Project Adventure

Project Adventure Bibliography

James Neill
Last updated:
17 May 2006

James T. Neill (Editor), Ozgur Akbas, Crystal Chalich, Ben Clapp, Andrew Coppens, Sara Decker, Taras Ferencevych, Jeff Heyliger, Brian Nelson, Kristy Putnam, & Norm Staunton, University of New Hampshire, 2003


This bibliography focuses on material about the philosophy, history, theory, research, and evaluation of Project Adventure, an adventure-based experiential education organization which began in the United States of America in 1971.  Project Adventure emerged from the successful introduction of Outward Bound programs into the USA, with the theme "bring the adventure home".  In other words, it was an experiment to bring the novel possibilities of adventure-based learning into more familiar environments, such as the school.

Since 1971, Project Adventure has expanded considerable and spawned a new wave or style of outdoor education programming which, until the 1970s, had been dominated by either residential camping style programs and wilderness expedition style programs.  Project Adventure is well known for its use of ropes challenge courses, a field which has taken off its own right and for its development of many creative group learning games and activities.  Perhaps most importantly, however, is that Project Adventure has from the start being guided by a strong pedagogical philosophy which permeates each of its programs and its train the trainer programs.  There is a strong sense that there is a "Project Adventure" way which is characterized by the belief that: (i) having personal control is important, therefore participants are given choice about their level of participation in any activity, and (ii) a safe and supportive group atmosphere is important, therefore careful attempts are made to develop a group contract (Full Value Contract).  Furthermore, Project Adventure programs utilize experiential learning principles (learning by doing), which draw on John Dewey's educational philosophy (1938/1997) and learning cycle theorists such as Kolb (1984). 

In 1974, the potential of Project Adventure was recognized by being awarded a National Diffusion Grant from the US federal government.  The idea behind this grant was replicate a promising model is many locations around the country.  This provided Project Adventure is funding over several years to develop its programs and infuse them into a variety of different locations.  In many ways, Project Adventure never looked back.  Like all good ideas which can be replicated, however, Project Adventure has also faced business competition, especially from smaller organizations specializing in particular services, such as building ropes courses.

As Project Adventure searches the horizon and considers its future in the 21st century, one of the interesting questions is to know more about what actually happens on Project Adventure programs and how effective this Project Adventure methodology is for achieving various goals.  To date, there has been no major summary of the research on Project Adventure programs; in fact we fact there not even a bibliography or convenient list of Project Adventure research studies.  Thus, this first bibliography was  embarked upon to help construct some more solid foundations for better understanding the educational contribution and potential of Project Adventure style programs.

Since no previous bibliography had been constructed, we broadened our scope in the searching to include any significant scholarly pieces of literature about the philosophy, theory, research, and evaluation Project Adventure literature.  Extensive searches were made of the world wide web, existing bibliographies, electronic databases, commonly known outdoor education research resources, Project Adventure archives, listservs, and through direct contact with people whom we identified as knowledge about Project Adventure scholarly literature, particularly the research literature.  As a result of our initial searches, we identified approximately 100 citations which we felt warranted listing.  We had no hard and fast selection criteria -- we used our judgment to identify what we thought were the most significant pieces of literature.

Particular thanks are extended to the assistance we received from Prof. Michael Gass, University of New Hampshire, Dr. Katie Kilty, Project Adventure, Prof. Lee Gillis, Georgia College & State University, and Aram Attarian, North Carolina State University.

- James T. Neill (Ed.), University of New Hampshire, March, 2003


(Ozgur Akbas)


Prouty, D. (1990). Project Adventure: A brief history.  In J. Miles, & S. Priest (1990) Adventure education (pp. 97-109).  State College, PA: Venture.

Rohnke, K. (1977). Cranking out adventure. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure

Electronic resources

Experience Based Learning Inc. (n.d.) Ropes challenge course history.

Neill, J. T. (2002). History of outdoor education.

Zip Lines (Project Adventure newsletter) articles

Butler, S. (1993).  The PE and recreation strand: The history and the future. Zip Lines (Fall), 24.

Pieh, J. (2002) How it all began. Zip Lines (Spring), 13.

Prouty, D. (2002). Project Adventure at thirty. Zip Lines (Spring), 6-13. [pdf; 1.7mb]

Rohnke, K. (1989) The ropes course: A constructed adventure. Zip Lines (Spring), 14.

Schoel, J. (1986). The early days. Zip Lines (Fall/Winter), 9.

Smolowe, A. (1992).  Professional development – The PA way. Zip Lines (Summer), 22.

Philosophy, Theory, & Models

Baker, G. (1992). What is this “Project Adventure"? New Zealand Journal of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, 25(2), 14.

Beedy, J.  (1997).  Sports plus: Developing youth sports programs that teach positive values.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Bowlsby, R. A. (1979). Project Adventure: The obstacle course experiment. National Intramural-Recreation Sports Association Journal, 3(3), 6-9.

Brookes, A. (1993). Is cyberspace the next frontier for adventure-based counseling? Journal of Experiential Education, 16(3), 18-24.

Carlson, J. A., & Evans, K. (2001). Whose choice is it? Contemplating Challenge-by-Choice and Diverse-abilities. Journal of Experiential Education, 24(1), 58-63.

Chappelle, S., & Bigman, L. (1998). Diversity in action. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Eilmo, W., & Graser, J.  (1995).  Adapted adventure activities: A rehabilitation model for adventure programming and group initiatives. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Fortier, S. (Ed.).  (1995).  Youth leadership in action: A guide to cooperative games and group activities. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Frank, L. (1997). The caring classroom: Using adventure to create community in the classroom and beyond. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Gillis, H. L. (1991). Project Choices: An adventure based counseling program for drug-abusing adolescents. Ziplines, 19, 1-9.

Gillis, H. L. & Simpson, C.A., (1994). Working with substance-abusing adolescents through Project Adventure. In Lewis, J. A. (Ed). Addictions: Concepts and strategies for treatment (pp. 339-347).

Glass, J. S. & Myers, J. E. (2001). Combining the old and the new to help adolescents: Individual psychology and adventure-based counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 23(2), 104-114.

Heindel, C., Simpson, C., & Gillis, H. L. (1998). Echoes of group. Ziplines, 34, 14-21.

Henton, M. (1996). Adventure in the classroom: Using adventure to strengthen learning and build a community of life-long learners. Dubuque IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Hoey, Rosalind. (1990). The Full Value Contract in the classroom. Zip Lines, 17, 11-13.

Kreidler, W. & Furlong, L.  (1995).  Adventures in peacemaking: A conflict resolution activity guide for school-age programs. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Ladda, S., Demas, K., & Adams, D. (1999). Standards-based, affective assessment for a Project Adventure unit. Teaching elementary physical education, 10(5), 18-19.

Laurence, M. (1990). Project Adventure comes to Ontario. OPHEA Journal, 21-22; 24.

Laurence, M. (1991). Project Adventure comes to Canada. Pro Motion, 70-74.

Lissen, B. (2000). Explorations: Is there choice in challenge by choice? Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education, 12(4), 20-21.

Murray, M. (1990). Changing our pictures: A personal choice. Zip Lines, 16, 10-11.

Nassar-McMillan, S. C. & Cashwell, C. S. (1997). Building self-esteem of children and adolescents through adventure-based counseling. Journal of Humanistic Education and Development, 36(2), 59-67.

Nussbaum, G. (1996). Ethics and challenge by choice. Zip Lines, 29, 16-19.

Paling, D. (1985). Project Adventure. College Board Review, 134, 20-24; 31.

Panicucci, J., Hunt, L., & Kohut, L. (2002). Adventure curriculum for physical education: Middle school.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Panicucci, J., & Constable, N. S. (2003). Adventure curriculum for physical education: Elementary school.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Panicucci, J., & Constable, N. S., Hunt, L., Kohut, L., & Rheingold, A. (2003). Adventure curriculum for physical education: High school Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Prouty, D. (1991). Competition and Project Adventure. Zip Lines, 18, 1-7.

Rohnke, K. (1984).  Silver bullets: A guide to initiative problems, adventure games and trust activities.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Rohnke, K. (1986). Project Adventure: A widely used generic product. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 57(5), 68-69.

Rohnke, K. (1977). Cowstails & cobras.  Hamilton, MA: Adventure Press

Rohnke, K. (1989).  Cowstails and cobras II.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Rohnke K., & Butler, S. (1995).  Quicksilver: Adventure games, initiative problems, trust activities and a guide to effective leadership. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Rohnke, K., & Grout, J. (1998).  Back pocket adventure. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Schoel, J. (1992). Full value school. Zip Lines, 21, 14-16.

Schoel, J. (1998). Dynamic Assessment. Zip Lines, 34, 51-54.

Schoel, J., Prouty, D., & Radcliffe, P. (1988). Islands of healing: A guide to adventure based counseling. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Schoel, J., & Maizell, R. (2002). Exploring islands of healing: New perspectives on adventure based counseling.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Simpson, C. A., & Gillis, H. L. (1998). Working with those who hurt others: Adventure therapy with juvenile sexual perpetrators. In Exploring the Boundaries of Adventure Therapy: International Perspectives. Proceedings of the International Adventure Therapy Conference. Perth, Australia, July, 1997.

Smolowe, A. (1990). Challenge by Choice in Adventure Based Management Trainings. Zip Lines: The Project Adventure Newsletter, 16, 8-9.

Smolowe, A. (1991). Corporate competition and the full value contract. Zip Lines, 18, 12-14.

Smolowe, A. (1992). PA as a learning organization. Zip Lines, 21, 20-22.

Smolowe, A., Butler, S., Murray, M., & Smolowe, J.  (1999).  Adventure in business: An IMMERSION approach to training and consulting.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

Terry, N. (1996). Creating the conditions for ethics: A look at Project Adventure the corporation. Zip Lines, 29, 25-27.

Webster, S. E. (1978).  Project Adventure: A trip into the unknownJOPER, 39(4), 15.

Webster, S. E. (1989). Project adventure safety manual: An instructor's guide to initiatives, and low and high elements. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

Research - School-based

Deery, B. (1983). The effect of project adventure on sixth grader’s reading and math scores, and its relationship to locus of control.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston College, MA. Dissertation Abstracts International, 44(02), 0435A.

Dyson, B. P. (1996). Two physical education teachers' experience of Project Adventure. Journal of Experiential Education, 19(2), 90-97.

Dyson, B. & O'Sullivan, M. (1998). Innovation in two alternative elementary school programs: Why it works. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69(3), 242-253.

Fersch, M., & Smith, M. (1972). Project Adventure - Year I, final quantitative evaluation for 1971-72. Hamilton, MA: Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School.

Research - Therapy-based

Baucom, L., Gillis, L., Durden, J., Bloom, S. & Thomsen, D. (1996). A brief report on project adventure’s project challenge: An alternative to juvenile incarceration funded by the state of Georgia division of children and youth services. Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.

McCloud, B. K. (February, 1981). The use of the individualized educational plan and Project Adventure to modify the educational, behavioral, and attitudinal problems of youthful offenders. Paper presented at The Council for Exceptional Children Conference on the Exceptional Black Child. New Orleans, LA.

Project Adventure (1996). Project Decision, alternative to out of school suspension (Updated evaluation). In * Valuing the Resilient Adolescent Training Manual (pp. *). Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.


Project Adventure programs have been developed in several countries besides the US, with the Project Adventure Inc. having licensed programs in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan to use their brand name.  In addition, many countries, such as in Germany, have constructed programs modeled on Project Adventure philosophy and principles, blended sometimes with their own ideas.  Our search, however, turned up no significant literature from any of the countries in which there are licensed a programs. 

The work of Rüdiger Gilsdorf in Germany, however, did come to our attention.  He has developed two books of cooperative adventure games which draw on Karl Rohnke's publications, add some of the authors' own creations, and present activities with a slightly different flavor. In particular, this is reflected in the introductions which try to build some basic understanding of the underlying philosophy and in examples of longer activity sequences at the end.

Gilsdorf, R. & Kistner, G. (1995): Kooperative Abenteuerspiele 1. Praxishilfe fuer Schule, Jugendarbeit und Erwachsenenbildung. Seelze-Velber, Kallmeyer [Cooperative adventure games 1 - Forward by Karl Rohnke]

Gilsdorf, R. & Kistner, G. (2001): Kooperative Abenteuerspiele 2. Praxishilfe fuer Schule, Jugendarbeit und Erwachsenenbildung. Seelze-Velber, Kallmeyer [Cooperative adventure games 2]

A third book [Adventure in the school] has 18 school related projects of different length (1 day to one year).  The projects are documented by teachers who had participated in workshop sequences provided by the Network for Experiential Projects and Adventure Learning (NEPAL, see Gildorf's article in Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 18, Issue 3).  In the  theoretical introduction ('Departure into the unknown'), Gildorf gives a picture of what experiential education in these programs is about. The title of the book would best translate as 'Adventure in the school', but could also be read as 'School as adventure':

Gilsdorf, R. & Volkert, K. (1999): Abenteuer Schule. ZIEL, Augsburg [Adventure in the school]

There are two other German groups who have picked up the PA approach and seem to be staying quite closely connected to it -- BSJ (, who have organised several PA worshops in Germany.  The other group is operating in Freiburg, with main players being Kuno Feierabend and Barbara Schempp, who can be found via Michael Rehm and his information service, which is a good website to get an overview of the German outdoor and experiential education scene. This group has published some brochures, one of which is:

Feierabend, K., Gosebrink., M. & Klenzer, P. (1998): Abenteuerpaedagogik an der Schule [Adventure education in the school]

Gilsdorf has also also published a couple of German articles on the subject -- contact