course industry and continuing to disseminate its knowledge and methods via books, Ziplines, and workshops (in contrast, for example, to Outward Bound, which has tended to keep its methods to itself).  Project Adventure has been at heart of fueling new ideas and knowledge in outdoor education since its creation in 1971.