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Rites of Passage

Creating Healthy, Guided Rites of Passage

James Neill
Last updated:
06 Dec 2003

Rites of passage involve a symbolic, often exhausting journey or challengeRites of Passage...for change & transformation


Adolescent identity development has traditionally involved culturally-guided rites of passage.  In modern Western society, there is a lack of such experiences available to young people.  The prevalence of problem-behaviours and psychological distress is symptomatic of adolescents who feel ill-prepared for the rigours of adulthood in the 21st century. 

Responsibility for providing developmental experiences for adolescents has increasingly been placed on schools.  Adventure-based education offers an innovative approach to helping students develop a secure sense of self, personal responsibility, and acquiring adaptive coping and communication skills.  The most common forms of adventure education within schools have been school camps, wilderness-based expeditions, and longer-term programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. 

More recent innovations include employing specialist adventure education teachers in schools, placing more emphasis on personal development through dramatic and creative challenges, and utilising expeditionary learning principles in the structuring of school curriculum. 

Empirical evidence from over one hundred studies suggests that adventure education programs are comparable in educational outcomes with other forms of innovative classroom-based affective education and psychotherapeutic self-esteem outcomes.  There is much potential for the creation of innovative, adventure-based education programs which help guide adolescents into successful adulthoods.  Several practical suggestions are made for program structure, design, and facilitation.

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